Stream Jordan Dykstra’s Audition

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Jordan Dykstra may not have an instantly recognizable name; the viola player/composer has mostly lurked behind the scenes, but has collaborated with artists as diverse as the Dirty Projectors and Gus Van Sant. While that’s a pretty impressive resume, Dykstra’s solo efforts are just as impressive, and his most recent album attests to that. It’s called Audition, and was written while Dykstra was secluded on a farm in Northwest Portland. Like the gloomy, mythical landscape of the Pacific Northwest, Audition is just as haunting, even displaying beauty in its seemingly dissonant sections (of which there are many). It is orchestral music that eschews melody in favor of textural harmony: the sentiment of ambient music, but with the tactility of orchestral instruments. With interspersed field recordings from the farm where it was written, Audition is an ode to nature in its disturbing beauty and mythical wonder, an attempt to express through music the feeling of staring at a mountain. Impose is proud to be premiering Audition in its entirety, which can be listened to via the embed below. Read on for our interview with Dykstra about his background and creative process (which may or may not be influenced by literal bullshit). What’s your background? It seems like you’ve been all over the musical map, jumping right from studying to collaborating with a diverse range of artists. Growing up as a string player, first violin for 10 years and then viola for the past 15, I began studying classical music at an early age in Sioux City, Iowa. It was there that I began jamming, playing in bands and listening to a wide array of music, gradually expanding into the experimental realms of contemporary classical music and textures often found in film scores. After studying music theory in Los Angeles, I then moved to Portland, OR and continued to delve deeper into even stranger musical worlds, this often included an element of improvisation. In Portland I found new age music, microtonal harmonies, and inspiration from painters, nature from the pacific northwest, and modern architecture and design. This past spring I received a grant to apprentice with Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason in Reykjavík. Daníel introduced me to his style of alternate notation and opened my ears to an incredible new realm of sounds and textures using well articulated extended techniques. How did your previous collaborations inform your current style? Because a lot of Audition sounds incredibly cinematic to me. One of the most cherished collaborations informing the creation of Audition was with Harry Casimir de Rham, my dear friend and sage who took the photographs for the record. Harry easily made the list in Tom Blood’s poem entitled “People who are more like spirits than people”. Harry and I spent months talking about the paintings of Gerhard Richter, Diego Velázquez, and Pieter Bruegel. He shared with me the idea of disintegrating things from our lives and the world can be resistant to those changes. We spoke at great length regarding the creation of art through the act of reducing, extraction, and deletion – in the way an artist sculpts and carves away stone and is left with the debitage. When I look back through my past collaborations, the trimmings revolve around the sounds of my viola, altered and effected at times, raw and not always beautiful, it is the sound of my own stark voice. How did being out on a farm affect your writing style? Obviously there are the field recordings on the album, but there is a sense of disconnect in the songs, like in the sliding strings on “Rolling Thundara” and the general dissonance present in the harmony. “Rolling Thundara” was written as homage to Ernest Bloch’s Suite Hébraïque, La Monte Young’s drony long-tone string trios, and the wavy melodies of Henry Flynt. But more than anything, the sounds on Audition are basically a soundtrack for the landscape where I recorded it: a sprawling, mainly wooded, quiet farm near Forest Park in Northwest Portland. I spent half a year studying this giant hill that loomed through the window of my recording studio. I saw it morph with the seasons and I documented it with hundreds of photographs, field recordings, and then this album. The music grew out of acknowledging my isolation there and my awareness of the vast space, not to mention the damning winds, howling coyotes, and fear of a rogue red bull that was on the loose and shitting near my morning walking path. What are your future plans? I’m headed to the California Institute of the Arts to complete a long-overdue composition degree with Michael Pisaro. I plan on forming an ensemble there and focusing on alternative notation methods as a means to extract digital effects from acoustic instruments. When I’m done there I will find a way to travel back to Scandinavia and explore other parts of Europe. I also have a fascination with the landscapes in Alaska and I’m curious how they would affect my music. Currently, I am working on chamber ensemble arrangements of pieces from Audition and finishing up music for an October performance in Portland with dancer Allie Hankins. Audition is due for release on August 19 via Marriage Records, Shatter Your Leaves, and Modern Documents.