CD Review

Richard Reed Parry: Music for Heart and Breath

If you are a lover of Bach, Haydn and Mozart, and prefer baroque and classical era music, then this will definitely take you out of your comfort zone. It won’t take you too far out – well…ok. So it might – but that’s OK. It’ll be totally fun!

Richard Reed Parry is a young Canadian composer out of Ottawa who has just released his first album of classical music. It’s very different and I mean that in a good way – especially knowing my love of all things centuries-old. In this new album, called Music for Heart and Breath, he turns the musician into an instrument of sorts in that the musicians use their own bodies as metronomes – those lovely time keepers that cause every young student to cringe when their teacher sets one on a piano. <<shudder>>

In this case, it’s actually rather fun! Not sure what is meant by the musician’s being the metronome? Check out what Mr. Parry said in a recent NPR interview.

“Every note, and everything that any of the musicians plays, is played either in sync with the heartbeat of that player, or with their breathing, or with the breathing of another player,” Parry explains. “You have a stethoscope and you have an Ace bandage. The Ace bandage is wrapped around your chest, and it presses the stethoscope to your heart.”

From there, the players do their best to keep track of their internal rhythms with one ear and their instruments with the other — quite the challenge, Parry says, especially in live performance, wherein simply stepping on a stage tends to speed a performer’s pulse.

“It’s definitely an un-intuitive way of playing music,” he says. “Which is funny, considering that it’s in some ways it’s the most intuitive musical reference point that anybody could have.”

Can you imagine playing with a stethoscope? Why not, right? OK – if you can’t, watch this video where Mr. Parry talks about it – and even hands out stethoscopes to the musicians! This is actually a great behind-the-scenes look at the making of this album as well as the logic and goals behind the music that was written. It’s meant to be disruptive, but also natural at the same time. Take a listen.

Here’s a taste of what’s on this CD. It’s very “plucky” – and you’re welcome to consider that either a musical or very-non-technical term! It’s fun – different, but fun! This is Warhol Dervish playing the Quartet of Heart and Breath.

So what do you think?

Some of the music has a fun twist like that. Some is rather mellow. Some has you wondering where the melody is, but that’s OK. The other day I wrote about trying to figure out a Picasso painting (good luck with that, right?) when my mom and I went to the art museum here in Columbus. We never really figured it out, but we spent 15 plus minutes just pondering the possibilities. Isn’t that what art is all about? Isn’t it out there to make you try something new and then think about possibilities you might never have considered before?

If you’re nodding your head up and down, then you should absolutely take the time to listen to this. It’s very nice, there are wonderful percussive segments topped off with thought-provoking strings. Overall, it’s a pretty mellow take on 21st century music. There’s a lot of depth to it. There are many layers to it and I realize I’m not talking as much about the music itself, which is fine (or maybe I am?) because I’m not a professional musician. But, I can honestly say this will appeal to many people for many reasons – even if those people typically just limit themselves to one era – Baroque, Romantic, Classical, etc.

It’s always nice to run into something that helps bridge the gap between the more traditional listeners to classical music – or those who prefer the more traditional take on classical music – and those who like the modern stuff. This is just completely different. What I especially like about it is that it’s totally funky, but not so outrageous that it turns you off or scares you away. Try it out! You’ll like it!

Update 15 Sep 2014: Picked up a copy of Q Magazine for the first time ever thanks to a recommendation by a Barnes & Noble employee. Who’s on the cover? Arcade Fire – with Richard Reed Parry! Haven’t read the article yet, but had to pick it up when I saw him on the cover!

Q Magazine - September 2014

Q Magazine with Richard Reed Parry on the cover. How’s that for timing?

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