On composer William Brittelle’s album Spiritual America, indie rock duo Wye Oak, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and the Metropolis Ensemble perform a genre-defying electro-acoustic song cycle written by Brittelle, plus a Wye Oak piece re-imagined by Brittelle. On the album, Brittelle works to reconcile his youth in a conservative Christian household with his adult life as an "agnostic Buddhist." The project began when he endured a family crisis and instinctively found himself praying to God.
Composer William Brittelle's album Spiritual America will be released May 3, 2019, on New Amsterdam and Nonesuch Records. 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. The album is available to pre-order with an instant download of the track "Forbidden Colors."
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).
Acclaimed as "a mercurial artist whose oeuvre embraces post-punk flamboyance, chamber music elegance, and much more" (New Yorker), composer William Brittelle creates genre-fluid electro-acoustic music that has been lauded by NPR's All Songs Considered, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and more. Brittelle's works have been presented at venues around the world including the Kennedy Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and he has collaborated with artists including Son Lux, Oneohtrix Point Never, Wild Up/Zola Jesus, Bryce Dessner, Roomful of Teeth, and Lower Dens. Brittelle is also a co-founder and co-Artistic Director of New Amsterdam Records.
The Grammy-winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus is a collective of young voices led by visionary Founder & Artistic Director Dianne Berkun Menaker. The Chorus has performed or recorded with major orchestras and artists, such as New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, The National, Barbra Streisand, Arcade Fire, Elton John, and Grizzly Bear. The Chorus can be heard on Nonesuch Records' first recording of John Adams's On the Transmigration of Souls. Recordings of the Chorus have also been featured in major motion pictures, commercials, and live events, including Radiohead's Thom Yorke for rag & bone's Spring 2016 collection and Beyoncé and Jay-Z's OTR II World Tour.
For more than a decade, New York City–based Metropolis Ensemble, led by Grammy-nominated conductor Andrew Cyr, " a prominent influence in the world of newly emerging music" (Washington Post), has served as an incubator for many of today's most outstanding emerging composers and performers to present bold new work, commissioning more than 150 works that have been presented by venues including BAM's Next Wave Festival, Celebrate Brooklyn, the Met Museum, and Lincoln Center for its Out of Doors and American Songbook series. The chamber orchestra and ensemble has also collaborated with many artists who defy classification, include Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, Deerhoof, San Fermin, and Emily Wells and performed on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon alongside the Grammy-winning hip-hop group The Roots, on whose album and then you shoot your cousin the group performed.
Wye Oak is a duo comprising multi-instrumentalists and vocalists Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner that has released five widely acclaimed studio albums, most recently The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs (2018). Wye Oak has been praised as "one of our most gifted, mercurial, unpredictable indie rock bands" (Stereogum) and for making "fierce and arresting rock music" (NPR).
Produced by William Brittelle and Zach Hanson
Mixed by Zach Hanson at April Base Studios in Wisconsin
Additional mixing by Andrew Stack
Music Direction by Andrew Cyr
Additional production by Ben Cassorla, Daniel Castellanos, Michael Repper, Andrew Stack, and Jennifer Wasner
Metropolis Ensemble and Brooklyn Youth Chorus recorded at Oktaven Audio, Mt. Vernon, NY
Engineered by Ryan Streber and Charles Mueller, assisted by Nathan DeBrine
Mastered by Zach Hanson at April Base Studios
Design and illustrations by Brock Lefferts
Cover Photography by Mark Borthwick
Ocean Illustration by Matthew DiVito
Photo of William Brittelle by Zack DeZon
William Brittelle, synthesizers, electronics, piano, samples
Jennifer Wasner, vocals
Andrew Stack, drums, percussion, electric bass, additional samples
Zach Hanson, electric bass, additional guitar
Clyde DeForest Brittelle, additional vocals
Delphine Hyacinth Brittelle, additional vocals
Guitars recorded, performed, and pre-mixed by Ben Cassorla at Martha’s Room in Los Angeles
“Topaz Were the Waves” guitars performed by Mark Dancigers and pre-mixed by Ben Cassorla
Brooklyn Youth Chorus
Dianne Berkun Menaker, Artistic Director and Conductor
Ezra Lowrey, Production Manager
Iyanu Miller Tahir, Nina Goldsmith, Rosa Jacobs, Zora Mussen, Daniella Micalizzi, Joan Marie Varous, Naia Shepherd, Jillian Dowd, Cora Clum, Helen Lingaard, Lauren Berthoumieux, Lila Penenberg, Isabel Gilabert, Lyric Miller, Ava Chessum, Renee Ricevuto, Stevie Kim-Rubell, Isabella Gastel-Alejandre, Josie Shehadi, Teddy Winters, Reaiah Roberts, Isabel Soto, Melanie Macleod, Sicile Naddeo-Gjergji, Briana Sapini, Leo Hartley, Alexandra Conklin, Julia Konopski, Thalia Glyptis, Bailie Schaefer, Maya Barth, Quyn McCaffrey, Samuel Larriere
Andrew Cyr, Artistic Director
Michael Repper, Conductor
Grace Park, Concertmaster
Katie Hyun, Clara Kim, Siwoo Kim, Jennifer Liu, Grace Park, Henry Wang, violin
Dana Kelly, Ayane Kozasa, Ramon Martinez, viola
Michael Katz, Sarah Rommel, Joann Whang, cello
Evan Runyon, bass
Jessica Han, flute
Cole Belt, Thomas Giles, Bryan McNamara, saxophone
Brandon Ridenour, Sam Wells, trumpet
Elizabeth Flemming, John Gattis, Bert Hill, Laura Weiner, french horn
Michael Lormand, Burt Mason, Jonathan Greenberg, trombone