Chicago’s Third Coast Percussion to release new album ‘Fields’ in collaboration with Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes

August 23, 2019
by Jessi Roti

“Seeing what Third Coast Percussion had done with these pieces was magical.” – Devonté Hynes

Singer-songwriter Dev Hynes has become one of the millennial generation’s most influential, artistic Renaissance men. From his own efforts as Lightspeed Champion and later Blood Orange, his hipster-approved, synth-pop/R&B outfit known for songs such as “Champagne Coast” and “Augustine,” to writing and producing for artists like Solange, Sky Ferreira, Carly Rae Jepsen and numerous others, forays into ballet, film and modernist art — Hynes has shown time and again that his creative interests and musical acumen cannot be contained.

But would you think the performer was going to follow-up 2018′s massively compelling “Negro Swan” and this year’s “Angel’s Pulse” mixtape with an album of classical music?

Hynes is doing it in collaboration with Chicago-based Third Coast Percussion. The ensemble, best known as the ensemble-in-residence at the University of Notre Dame and for its educational initiatives, won the Grammy Award for “Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance” in 2017.

From start to finish, [TCP member Robert] Dillon says the recording process took about three months — early spring through late summer/early fall of last year. Hynes composed the pieces in a Digital Audio Workshop and sequenced the music using whatever sounds “were in his ears,” Dillon says. He’d send the recordings to TCP, and they make choices on which sounds could translate to their instruments and what sounds they can recreate in others ways.

Of each work’s evolution through the back-and-forth, Hynes is quoted in the album’s press release as saying, “This was the first time I’ve written music that I’ve never played, and I love that. It’s something I’ve always been striving to get to. Seeing what Third Coast Percussion had done with these pieces was magical.”

“He was open and into the collaboration process from the very beginning,” Dillon continues. “The first time we started sending him real recordings of stuff, it was like ‘Ok this is gonna work out really well.’ He sent really nice, supportive feedback. I think, before, he was sort of unsure of what to expect exactly. But I think at that moment, he was even more trusting and really excited about where it was going.”

Now that “Fields” will see a proper audio release, Third Coast Percussion is hoping the collaboration will introduce a “new mold” to the classical music genre. In a world where composers write and musicians simply play what’s put in front of them, the outfit hopes to inspire a more collaborative approach within the genre and break what Dillon calls “misconceptions” around composition and creativity.

“We’re very optimistic that this will open-up new interest — especially younger people, but a wide-range of people — in concert music more generally. We’re really excited to sort of open up a different model within this project that provides new possibilities.

There’s the idea that ‘only specific people can be composers.’ I think a lot of performers find that intimidating — to compose or be involved the creative process. We feel that’s not the way it should be,” he explains.

“Music education doesn’t always encourage people to pursue composition as part of their musical training and understanding, and that’s something we emphasize in all of our education work. Just trying to find opportunities for students at any level to be creative, start trying something. There’s no reason any person can’t just do it.”

Though there are no live performances of “Fields” scheduled specifically, the ensemble has regularly performed songs featured in “For All Its Fury” (also touring with the Hubbard Street production through February/March of 2019) as well as “Perfectly Voiceless” — which was originally a musical interlude.

“We’re very excited by how this all came out,” Dillon adds, “and it’s only possible because of a broader view of composition and creativity that, we think, the classical music world should just embrace more.”

Click here to read the full feature article.

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