BEN COSGROVE, Clarissa Vito | Foundry Hall
Ben Cosgrove is a composer, pianist, and multi-instrumentalist based in Cambridge, MA, where he is currently serving as the Signet Artist-in-Residence Fellow at Harvard University. He performs regularly as both a solo artist and as a sideman, tours widely across the US and Canada, writes scores for films, plays, radio, and television, and has produced several well-received albums of original instrumental music. His live performances on solo piano are at once dazzling and intimate, the music both delicate and commanding.
In recent years, Ben's interest in landscape has become the strongest force guiding his composition and performances. "I don't think of my pieces as rendering places in music," he notes in a 2012 article in Harvard Magazine, "but more just as responding to places musically. Writing music just happens to be the way I process the world." For years, Ben has been inspired by the ways people respond to built and natural environments, and through songs with names like "Prairie Fire," "I am Walking Inland," "Nashua," and others, he seeks to recreate these phenomena with sound. A year spent researching the preservation of natural soundscapes in America's natural parks has also shaped much of his new material. "I'm interested in the relationship between sound and a sense of place," he says. "So much of the North American soundscape is becoming clouded with drones and mechanized noise that it's quickly losing this rich diversity that is still so obvious in the continent's visual landscape."
In the early spring of 2014, Ben will release a highly anticipated album of new material, much of which reflects this concern. It will be his first full-length studio offering since 2011s Yankee Division, which focused specifically on the environment of north-central New England. The music on the new album looks through a broader lens, considering the human experience of many dramatically varied physical landscapes across North America. Different sections of the album utilize field recordings, innovative arrangements, and elegantly interwoven melodies to evoke deserts, wilderness lakes, prairies, mountain ranges, coastlines, and sprawling suburbs all in turn. In one piece, swirling arpeggios capture the disorientation of a fast drive across the plains; in another, murmuring dissonances suggest the swell of the tide. Taken as a whole, the new record and the performance series Cosgrove is planning to coincide with its release will offer a one-of-a-kind aural tour of the continent.
In addition to his solo work, Ben works with a wide range of other artists: he performs regularly with the Minnesota-based stompgrass band Saint Anyway and constitutes one half of the folk duo 90-Mile Portage. He has also worked with musicians including David Berkeley, Charlie Christos, Forrest O'Connor, and Diet Folk, playing keyboards, upright and electric bass, mandolin, trombone, trumpet, accordion, ukulele, violin, and other instruments both in concert and on record. He regularly composes string and horn arrangements for others' projects and has recorded original music for clients including WHRB, Bristlecone Media, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. In addition to his current position at Harvard, he has been honored with residencies and fellowships by such institutions as Middlebury College and Acadia National Park.
Ben is also an enthusiastic writer of nonfiction, and his essays about sound, art, landscape, and place have been published by Appalachia, The Island Review, The Harvard Advocate, The Bad Version, The Monadnock Conservancy, and land that i live, where he is a regular contributor.
"That Yankee Division sounds so flawless is certainly no surprise The truth is, Cosgrove's talents know no bounds." -ResidentMediaPundit.com
"The composer/performer displays an astonishing versatility in crafting his instrumental tracks: he builds them from piano, guitar, mandolin, banjo, trumpet, trombone, upright bass, and dynamic percussion, all of which Cosgrove plays, records, and mixes himself. Onstage, he usually performs solo, building up his layered sound with a digital looping pedal that allows him to record a part live on acoustic guitar or keyboard and then play and record other parts on top of that, multiplying himself into a sophisticated one-man band." Harvard Magazine
"Compelling and powerful" -The Harvard Crimson
"[Cosgrove] seemingly has the ability to play, and play well, any instrument he touches." Duluth News-Tribune
"Passionately joyful delicately romantic fantastically uplifting." -MethuenLife
"[Cosgrove's] melodies drift across haunting northern expanses amid polished arrangements, often gradually decomposing as chaos creeps in underneath. The music stirs intimate feelings of loneliness and homesickness, as well as taking on bigger places, distance, and a greater sense of history these musical journeys evoke the melancholy and the frantic disorientation of departure, transit, and return." Harvard Magazine
"Hits all the right notes." -The Valley Dispatch
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