2016 Composition Commission: Bill Frisell

Composition Commission

Bill Frisell, our first Composition Commission recipient, is a relentless explorer of American roots traditions, from jazz to blues to folk and beyond. He’s regarded by many as the most innovative guitarist in the world, so it was no surprise that he took our commission guidelines–to write a 30-40 minute piece of new music–and promptly turned them inside out and made them his own. Convening a brand new ensemble of frequent collaborators consisting of fiddler/vocalist Petra Haden, cellist Hank Roberts, and multi-instrumentalist Luke Bergman (all of whom he had worked with on different projects but none of whom had worked with one another), Frisell created a 90-minute concert that freely ranged across the American folk cannon, blending original material with eloquent and novel reimaginings of everything from Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” to the early 19th Century traditional piece “Oh Shenandoah.” The results were achingly beautiful. Harmony premiered at the Strand Theater in San Francisco in November of 2016 and went on to tour the country, with the final performance at the 2017 FreshGrass Festival at MASS MoCA. In 2019, Frisell also released Harmony as an album, which was favorably reviewed by No Depression here. To learn more about this album and to support the art, click here.