Clearing the Airs

Photo courtesy of Jessie Kriech-Higdon.

Photo courtesy of Jessie Kriech-Higdon.

Pianist, composer and arranger Rachel Grimes has connected the dots between independent rock and modern classical music for over two decades now, influencing a generation in the process. Grimes’ latest release is a solo album, “The Clearing,” which finds her collaborating with several old and new friends, including members of her bands Rachel’s and King’s Daughters & Sons.

She says “The Clearing” reflects her many musical interests more completely than recent solo efforts, piecing together works composed between 2009 and 2014. Grimes and her current ensemble will perform at the Kentucky Center on Friday, June 26.

This is your second solo album, and it’s definitely different from the first. Can you tell me about how writing the new album went in such a different direction?
I have been experimenting with many different ensembles and processes for making new music over the last several years – usually beginning with improvising at the piano, then ideas for specific instruments come out of that process. I make sketches with pencil and then move to Sibelius to arrange the parts for other instruments. Most of the time I have several pieces of music in development, flowing along at different rates.

Between 2011 and 2014, I had several other large creative projects that consumed a lot of my time, so some of these chamber pieces sat dormant for a bit. In between, I was developing more solo piano music and touring. Eventually, a collection of pieces for an album was evident to me, and then it was a question of finalizing the scores, getting the recordings and finding a pleasing sequence. I developed “The Airs” last spring to be connective tissue, weaving in and out around the larger chamber works.

This time, you bring in members of Rachel’s and King’s Daughters & Sons, and Temporary Residence is releasing the album. If a Louisvillian makes music without bringing in their old friends, did it even happen?
I am so happy to be working with (label owner) Jeremy (deVine), another hometown guy. He has been in New York for quite a while now and has a very deeply developed sense for the music business. It is such a pleasure to make music with friends, and sometimes I write moments in the music just for them, like with the viola solo in “Transverse Plane Horizontal” for Christian Frederickson. That said, I also met and worked with several people from far-flung places on this album: an engineer from Brussels, a string trio from Amsterdam and one of my favorite recording artists from Vancouver, Loscil.

How did you start working with Loscil, and how much did he add to this?
In the spring of 2014, I had been introduced to Scott Morgan via email, and being a huge fan of his work, I unabashedly asked him if he would consider working on the “Airs” to help create that unique atmosphere I was imagining. I was delighted when he said yes, and we exchanged music files most of the summer of 2014 to create the six “Airs.” My idea was for Scott to process, or as I called it, “Loscilize,” the existing individual tracks of violin, piano, strings to expand the soundscape, giving an ambient background to the acoustic tracks in the foreground. He also brought new shape to some of the short songs, adding intros and endings.

What other collaborations have you enjoyed in the past few years, and where have you traveled?
I have loved going to Europe, and last fall to Japan and Taiwan. I just returned from sitting in for three shows in Portland and Seattle with the Portland Cello Project. I arranged several of my songs for their group: 10 cellos, two trumpets, bass and drums. Had a great time writing a suite of pieces with cellist Julia Kent for a visual art exhibit in Belfast called “Doppelgänger,” by Peter Liversidge. I have written some music with the band ästrid from Nantes, France, and last spring we got to perform those songs with Sylvain Chauveau singing on several of them. Also, really having a romp with actor Chris Wells creating a musical theatre piece centered around his memoir. VT