Fun with Sounds and Patterns
When a composer uses sounds that are generated from inside the computer, as opposed to recording live sounds or instruments, this is called working “inside the box”. While doing his film scoring work, Reynolds has amassed an arsenal of fun computer software sound generating toys that he had rarely used to create his more personal compositions. For “Fun with Sounds and Patterns” Graham let loose with these virtual instruments, samples, and effects.
In addition to the “inside the box” sounds, Reynolds mangled and manipulated recordings he had made during sound hunts in Austin and Mexico City, as well as sound design elements from theater work. Without abandoning melodies or overt structures entirely, Reynolds has created a boisterous, compelling, and joyful noise-based sonic world.
When asked how creating music for a ballet was different than some of the film scores he has written, Reynolds responded, “Every time the process is a little bit different. Also, as technology evolves, the tools are different too. One of the goals of this was supposed to be innovation as part of the 3M commission. I tried to use all of these tools in my toolbox and dig around.” He continued, “…instead of a handful of music cues spread throughout this larger piece of art, there is music in a ballet, of course, the whole time. The entire sonic audio world is being told by the score, rather than by dialogue, and sound effects, and music, etc.”
“Reynolds’ captivating score — a multi-layered edgy gem of pre-recorded finesse — contrasted electronically ethereal sounds with blasting moments of percussive earthiness. A poignant romantic melody laced throughout, emerging with particularly heart feltness in a string quartet midway through.” -Austin American Statesman
Duke! Three Portraits of Ellington
The composing genius of Duke Ellington meets the ferocious energy of Jerry Lee Lewis meets the exploratory mind of Graham Reynolds in this album, with Gabriel Prokofiev, DJ Spooky, and others helping expand the vision. Seven songs done three completely different ways, one unified album. For Graham, his Ellington show started as a don’t-think-about-it-too much, just-have-fun, one-time-only, take-a-break-from-composing side project. Then it was too much fun, and the audience too responsive, to let it rest there. Repeat performances saw the arrangements and ideas behind the music develop, the list of tunes narrow and focus, and the audiences grow. An album became an obvious next step. As a composer-bandleader himself, Reynolds looks to Duke as a model, perhaps the definitive model, of a what a composer-bandleader can be and the heights that can be achieved. Straddling the territory between the “band” format where collectively rules, and the traditional “composer” model, with its top down system, Ellington create composed music that only his band and those specific players could ever fully execute as envisioned. Rather than attempting any sort of recreation, Graham recast the music for himself and the players he works with, especially the unique voices of drummer Jeremy Bruch on drums and violinist Leah Zeger. The band portrait came first in the form of short but intensely high-energy shows with turn-it-to-11, in-your face brashness and a sustained driving rock pulse. Instead of the large ensembles Ellington favored, Graham chose a focused line-up up of drums, piano, sax, trombone, and bass. The size allows for a looseness that gives the players room to rip it up and explore their own ideas while still maintaining a tight unified front. The string portrait came next with Graham stepping further from Ellington’s vision, creating something truly his own from tiny fragments of the originals in the classical tradition of theme and variation. Developed in the studio rather than live in clubs, these pieces show Reynolds’ more intimate side. Finally came the remix portrait, where Graham turned over the recordings from the band and string portraits to seven remixers to cast the pieces in their own voice: Okkerville River’s Justin Sherburn, DJ Spooky, Gabriel Prokofiev (grandson of the great Russian composer), Golden Hornet Project’s Peter Stopschinski, grammy-nominated producer Adrian Quesada of Grupo Fantasma, and finally Reynolds himself. Graham looks for collaborators in all his work, whether it has been musicians in his ensembles, or directors and choreographers in his film, theater, and dance work. In Duke Ellington, Reynolds has found a new type of collaborator and an incredible source of inspiration. DUKE! is his tribute to and sonic portrait of one of history’s greatest composer-bandleaders.
Though the Earth Gives Way
Ballet Suite for Electrified Cello and Violin premiered on April 1st, 2016 at the Long Center for the Performing Arts, Austin, TX
Graham Reynolds gives a nod to Mozart during the creative process but assures you won’t hear any 18th century motifs in the piece. Though the Earth Gives Way features violin and cello with real-time processing accompanied by pre-rendered percussion tracks. There were nine movements, each of which came in at around two or three minutes. Says Reynolds, “I took fragments directly out of the piano concerto score (some very small, some eight bars long) and created my music with them. In most tracks it’s very hard to hear the Mozart, but in one or two it’s a little more overt.” The piece began with a percussion line run through some delay and reverb to create a quasi-ambient bed for the main theme of the work. Most of the movements involved one part wandering line, two parts reverb/delay, and one part percussion loop (accompanied by the occasional tap on the acoustic instruments) so ultimately the piece was held together musically by texture and rhythm, and visually by the dance and the staging.
The earliest known recordings of Graham Reynolds far reaching Golden Arm trio, re-mastered and available publicly for the first time after 20+ years in the vault! What was once a trio has expanded into a rotating lineup of over 40 musicians. The only constant in the Golden Arm Trio is founder Graham Reynolds, a pianist/percussionist and a name to be reckoned with on the Austin, Texas, avant-garde scene. Although Reynolds derives musical inspiration from disparate sources like Sergei Prokofiev, Fred Frith, and Prince, he also influenced by the visual art of Robert Rauschenberg and Fluxus performances pieces by Yoko Ono and many more.
Bernie is a 2011 American black comedy film directed by Richard Linklater, and written by Linklater and Skip Hollandsworth. The film stars Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey. It is based on a 1998 Texas Monthly magazine article by Hollandsworth, “Midnight in the Garden of East Texas,” that chronicles the 1996 murder of 80-year-old millionaire Marjorie Nugent in Carthage, Texas by her 39-year-old companion, Bernhardt “Bernie” Tiede. Tiede proved so highly regarded in Carthage that, in spite of having confessed to the police, the district attorney was eventually forced to request a rare prosecutorial change of venue in order to secure a fair trial.
The film went on to receive critical acclaim for its direction, accuracy to the real-life event, “Town Gossips” element, and particular praise for Jack Black’s portrayal of Tiede, with many calling it his best performance to date.
The Difference Engine
Graham Reynolds loves to explore narrative in his work. This tendency makes him a natural fit for the film, theater and dance work that form one of the cores to his composing career. In fusing a loose concerto format with the story of Charles Babbage and his invention the difference engine, Reynolds’ composing voice finds itself in a work that is intense and driving, beautiful and intimate, personally expressive and broadly accessible all at the same time. Developed over a course of years, the initial ideas for each movement were introduced and inspired separately before being woven into this one piece.
The completed concerto “The Difference Engine” premiered on February 6th, 2010 with a 35-piece string orchestra in a Golden Hornet Project performance at Ballet Austin’s Austin Ventures Studio Theater. Soloists Leah Zeger on violin, Jonathan Dexter on cello, and the composer himself on piano fronted the debut, with parts written specifically for their skill set and personal voices. Those voices were then captured for this CD. Not fully realized in his lifetime, the difference engine was the masterwork of 19th century inventor and mathematician Charles Babbage, an attempt to create the world’s first computer. A remix of each movement forms the album’s second half with contributions from DJ Spooky, Octopus Project, Grammy-nominated producer Adrian Quesada of Grupo Fantasma, Golden Hornet Project’s Peter Stopschinski, and finally one from the composer himself.
Before Midnight Soundtrack
Soundtrack for Richard Linklater and the last film of the trio that shows the culmination of the years-long attraction between Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) that started with 1995’s Before Sunrise and famously only teased an answer in 2004’s Before Sunset.
5 Time Champion
From the department of wannabe George Washington rural lyricism comes Five Time Champion, a coming-of-age tale that, with every landscape cutaway and twinkling note from its xylophone-heavy score, begs to be taken as a dreamy slice of countryside profundity. In an unnamed Texas town, tween Julius (Ryan Akin) slices worms and then studies their regenerative powers, a science project that attracts an esteemed prep school’s attention and, more importantly, speaks to his own desire to heal deep-seated wounds—specifically, the abandonment of his daddy, whom everyone claims is gay. Such apparent slander leads Julius to fight others and to question his own sexuality when he fails to perform in bed with girlfriend Shiley (Noell Coet), whose friendship with another boy arouses jealousy in Julius and leads him to entertain thoughts of turning his affections toward a flirtatious classmate. Just as Julius’s desires are torn between two girls, so too are his mom’s (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson) between wealthy school administrator boyfriend Melvin (Jon Gries) and local hayseed Levi (Justin Arnold), as well as his grandfather’s between his wife (Betty Buckley) and the dying mistress whom he openly cares for, much to his spouse’s initial chagrin. It’s a veritable round-robin of romantic and carnal conflict, laid out by writer-director Berndt Mader with a schematism almost as pronounced as his young lead’s one-note woodenness.
The Golden Arm Trio
Graham’s recording debut with his super-charged performing group The Golden Arm Trio is a constantly morphing trip through hard, beat-driven jazz to experimental sounds to classical lyricism.
“It’s highly appropriate that this endeavor gets its name from such an evocative film (The Man With the Golden Arm). With a here-and-there juxtaposition of mood and atmosphere, Austin’s Golden Arm Trio grabs you like a jealous lover in the throes of co-dependency. And you don’t mind one bit. Although the trio designation would lead you to believe otherwise, this forever fluctuating collective is really more of an expansive outlet for vanguard pianist/percussionist Graham Reynolds to explore a variety of musical tangents.” – Austin Chronicle
Why The Sea Is Salt
Graham’s second full length release is a collection of compositions inspired by the fairy tale of the same name and prominently features The Tosca String Quartet. Named one of the “Best Austin Albums of the Decade” by The Austin Chronicle.
The Tick-Tock Club
The third Golden Arm Trio album The Tick-Tock Club is part movie soundtrack, part crime jazz, part classical tribute, part boisterous rock & roll…interweaving themes and motifs that recur in different guises.
“Part movie soundtrack, part crime jazz, part classical tribute, part boisterous rock & roll, The Tick-Tock Club is easily the most ambitious of the Golden Arm Trio’s three releases and its first in six years. It might initially sound like a hodgepodge, but GAT ringmaster Graham Reynolds and his revolving ATX ensemble have interwoven various streams and motifs that return in different guises. One theme appears as an orchestral piece in “The End of Speedy Jinx” and later as a Raymond Scott cartoon romp on “Disco.” Likewise, the frenetic, horn-driven title track reappears as a cello/piano sonata on “Greyhound.” The album bookends nicely with two different reflections on Reynolds’ tribute to Shostakovich, one as minimalism, the other florally orchestral. The footloose spirit of rock & roll ties it altogether into a messy but delectable whole.” -Austin Chronicle
As long-time collaborators, Ballet Austin’s Steven Mills and Graham Reynolds Reynolds know how to bring out the best in each other. Through The Graham Reynolds Project, these artists synthesized their classically innovative styles in an incredible marriage of movement and music. This latest collaboration features a first for Reynolds-an original, 22-minute composition performed by a 25-piece orchestra. While he still features the cello prominently, Reynolds brings a more symphonic sound to Once Belonging. His musical inspiration for this new work is an interesting mash-up: the Sibelius Violin Concerto, Syzmanoski’s Myths, and drum line music. In terms of movement style, Once Belonging is a tribute to classical form expressed through a contemporary lens while thematic phrases tell a story of community and devotion. With tender romanticism in one moment and passionate athleticism the next, Once Belonging is full of humanity, something Mills and Reynolds explore and celebrate in every dance concert they bring to the stage. Bounce features jazzy interludes, pounding percussion and out-of-the-ordinary instrumentation. Gathered in a tight circle of energetic “bounce,” eight dancers build a pulsing momentum that explodes across the stage. The fast-paced, driving movement creates a force you can feel, guaranteed to have you bobbing in your set. Reynolds’ re-imagined Bach’s Suite in A minor serves as the musical foundation for this rambunctious romp of a contemporary ballet.
Premiered on February 12th, 2010, at the Long Center for Performing Arts, Austin, TX / Commissioned by Ballet Austin & Choreography by Stephen Mills
Shepard & Dark
Director Treva Wurmfeld began filming the two friends in 2010 during a period of transition and reflection for Shepard. At the time, he had quietly ended his relationship with Lange and agreed to publish his correspondence with Dark. The task required them to meet and sift through years of their shared history, stirring memories both good and bad. Wurmfeld observes the two men over a period of eighteen months and captures an indelible portrait of a complex male friendship rarely depicted on screen.
Cult of Color
Soundtrack to the ballet Cult of Color refuses to sit obediently in any single genre, instead straddling several over the course of 55 minutes. Traces of jazz, rock and industrial music are discernible alongside soundtrack styles and a gothic, theatrical streak runs through this music too. The liner notes describe the ballet as a mythic, tribal world where colour is dreamt of, then discovered in a subterranean world. Reynolds’ compositions are, appropriately enough, a mixture of starkly rendered monochrome and more subtly coloured music. A World Without Color begins in commanding style with brutally methodical percussion and braying saxophone. The music then continues without pause into the echoing, gentler sound world of Sesom’s Dream, shaded with marimba and vibes. Betto’s Lament could be mistaken for a Tom Waits instrumental, made up of twanging guitar, plangent strings, heartbeat percussion and kalimba. Elsewhere, The Darkness Babies is pleasingly strident, drums are beaten mercilessly and Paul Klemperer’s saxophone rages and snorts into darkness. The Golden Arm Trio belies its name by comprising 17 musicians, a little under half of which are string players. Their presence, although integral, mostly comes second place to the prominent rhythm section. When heard on their own, halfway through Sesom And His Disciples, they emphasise an anxious, forbidding strain to the proceedings.
A Ballet Austin Production in Association with Arthouse / Story and Visual Concept by Trenton Doyle Hancock • Choreography by Stephen Mills / Premiered April, 2008 at AustinVentures Studio Theatre, Austin, Texas