Black Mountain Songs Brooklyn Youth Chorus



release date: March 31, 2017

release date: March 31, 2017

Black Mountain Songs is the debut album from the Grammy Award-winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

This expansive choral work celebrates and rekindles the utopian spirit of Black Mountain College, where iconic artists including Willem de Kooning, John Cage, Buckminster Fuller, Merce Cunningham, Josef and Anni Albers, Franz Kline, and Robert Rauschenberg converged and collaborated in the mid 20th Century. Black Mountain Songs features works by Bryce Dessner (who also created the project), Richard Reed Parry, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline ShawJherek Bischoff, John King, Nico Muhly, Aleksandra Vrebalov, and a collaboration between Dessner and Tim HeckerBlack Mountain Songs is the studio recording of an evening-length stage work of the same name, which premiered to acclaim in BAM’s 2014 Next Wave Festival. The project was co-commissioned by the Chorus and BAM, co-curated by Dessner and Parry (of the rock bands The National and Arcade Fire), and produced by the Chorus. Dessner, Parry, and Shaw, along with the Chorus, perform on the album. Combining these talents with a chorus “that New Yorkers love” (The New Yorker) creates an experience that “impresses as an exceptionally cohesive work; in fact, the song cycle feels so unified, one could imagine it the work of a single composer if one didn't know better” (Textura).

Brooklyn Youth Chorus re-envisions choral music performance through artistic innovation, collaboration, and the creation of a distinctively beautiful sound. Black Mountain Songs expresses the spirit of the Chorus as well as Black Mountain College—a richly collaborative, multi-dimensional approach to music making and artistic creativity. Black Mountain College, which operated from 1933 until 1957, was fundamentally different from other colleges and universities of the time. Owned and operated by the faculty, it was committed to democratic governance and the idea that the arts are central to the learning experience. Dessner, who, as a child, went to summer camp in the mountains of North Carolina not far from where Black Mountain College had been, created Black Mountain Songs to serve as a collaborative work that pays tribute to the college and its ideals. Brooklyn Youth Chorus is perfect for his narrative song cycle in both principle and skill. Q2 Music writes: "With the Chorus’ emphasis on social awareness and individual empowerment, each member has specific insights into what the music means to them and can mean to society at large."

Most of the words featured in Black Mountain Songs come from poems and texts written by Black Mountain faculty or students, including John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Josef and Anni Albers, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Buckminster Fuller, Robert Duncan, Fielding Dawson, Ruth Asawa, Basil King, and MC Richards.

The album was produced and edited by two-time Grammy Award-winner Grace Row. It was recorded and mixed by two-time Grammy Award-winner Charles Harbutt. Recording took place in January and March 2015 at Watermusic Recording Studios in Hoboken, NJ, and in October 2016 at Systems Two Recording Studios in Brooklyn, NY. The line producer was Jennifer Cambras and packaging design was done by DM Stith.
The world premiere production at Brooklyn Academy of Music was conducted by Dianne Berkun-Menaker, directed by Maureen Towey, and choreographed by Jenny Shore Butler. Other credits include: film design by Matt Wolf, set design by Mimi Lien, costume design by Sarah Maiorino, lighting design by Ben Stanton, video and projection design by Grant McDonald, and sound design by Jamie McElhinney. The production was narrated by Black Mountain College alumnus Basil King and line produced by Laura Roumanos.

This recording is made possible in part through the generosity of an anonymous donor, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, J. Barclay Collins, II, Marie DeRosa and Richard McNeil, Educational Foundation of America, Jeanne Donovan Fisher, Charles J. and Irene Hamm, Annie Keating and Kim Hawkins, Gwen R. Libstag, Hillary Richard and Peter McCabe, Jennifer Sage and Nicolas Grabar, New Music USA, The Morris and Alma Schapiro Fund, Tiger Baron Foundation and Mary Anne and Dick Yancey. Black Mountain Songs is lovingly dedicated to the memory of Brooklyn Youth Chorus’s past chair, fervent supporter, and beloved friend, Mary Anne Yancey.


  1. Black Mountain Song (composed by Bryce Dessner)

  2. there is a sound (composed by Richard Reed Parry)

  3. Its Motion Keeps (composed by Caroline Shaw)

  4. ars imitatur naturam (composed by John King)

  5. My World (composed by Bryce Dessner)

  6. Bubbles (composed by Aleksandra Vrebalov)

  7. Childhood’s Retreat (composed by Jherek Bischoff)

  8. Fielding Dawson in Franz Kline’s Studio (composed by Nico Muhly)

  9. Maximus to Gloucester (composed by Bryce Dessner)

  10. Spaceship Earth (composed by Richard Reed Parry)

  11. M.C. Richards (composed by Tim Hecker and Bryce Dessner)

  12. Anni’s Constant (composed by Caroline Shaw)

  13. Their Passing in Time (composed by Richard Reed Parry)