In support of Aheym, the National’s Bryce Dessner sat down with members of Kronos Quartet for this video in which they discuss the connection that led to their recent collaborative album, which was released on November 5th. The interview, conducted by David Pescovitz, explores how the Grammy Award-winning ensemble came to meet and team with Dessner – best known for his guitar playing on albums such as 2010’s High Violet and last year’s Trouble Will Find Me – for the first recordings of the guitarist’s solo compositions.
“Kronos is always looking for vital, elemental music to play,” Quartet founder David Harrington tells Rolling Stone. “And when we meet someone who writes individual, explosive music and who is continually finding new areas to explore, we try to keep that person as busy as possible. Bryce Dessner is that sort of rare composer. Aheym is the beginning of our work together and we look forward to a future filled with many more pieces that Bryce will write for Kronos.”
“For any young musician with a background in classical or contemporary music, Kronos Quartet has been tremendously influential,” Dessner adds. “They have completely changed the landscape for young composers and ensembles. I’ve been listening to their records for years, so writing from them has been such a dream and a honor.”
Counting four original compositions and an appearance by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, the album’s germination dates to 2009, when Harrington asked Dessner to write a piece for the quartet’s 2009 appearance at the Celebrate Brooklyn! festival in Prospect Park. That piece, “Aheym” – inspired by stories of the composer’s Jewish immigrant grandparents who settled in Brooklyn – became the foundation for the album.
Dessner, who also steers the instrumental project Clogs, has collaborated with artists as diverse as Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, David Lang and Sufjan Stevens. He has a master’s degree in music from Yale University and serves as a composer-in-residence at the Muziekgebouw Frits Philips in Eindhoven, North Brabant, the Netherlands.