Praised by the New York Times as “especially empowering” and “darkly exhilarating”, composer/drummer BRENDAN FAEGRE crafts music that unites the traditions within which he was formed.
From his upbringing as a rock drummer comes a fascination with the beauty of distortion, imperfection, and improvisation. His months as a tabla apprentice in India led to a music that melds intellectual rigor with physical expressiveness. And his studies of spectromorphology yielded an obsession with the human experience of sound.
Faegre’s professional life launched in the contemporary classical world. His music has been performed and commissioned by major international festivals — Huddersfield, Gaudeamus, November Music, Aspen, Cabrillo, Bang on a Can — and premiered at Carnegie Hall. But following an entire winter spent composing in a basement in Norway, the distance between author and artist became too much.
He moved to The Netherlands and formed the Edge Ensemble where he served as drummer and director. They performed Faegre’s own works, newly commissioned pieces from peers like Genevieve Murphy and Krists Auznieks, and hosted jam sessions around the music of Steve Reich and Giacinto Scelsi. Most recently they premiered a semi-improvised soundtrack to F.W. Murnau’s silent film Sunrise at Amsterdam’s renowned EYE Film Museum.
The reunification of Faegre’s composer- and performer-selves led to an eruption of creative activity. He co-founded Bow Hammer Connection, “a trio that command a giant sound reminiscent of experimental and noise-rock bands such as Battles and Shellac” (Classical:NEXT), and performed repertoire ranging from Faegre’s Dance Suite in G and the latest David Lang, to an arrangement of Sonic Youth’s Bull in the Heather. He wrote his first solo work Broken Mirrors — a 20-minute piece for drum kit, synthesizer, and surround-sound speakers — and took it on a 3-city tour with Cross-linx, a “festival to watch” (Pitchfork). As part of Dutch contemporary music theater group Silbersee’s Spr!tzl program, Faegre co-created and performed in A Manual Towards the Truth, a music theater work about social media content moderators (“★★★★…gripping” – NRC). He even brought his love of J.S. Bach into the 21st Century through switched, a duo with baroque violinist Lucia Giraudo, giving their debut show at Wonderfeel (the “Woodstock of Classical Music” – Deutschlandfunk).
The wide perspective gained from this diversity of projects as a composer-performer had a direct impact on Faegre’s works for other artists. As Faegre collaborated with improvisers, ideas about control and authorship bled over into his concert music. Collective for the New York Youth Symphony redistributes the conductor and composer’s power throughout the orchestra; Transcendance for the David Kweksilber Big Band uses free-improvisation on top of heavy beats; Analog Intelligence sees Faegre himself join the orchestra and principal percussionist at the front of the stage.
Faegre’s recent works use his vast musical toolbox to express more concrete ideas, focusing on political subjects, text, and multimedia. Carl’s Lament, for split-personality narrator and ensemble, presents the 2008 financial crisis through an absurd, dark lens (Ricciotti Ensemble, 6-concert tour); Music for Bars, for percussionists and dancers, amplifies and distorts the sonic/visual/social content of a given bar over an evening (Club Guy & Roni’s Poetic Disasters Club, 10-bar tour); and his latest work Gods of Bird, for percussionists performing on an amplified sculpture by (in)famous Dutch artist Joep van Lieshout, interprets the sculpture as a death-totem for late-stage capitalism (Slagwerk Den Haag).
Keep an eye out for Faegre’s debut EP release of Broken Mirrors on independent record label ArtekSounds in 2021.