Bryce Dessner

Profile

Bryce Dessner studied classical guitar at Yale University. He and his twin brother Aaron are the guitarists in the rock band The National. Since the group was formed in 1999, their music has gained critical and popular acclaim and they have played at many of the largest venues and music festivals in the Netherlands. In recent years, Dessner has collaborated with some of the biggest names from the indie pop and contemporary classical scene, such as Philip Glass, Steve Reich, the Kronos Quartet, Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead and Glenn Kotche, as well as visual artists Hiroshi Sugimoto and Matthew Ritchie and choreographer Justin Peck. His compositional style, which he describes as ‘micro minimalism’, is characterised by interwoven layers of repeating patterns, but also draws on influences from folk music and composers such as Bartók and Messiaen. Dessner has composed works on commission for the New York Guitar Festival, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Ensemble Intercontemporain, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, BAM Next Wave Festival, Edinburgh International Festival, Eighth Blackbird, the New York City Ballet, and more. He has also written various pieces for the Kronos Quartet, such as Aheym in honour of Steve Reich’s 75th birthday in 2009, and Tenebre for the Reich Festival at the Barbican Centre in London in 2011. 

Bryce is the founder and artistic director of the annual MusicNOW Festival for contemporary music in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. He is also the founder of the improvisational quartet Clogs. In January 2012, he performed the world premiere of David Lang’s Death Speaks, together with Nico Muhly, Shara Worden and Owen Pallett. In 2016, Dessner’s Murder Ballads, released on the album Filament by Eighth Blackbird, won a Grammy Award in the category Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance. In 2015, he was asked to write the film score to Alejandro Iñárritu’s blockbuster The Revenant with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto. In 2016 and 2017 the music was nominated for, respectively, a Golden Globe and a Grammy Award. 

In recent years Dessner’s work has featured at the Holland Festival multiple times. His production The Long Count – a performance involving music and visuals – was revived at the Holland Festival in 2011; in 2012, he played his double concerto St. Carolyn by the Sea with Amsterdam Sinfonietta, and in 2016 the world-renowned Kronos Quartet played his composition Aheym.