Sifting Stars


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Some notes on Sifting Stars: Orchestral art songs.


Ulery -“I tend to write emotionally. That is to say, when I reach in to the abstract space of musical possibilities, the tiny bit I can capture, I tend to let these transient melodies/rhythms and subsequent harmonies, increasingly familiar somehow, guide me through the most natural dynamic and flow of energy from event to event. These fragile moments, subtle and monumental, occupy long form song structures in Sifting Stars.
This music and lyrics is concerned with fantasy and redemption, and I exploited every opportunity to coax the most lush and expressive motion. While this collection of music is perhaps stylistically furthest away from my jazz informed roots than in previous work, with this classical instrumentation and atmosphere, brimming with romantic gestures, and it’s mostly through-composed nature, I feel that much of the harmonic and rhythmic palettes still reflects my relationship with jazz and new music through a certain rhythmic aesthetic, emotional intent, and vibe.
Sifting Stars is epic. The opening piece, ‘The Remanent of Everything,’ was originally commissioned and performed by the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra in 2017. I took advantage of this opportunity to create more music, these orchestral art songs, for this prodigious instrumentation in ‘Pictures in Grey,’ ‘I’m So Shallow,’ and ‘The Prairie is a Rolling Ocean.’ These first two pieces, scored for full symphonic orchestra, include members of Eighth Blackbird with singing by one of my long-time collaborators, Grazyna Auguscik. For the next two, I left out the strings and added more brass to the orchestra and feature singing by Katie Ernst (bassist/composer/vocalist of Twin Talk). Pianist, Rob Clearfield, a significant voice in my music for over a decade, is featured here in his usual brilliance, especially on ‘The Prairie is a Rolling Ocean,’ where he performs a particularly thoughtful and elegant improvised piano solo woven into the orchestration. The finale of Sifting Stars is ‘Ida,’ a multi-movement work for brass quintet inspired by the Ivan Albright painting, ‘Into the World There Came a Soul Called Ida,’ living at the Art Institute in Chicago. ‘Ida’ was originally commissioned and performed by Axiom Brass (also heard now on this recording) in 2017. Brass is a deep breath. In this fantasy score, I imagined what Ida was thinking and feeling. The painting, extremely detailed and grotesque, inspired me to explore some of the emotions in the subject rather than to try and emulate the scrupulousness.
In writing for these ensembles of established instrumentation, I’m experimenting with new idioms and sonic possibilities in this fervent work. And as usual, I’m utilizing the album medium to produce this music for studio orchestra in Sifting Stars, attempting to put something beautiful and fanciful out into the world.”

This is Ulery’s 8th album as a leader/producer and has gained accolades with recent works such as “By a Little Light,” “Wake anEcho,” and “In the Ivory,” on Dave Douglas’s Greenleaf Music record label in 2012-2014 and his latest, “Festival,” on his own label, Woolgathering Records. Ulery is an extremely active bassist and collaborator in Chicago and beyond.

Track Listing:

Music and Lyrics by Matt Ulery

1) The Remanent of Everything [7:30]
2 ) Pictures in Grey [9:05]
3) I’m So Shallow [8:30]
4) The Prairie is a Rolling Ocean [6:29]

5) Into The World There Came a Soul / Vanity Fare [2:52]
6) The Fleeting Nature of Time and Beauty [4:29]
7) I Give My Back To The Dark [2:00]
8) Wicker Party [2:31]
9) The Passage of Time Can Be Relentless and Unforgiving [2:23]
10) I Have Such a Clown Face [3:29]


Sifting Stars studio orchestra:

Matt Ulery – double bass and voice
Rob Clearfield – piano
Michael Caskey – percussion
Grazyna Auguscik – voice
Katie Ernst – voice
Yvonne Lam – violins
Jeff Yang – violins
Aurelien Pederzoli – violas
Nick Photinos – cellos
Michael Maccaferri – clarinets
Nathalie Joachim – flutes
Ben Roidl-Ward – bassoons
Andrew Nogal – oboes and english horns
Liz Deitemyer – french horns
James Davis – trumpets
Chad McCullough – trumpets
Steve Duncan – trombones
Chris Shuttleworth – trombones

Axiom Brass:

Dorival Puccini – trumpet
Kris Hammond – trumpet
Melanie Erena Kjellsen – french horn
Mary Tyler – trombone
Kevin Harrison – tuba

Recording in Chicago 2018
Engineered, mixed, and mastered by Anthony Gravino
Produced by Matt Ulery


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