RICHARD REED PARRY - MUSIC FOR HEART AND BREATH 4793061

. . . his debut as a neo-classical composer proves to be extraordinarily enthralling and deceptively intricate. The music arose from a fascinating concept -- having the musicians play in time to their heartbeats or breathing. Within an ensemble, you might imagine that the result would be chaotic and cacophonous. In fact, the opposite is true. Parry's music throughout is immersive and profoundly soothing.

. . . Richard Reed Parry explores particularly challenging musical avenues, and his new album, "Music for Heart and Breath" . . . proves to be extraordinarily enthralling and deceptively intricate . . . a fascinating concept . . . Parry's music throughout is immersive and profoundly soothing.

There is a palpable aliveness to the performance that makes the makes the six pieces, written for different configurations, feel like a guided meditation. This is body music, unquestionably, and by the end of the album the music's subtle internal rhythms have reconfigured your own. Parry's touch as a composer is pensive and delicate. There are a few startling outbursts here and there, but they recede gracefully, and the overall impression is of groups of notes judiciously dotting vast white space rather than swarming the canvas. The mood is still, serene . . . In the "Heart and Breath Sextet", violins slide down some minor thirds, bent back like bamboo branches. Pianos push gently in the opposite direction with rising figures. It's the sound of sighs and chatter, a foyer filling up with arriving dinner guests -- but just as soon, these voices back away into silence again. The effect is mournful, muted; if Parry's method is skewed toward the sounds of humanity, his ear leads him away again into silence and emptiness. Each piece traces simple, profound gestures and then tapers away, leaving a troubling impression. Interruptions comprises seven miniatures, only one longer than four minutes: the plucked strings, guitars, and gracefully staggered woodwinds of "Sticks/Tension" hit the ear like a handful of pebbles splashed into a pond. "Duet for Heart and Breath" pairs Parry with yMusic's violist Nadia Sirota, who draws breath audibly before bowing some feather-soft harmonics. "Freeform Winds/String Drones" is just that, overlapping washes of sound that move in unpredictable surges. Parry's writing is shimmering, jewel-like . . . things happen in "Music for Heart and Breath" at roughly the same pace as they do in real life. There are no fixed points, just motion along a spectrum, and we never know exactly where we are. But the uncertainty, familiar as it is, is oddly soothing.

. . . a stunning record.

Simple yet fascinating pieces . . .

. . . a success, the influence of the body on the music making it sound positively alive.

. . . a haunting collection of moments with a pair of variations of the title track, captures humanity in ways literal and uncharted. Parry dreams in whole new contexts, his music emerging in an unlikely way . . . It's staggering hearing a heatbeat drive melody . . . For a rainy day, a slow afternoon or any time you want to dissolve, sink into "Music for Heart and Breath".

This is a pure and lovely idea for music-making, obvious in hindsight but almost total new . . . But the concept would hardly count for much if the music that resulted were not so bewitching. Parry's stochastic technique creates rich and rippling, yet oddly steady, textures that sound like the product of extremely elaborate, hard-to-execute notation, but come off as naturally as breathing, and with good reason. His writing marries the rock musician's knack for warm, affecting chord changes to a classical composer's ear for orchestral color and, in the longer works, sense for the structure and proportion of large-scale forms. This is sophisticated, satisfying stuff -- and a deeply pleasurable listen.

. . . logical and satisfying . . . After the capricious dialogue of "Quartet for Heart and Breath", the greater variety of "Heart and Breath Sextet" readily draws the listener in through its timbral and textural allure, and then "For Heart, Breath and Orchestra" extends this process on to a larger tonal and expressive canvas. Most arresting, though, is "Interruptions" -- seven brief yet diverse pieces that effortlessly bridge any perceived 'divide' between Parry's experimental and classical tendencies . . . the original Kronos version of "Quartet . . ." is included to bring the cycle deftly and appealingly full-circle. These performances -- featuring such exponents of post-minimalism as guitarist Bryce Dessner and the currently ubiquitous Nico Muhly -- are formidably attuned to Parry's requirements . . . the present reading is of a piece with the inward focus of the music-making evident here. Clearly and spaciously recorded, it offers a listening experience that is riveting or dismaying but assuredly never dull.

Mr. Parry's music is dictated by the involuntary rhythms of the human body -- the performers' breath and pulse -- which gives a delicate beauty and subtle hum to this meditative music . . .[a] fine ensemble of musicians . . .


There are some striking themes, played mostly on low strings, scattered in Interruptions I-VII ("Heart and Breath Nonet") the seven movement work that is the most accomplished piece on the record and its obvious heart. And the unique way that the Kronos foursome in "Quartet for Heart and Breath (For Kronos)" make a violin sound like a harmonica or later a pipe organ -- between the ubiquitous plucked string sections -- is a gas to hear . . . all of it well-recorded . . .

. . . Parry's musical mind contains multitudes, and it's a pleasure to find the quieter of those nurtured on his off-days from superstardom.

. . . [das Herz als unzuverlässiger Dirigent bringt] die Dynamik und Verspieltheit, die das Album so außergewöhnlich machen . . . ein leises und introvertiertes Album. Gezupfte Streicher tanzen zart die Tonleitern hoch und runter, das Fingerpicking der akustischen Gitarren tröpfelt durch die Stücke und unter allem liegen Streicher, denen man das Ein- und Ausatmen anhört . . . [eine] sinnliche Musikerfahrung . . .