color as time – debut

cat pma 070717

“At the Jazz-Band Ball,” c. 1936–39, by Fred Becker

color as time

This Friday, July 14, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is hosting the debut performance of my latest batch of sounds brought to life by a brand-new Stamper band! color as time is a nimble, nuanced, and soulful sextet comprised of some of Philadelphia’s finest – all good-looking folks with rapier wit and generous musicality.

Paul Arbogast – trombones
Bethany Brooks – piano, keyboards, sounds
Mike Cemprola – woodwinds
Christopher McDonald – piano, keyboards, sounds
Matt Scarano – drums
Moi – guitar, double bass, tunes

The music continues my fascination with the blur between classical, jazz, folk, and experimental textures. Plus, we’re constantly shifting instruments, so we’re the musical equivalent of a Rube Goldberg machine.

Join us! The band is sounding fine. Music begins at 5:45, and the concert is free with Museum admission. Screamin’ deal. Details here.


fists install

Libretto banner by Caroline Santa

Such Gift, All Thanks

Thank you, thank you to all good and fine folk who made the premiere of ‘mid the steep sky’s commotion the gift that it was. The space was amazing, The Crossing was phenomenal, Caroline Santa’s artwork was a quiet wonder, and the room was full of eager ears and generous hearts. What a thing to hear music that’s been privately buzzing in your head for months realized with such skill, care, heart, and devotion.

For those of you who weren’t able to be there, and for those of you who would like to experience the piece again, great news! We’re in the planning stages for a commercial recording of the piece; yes. Also, one of my very favorite filmmakers, Ben Stamper, is creating a film of the project; a cinematic tour-de-force representing both the piece and the process. Stay tuned…


NEA

NEA

A parting piece of neato news:  just a few days after the premiere of ‘mid the steep sky’s commotion, the National Endowment for the Arts announced a $30,000 grant to The Crossing in support of The Month of Moderns 2017 (‘mid the steep sky’s commotion was the first installment of this three part festival). It’s grants like this, alongside the large-hearted support of our Hatchfund donors, that enable the creation and performance of new works by us living artists, exploring a broad range of contemporary issues – from displacement and homelessness, to zealotry, to the environment and our relationship to the earth. Thanks for the generous support, Country!

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‘mid the steep sky’s commotion

MoM 2017 Poster

Beautiful Folk,

It’s been a while since you’ve heard about any new music from me – but rest assured, I’ve been very hard at work, and now I’m thrilled to announce ‘mid the steep sky’s commotion, a new piece composed for the acclaimed Grammy-nominated choir The Crossing (they’re amazing, truly), in collaboration with visual artist Caroline Santa (also amazing). The Crossing will premiere the work on June 11, 2017 as the first concert of their 2017 Month of Moderns, in the Crane Arts Icebox in Philadelphia, PA. The work explores the enigmatic and impenetrable quality of wind, its singular and intimate relationship to the detritus of a city, and what this relationship suggests about language, time, and transience. Heady, but oh so cool.

Mark your calendars – this one is going to be special:

Sunday, June 11 @ 4pm

The Icebox at Crane Arts
1400 N. American St.
Philadelphia, PA 19122

Get your tickets here!

And stay tuned: over this next week, I’ll be sharing a bit about my process in writing the piece, with images and sounds, poems and musings.

Finally, if you’d like to learn more and contribute towards the work, go here.

Thanks, dear friends, and see you on June 11th!

As By Fire Between Walls

As By Fire Between Walls - 600

Friends!

I bring you glad tidings of a brand new EP called ‘As By Fire Between Walls‘. It’s got it all: Advent! Strings! Brass! Soulful wordless vocals! Tasty drums! Mellotrons!

Listen right here:

Streaming is free, but the download gets you the goods. Also, all download proceeds will be donated to the Support Center for Child Advocates, whose mission is to advocate for abused and neglected children in Philadelphia with the goal of securing a permanent and nurturing environment for every child. To learn more, visit http://www.advokid.org/

Lastly, this project was created with the mega talents and generosity of Ansa Stamper, Mike Cemprola, Jay Webb, Paul Arbogast, Christopher McDonald, Liz Ciavolino, Bethany Brooks, Erica Miller, Naomi Gray, Matt Scarano. What a crew.

Enjoy, and all the best in the new year,

Josh

** All pieces commissioned by City Church Philadelphia, as fine a bunch of people as there ever was.

Premiere!

rivers-still-1

A new work featuring:
Bethany Brooks
Daniel Delaney
Lea Fulton
Gabrielle Revlock
Megan Wilson Stern
Ben Stamper

Saturday, November 8, 8PM
Trinity Center for Urban Life
22nd and Spruce Street, Philadelphia
Sponsored by City Church Philadelphia

$10 online, $13 at the door (student discounts available)

BUY TICKETS | GET DIRECTIONS

All Good People,

I’m thrilled to announce the premiere of RIVERS, a new six-movement work written for prepared piano, prepared cello, dance, and film. RIVERS is the first chapter of Elements, a four-part multimedia series exploring the physical, environmental, and cultural significance of the four classical elements (water, air, fire, earth), and the specific ways their movements have shaped Philadelphia. RIVERS explores the dynamic relationship between the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers and the city recognized as the cradle of liberty and the birthplace of America.

Below are some special visual treats and more information about the piece. Read on to enjoy, and then get your tickets. The piece is really coming together beautifully, and we can’t wait to share it with you.

Be well, friends, and see you soon,

Josh


MEDIA (click on each image to watch)

RIVERS – Teaser Trailer

Where Bright Angel Feet Have Trod – Movement II

PBS State of the Arts Behind-the-Scenes Feature


ABOUT

At once a picture of stasis and motion, calm and turbulence, nourishment and destruction, rivers are a contradiction. Topography is shaped and reshaped, communities are separated and created. A critical source of water and food; a vital means of transportation, energy, bathing, irrigation; even a central figure to religious narrative and practice — rivers carry on with no regard for human beings, and yet their presence shapes humanity in profound ways. It is small wonder that rivers have captured our cultural, philosophical, and spiritual imaginations for millennia.

The piece, like the subject of its inspiration, is an exploration of disparate qualities that somehow exist comfortably in tandem: change and constancy, pattern and irregularity, danger and whimsy. Each element — music, dance, film — relates to the other in startling ways. Dancers affect the music with preparations of bolts, wine corks, tin-foil, and thread; sweeps of cinematic images anticipate, mirror, and echo gestures occurring on stage; musicians and dancers interact with their own “reflections” on screen. The roles of dance, film, and music are shifted, tumbled, turned around, and blurred; like river currents crashing into one another, or collections of small stones orbiting in an eddy; like the millions of human impacts and adjustments that daily define a city.

RIVERS is for those engaged and invested in questions of urban renewal — city planners, students, conservationists, artists, social workers, and educators; for those who have reckoned with the brokenness and inequity embedded in civic system and practice, yet maintain a vision of the city as a potential fountainhead of profound flourishing and wholeness. The audiences for RIVERS are the individuals and communities who see hope and promise in working towards a thorough and nuanced symbiosis of human culture and nature. RIVERS is written for Philadelphia.

One never steps in the same river twice. RIVERS celebrates the here and now, engaging with a particular time and a particular place. It invites its audience to experience the calm and turbulence, the shaping and reshaping, of a city and its culture.


RIVERS is supported in part through grants from the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Composers Forum, the Eric Stokes Fund “Earth’s Best In Tune”, and Lincoln City Fellowships / Speranza Foundation.

a righter rain will fall

A Righter Rain Will Fall-500

CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES.

a righter rain will fall, the knock-it-outta-the-park remix rework of the skin, the sea, the sound, has officially launched.

The album features Troy Herion, Lushlife, Papertwin, Cassandra Jenkins (Eleanor Friedberger), Anthony LaMarca (St. Vincent, The War On Drugs), Sleepers Work, Gutter Sparrow, Matt Davis, and Chris Ward of Pattern Is Movement, and will be unveiled song-by-song, week-by-week through July, August, and September of 2014.

Things kick things off with Troy Herion‘s full album remix. That’s right – he took the ENTIRE RECORD and compressed it into a 4:53 overture. It’s nuts.

Go here to hear.

Then crank it up and do a dance.

Finally, in celebration of all this remix glory, for the next nine weeks the skin, the sea, the sound – Limited Edition Vinyl will on sale for a mere 12 smackers. What the what?! Get ’em while they’re hot.

Be well, friends, enjoy, and check back each week for new remixes.

Perfect Day

This day was a perfect day
Leaves fell, I forgot myself…

Edward Plumb, Frank Churchill, Paul Smith, Oliver Wallace: names from a bygone era of cinematic orchestration, the zenith of which seemed the near-exclusive purview of Walt Disney Pictures. Bambi, Cinderella, Pinocchio, Alice In Wonderland, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves – these scores followed a now faintly remembered rubric governing the relationship between music and image. Conversations between winds, brass, and strings mirrored the dialogue of Bambi’s unsure legs and a frozen forest lake, or the happy bustle of mice and birds cutting and sewing fabric for Cinderella’s surprise dress. The responsibility of telling a story was volleyed back and forth between screen and score, while worlds opened up in a wholehearted embrace of wonder and whimsy.

Playfulness is important. We forget ourselves.

This past autumn, I was brought in to write orchestral arrangements for a new Shaking Through episode featuring Cassandra Jenkins. Upon hearing the demo of “Perfect Day”, it was immediately clear that Cassandra and I (and Sam Owens, who co-wrote the song and offered some of the initial arrangement ideas) shared a deep fondness for the lush whimsy and gestural flourishes that so characterized the type of orchestration referred to above (and as it turns out we’re all total suckers for Debussy and Van Dyke Parks). With this is mind and in ears, I set to work.

I love working with artists of all stylistic and aesthetic persuasions, but it’s a particular treat when approaches and musical proclivities overlap to the extent that they did with Cassandra and Sam. The fruit of our collaboration is finally available for public enjoyment. Click here to listen to ‘Perfect Day’. As with the afore-posted “Toynbee Suite”, all arrangements were brought into vibrant and sparkling existence by the brilliant Dark Horse Orchestra. Click below to view the pair of stunning videos from Weathervane Music.

Toynbee

Toynbee

This summer, I had the unique opportunity to write orchestral arrangements for Lushlife, moniker of the extraordinary hip-hop artist Raj Haldar, who had been invited to create a piece for Shaking Through, an audio/video series curated by Weathervane Music. ‘Toynbee Suite’ is Raj’s extended meditation on the infamous Toynbee Tiles, mysterious license-plate-sized tiles of unknown origin, embedded in streets and sidewalks all over the country, and even in South America. The cryptic and inscrutable message of each tile is the same:

Toynbee Idea
In Kubrick’s 2001
Resurrect Dead
On Planet Jupiter

The piece is divided into four movements, one movement per line, and all of Raj’s formidable word-smith prowess is aimed at spelunking the impenetrable nature of the Tiler’s words; of trying to ascertain what vision of human and cosmic flourishing could account for such heroic but obscure measures, such urgent but opaque lengths taken to communicate.

Writing for any artist is always a fun challenge. You are trying to crack the code of a particular artist’s vision while maintaining the integrity of your own aesthetic. This piece was that challenge squared: I interacting with the rich and clear artistic tableau of Lushlife, but I was also interfacing with the rich but decidedly unclear message of a bracingly sincere and single-minded Tiler. It was both invigorating and bizarre.

With that, click here to listen to ‘Toynbee Suite’ in its entirety (arrangements executed with soul and precision by the inimitable Dark Horse Orchestra), and click below to see the short documentaries about the making of. All are terrific.

Meet you on Planet Jupiter…

RIVERS

Movement of time, of water, of air and flame, of human beings: these are a few of my favorite things. Reckoning with the impossible calculus that instructs motions macro and micro, the closing of an eyelid, the surge of a wave, the peel of a race car around its track; this mesmerizing dynamism that is at once confounding and comforting is an increasingly irresistible pull for me.

Along these lines, I’m extremely happy to announce Elements, a four-part, multi-media (and multi-year!) series, exploring the physical, environmental, cultural, and philosophical/spiritual significance of the four classical elements (water, air, fire, earth), and the specific ways their movements have shaped the city of Philadelphia, its culture, and its history.

RIVERS, the first chapter in the series, is a picture of Philadelphia through the eyes of the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers.  Written for prepared piano and prepared cello (The Brooks-Delaney Duo), dance (Lea Fulton), and film (Ben Stamper), and funded in part by the American Composers Forum, The Eric Stokes Fund “Earth’s Best in Tune”, and The Speranza Foundation, performances are set for fall of 2014 with a DVD/download release to follow shortly after. Take a gander at the trailer below, and stay tuned for regular updates!

The river is of the earth
and it is free. It is rigorously
embanked and bound,
and yet is free. “To hell
with restraint,” it says.
“I have got to be going.”
It will grind out its dams.
It will go over or around them.
They will become pieces.

~ Wendell Berry, Give It Time, from Leavings

Like Those Who Dream

‘We Were Like Those Who Dream’, a new Stamper-Fulton-Stamper collaboration, is now available for your viewing pleasure. A big thank you to Evan Mazunik and Sparks and Echo Arts for inviting us to be a part of things. Enjoy the video below, and read a bit about the piece here.

Music by Joshua Stamper
Daniel Delaney – cello
Amy Christmas Halteman – clarinet
Joshua Stamper – guitar
Dance by Lea Fulton
Photography and Edit by Ben Stamper

YEAR

PAA_Ann_Hamilton_JamesEwing-4794photo by James Ewing

This Christmas my family and I were given a remarkable gift: admission to an exhibition at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City called ‘The Event of A Thread‘, by Ann Hamilton. A massive silk that moves like water or vapor, a field of swings, a record stylus, wooden crates of live pigeons, scrolls spilling onto the floor, a ceiling peppered with pulleys, bags of words and sacks of sound…it’s difficult to describe the piece, in either its scope or particulars, but we were children again. There was play, joy, rest, wonder.

In Ann Hamilton’s discussion of the piece and of the Armory’s role in its evolution, she states, “It happened because a space was made for it to happen.” Though I’m less shy than some to make New Year’s resolutions, my faith in my own ability to carry through on new commitments to “better” is sufficiently tempered. I’m struck though by Hamilton’s statement; where solitude, reflection, exploration and craft are so easily bullied by the crush of life and of calendars, creating space to create and making room for things to “happen” (with the obvious implication that if room isn’t made, things won’t happen), seems particularly urgent and necessary. How much wonder, play, and beauty could exist only for want of a place to exist? So with that, “it happened because a space was made for it to happen”–my artistic manifesto for 2013.

2013 Here We Come!
There are a whole host of goodies waiting in the wings this year, not the least of which is the completion of a new Joshua Stamper album (the bulk of which was recorded in Norway, arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth), a piece for cello and piano commissioned by the remarkable Brooks-Delaney Duo, and the completion of Ruth Naomi Floyd’s stunning photography and music project, The Veil Series, for which I’ve been privileged to act as music director. Much to look forward to!

Two Recent Projects From 2012: Maker of Stars, Be Born (EP) and Horse & Rider Soundtrack
image by Ansa Stamper

Over the past several years, I’ve been honored to contribute to a Christmas compilation released by Sounds Familyre Records called A Familyre Christmas. It’s a wild and wooly celebration with song-gems running the stylistic gammut from a heap of gifted and creative artists. I’m happy to announce that the best of my Advent-time contributions to this effort have been gathered and are available as a brand-new EP called Maker of Stars, Be Born. Technically, the Christmas season doesn’t end until January 6th, so you can listen and enjoy with impunity. A happy note that all proceeds from the sale of Maker of Stars, Be Born will be donated to The Red Cross for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Click on the album cover above to listen.

image by Vesper Stamper

My brother Ben Stamper is one of the most talented artists I know. Several months ago he finished a documentary called Horse & Rider which is the story of two young women, Asha and Mangala, their rescue from the sex trade in India and their subsequent journey of restoration. It’s a powerful, beautiful and poignant film. I was very privileged to write the orchestral score for it, which was just released this past month. Click on the image below to hear and purchase (all proceeds from the sale of this music will go directly to Freedom Firm, for the rescue and restoration of victims of human trafficking).

And with that, I sign off grateful for a rich 2012 and hopeful about 2013. Happy New Year, dear folk!

It happened because a space was made for it to happen,
Josh