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Classical Music

Classical Classroom, Ep 110: Starting From Scratch – Bryce Dessner, Aron Sanchez, & So Percussion

The story of the making of a piece of classical music, from instruments to performance.

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Knowing how a piece of classical music came to be is often a bit of a guessing game. What inspired Bach to write the Goldberg Variations, or Beethoven to write his 9th Symphony? Context clues, letters, composers’ notes help us put the story together; we fill in the rest with our imaginations and mythology. But no more! In this episode of Classical Classroom, you’ll hear the entire story of a piece of modern classical music, Music for Wood and Strings, from commission to performance. Even the instruments on which the piece is played didn’t exist before this story began. You’ll meet composer Bryce Dessner (The National), instrument maker Aron Sanchez (Buke and Gase), and the members of So Percussion. You’ll hear a lot of awesome music. You’ll laugh! You’ll cry. Your life will be affirmed. But seriously, it’s a compelling (and thoroughly American) story about ingenuity, modernist music, and most importantly, joy.

  • From left: Dacia Clay, (in booth) Emily Motherwell, Todd Hulslander, Josh Quillen, Eric Cha-Beach, Jason Treuting, and Adam Sliwinski in the Geary Performance Studio. (Photo Credit: Mark DiClaudio)
    From left: Dacia Clay, (in booth) Emily Motherwell, Todd Hulslander, Josh Quillen, Eric Cha-Beach, Jason Treuting, and Adam Sliwinski in the Geary Performance Studio. (Photo Credit: Mark DiClaudio)
  • Josh Quillen plays a chordstick while Classical Classroom producer Todd Hulslander listens.
    Josh Quillen plays a chordstick while Classical Classroom producer Todd Hulslander listens.
  • So Percussion and Dacia Clay in the Geary Studio. (Photo Credit: Mark DiClaudio)
    So Percussion and Dacia Clay in the Geary Studio. (Photo Credit: Mark DiClaudio)
  • Josh Quillen tunes a chordstick. (Photo Credit: Mark DiClaudio)
    Josh Quillen tunes a chordstick. (Photo Credit: Mark DiClaudio)
  • From left: Eric Cha-Beach, Dacia Clay, and Josh Quillen. (Photo Credit: Mark DiClaudio)
    From left: Eric Cha-Beach, Dacia Clay, and Josh Quillen. (Photo Credit: Mark DiClaudio)
  • Composer Bryce Dessner. (Photo Credit: Photo by Shervin Lainez)
    Composer Bryce Dessner. (Photo Credit: Photo by Shervin Lainez)
  • Instrument maker Aron Sanchez. (Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of his Facebook page.)
    Instrument maker Aron Sanchez. (Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of his Facebook page.)

Music in this episode:

  • Music for Wood and Strings. Bryce Dessner. Played by So Percussion.
  • “Don’t Swallow the Cap.” The National, from the album Trouble Will Find Me.
  • Seam Esteem.” Buke and Gase.
  • So-Called Laws of Nature. David Lang. Played by So Percussion.
  • Appalachian Grove I. Laurie Spiegel.

Audio production by Todd “Tex” Hulslander with giddyups from Dacia Clay and editing by Mark DiClaudio.

For more So Percussion: www.sopercussion.com

For more Bryce Dessner: www.brycedessner.com

For more Aron Sanchez (and great pics of the chordsticks and other instruments he’s made): www.polyphonicworkshop.com

Thanks to Emily Motherwell, Stuart Wolferman, Da Camera of Houston, and the people at Brassland for their help with this episode.