The debut album of emerging American composer, electric guitarist, and sound artist Christopher Cresswell, eponymously named after the ensemble he runs, 315 Ensemble, has just been released earlier this month on Ravello Records.
“I’m interested in the intersection between noise and music,” says Cresswell. “My work uses static, white noise, distortion, fragments of found sound, and digitally manipulated materials, combined with live instruments to create unique sound worlds. Even when working on pieces without electronics, I’m interested in exploring the minutiae of sonic textures. At the core of my work is the desire to find and nurture beauty in unexpected places, and then share that beauty with people.”
Featuring Cresswell’s own group, the 315 Ensemble, the two selections on Cresswell’s debut album are defining works in his composition career thus far. “I chose to record these works because they represent where my compositional voice is at the moment and where it will continue to go. From Dreams, We Emerge (commissioned by the San Francisco-based contemporary music group Wild Rumpus) was a real turning point for me compositionally, it was the first time I blended my interests in electronic, ambient, and classical music. A lot of ideas that I’ve been exploring in my music over the last few years can be traced to this piece.”
The Lost Art of Losing Sleep, the first “official” piece Cresswell has written for his new ensemble, was a work that emerged organically from sketches, rehearsing ideas, live performance and ultimately arrived at its finished form in the recording studio. “I love sitting in recording studios, whether in my bedroom or in actual recording studios, and tinkering with sound. This process, of bringing partially conceived ideas to an ensemble, recording them, and working with those recordings to create the final piece is really rare and part of the joy of running your own group, and being in control of the music from beginning to end.” A response to the 2016 election of the United States, The Lost Art of Losing Sleep captures the composer’s anxiety about the future of the country and the world. Cresswell flexes his poetic muscles in the accompanying poem—in lieu of program notes—for the piece:
wash over him
the lost art
of losing sleep
Refusing to rest on his laurels, Cresswell is preparing for the world premiere performances of in the space that separates, in April and May, commissioned by Composers and Schools in Concert, Central Dauphin and Central Dauphin East schools. This work continues Cresswell’s interest in exploring white noise through electronic and acoustic means. He recently completed a new saxophone ensemble piece, a stillness, disturbed, that will receive its world premiere in June by the North Jersey Saxophone Ensemble. Upcoming projects include a large choral piece in response to Tchaikovsky’s setting of the Vespers for the Birmingham-based choir, Via Nova, a new trumpet, soprano, and electronics piece for the Byrne:Kozar:Duo, as well as a new wind ensemble and electronics piece for the 2018-19 season. Looks like Cresswell will have some music writing on the horizon to help him hone the art of losing sleep!