Spiritual America William Brittelle
New Amsterdam and Nonesuch Records released composer William Brittelle’s Spiritual America on May 3, 2019. The album features acclaimed American rock duo Wye Oak, Grammy–winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and Grammy-nominated chamber orchestra Metropolis Ensemble, performing a genre-fluid electro-acoustic song cycle written by Brittelle, plus one piece composed by Wye Oak and re-imagined by Brittelle. Spiritual America is the second release in a new partnership between the two record labels, established with the goal of enabling contemporary American composers to realize creative ambitions that might not otherwise be achievable. INDY Week called Brittelle’s creation “One of the most astonishing records of 2019” adding, “likely because it’s hard to describe, categorize, and explain.”
Spiritual America serves as a vessel through which Brittelle reconciles his youth in a conservative Christian North Carolina household with his adult life as an “agnostic Buddhist” living in Brooklyn. The project began seven years ago when Brittelle endured a family crisis and instinctively found himself praying to God.
“Reflecting on that instinctual response to trauma,” Brittelle explains, “I realized there was something happening deep down below the surface in me that I needed to reckon with. I had a germ of the idea for Spiritual America and it felt extremely cathartic, like a door opening to another realm of music-making. From there, the album progressed very gradually; it was one step at a time, almost with an invisible hand guiding me, gaining a little more clarity with each step.”
For this journey, Brittelle invited collaborators he deeply admired and knew would meet the demands of his emotionally and musically complex music: Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack, Metropolis Ensemble, and Brooklyn Youth Chorus, with mixing by Zach Hanson (Bon Iver’s 22, A Million, S. Carey, The Staves) at April Base, the famed Wisconsin studio founded by Justin Vernon.
Spiritual America was created in collaboration with Metropolis Ensemble, the Alabama Symphony, Symphony Space, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series/Walker Art Center, the Palm Springs Art Museum, and the Baltimore Symphony. The project has received critical acclaim for its premiere performances in 2018 at New York City’s Symphony Space (performed by Wye Oak, Brooklyn Youth Chorus and Metropolis Ensemble), and opening for Bon Iver and TU Dance at The Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles (performed by Metropolis Ensemble).
Topaz Were the Waves
Birds of Paradise
I Know the Law (Bonus Track)
All songs written by William Brittelle, except “I Know the Law” written by Wye Oak
Produced by Zach Hanson and William Brittelle
Co-production by Andrew Stack, Andrew Cyr, Ben Cassorla
Music direction by Andrew Cyr
Engineered by Ryan Streber
Mixed and mastered by Zach Hanson
All tracks feature Ben Cassorla on guitar, except “Topaz Were the Waves” which features Mark Dancigers