Richard Reed Parry (of Arcade Fire)
As the red-headed polymath and multi-instrumentalist at the heart of the endlessly inventive art-rock band Arcade Fire, Richard Reed Parry has performed in front of immense crowds and sold millions of records across the world. But this is only one aspect of an artist whose unconventional trajectory has resulted in work that is as varied as it is surprising and unique.
Born in Toronto in 1977, Parry was raised in a community of ex-British isles oral-tradition folk musicians and medieval scholars, and came of age amidst an endless stream of early music and acapella singing. He attended Canterbury high school in Ottawa, Canada where he graduated from the first generation of its Literary Arts programme. In 1998 he headed to Montreal where he studied electroacoustics and contemporary dance at Concordia University, immersing himself in Montreal's underground music and art scene.
In 1999 he began teaching himself to play the double bass, formed the acclaimed contemporary instrumental ensemble Bell Orchestre with soon-to-be Arcade Fire violinist Sarah Neufeld, and formed The New International Standards with now AF guitarist/bassist Tim Kingsbury and drummer Jeremy Gara. He began collaborating with Win and Will Butler and Regine Chassagne, and when the earlier version of Arcade Fire imploded, he brought his Bell Orchestre and TNIS bandmates with him to reinvent the band into its current incarnation.
In 2004, when AF's Funeral blazed onto the world stage, he left home to go on tour for two months but didn't come back for a year. In between the last few Arcade Fire world tours Parry has crafted an innovative debut record of solo compositions released in Summer 2014.
Realized slowly and thoughtfully over a handful of years, Music for Heart and Breath is an exquisite collection of modern neo-classical pieces in which each note is played in synch with the heart rates or breathing rates of the performers, each musician generating their own tempo by listening to their pulse with a stethoscope during the performance. Produced with his great friend and collaborator Bryce Dessner of The National, the album features performances by Dessner, Kronos Quartet, Nico Muhly and YMusic Ensemble. At times fragile, playful, sombre and intimate, these unique and stunning creations have been dreamt into life by Parry's refreshing compositional approach and his own philosophical belief that music and nature - in this case the human body - can be, indeed are, explicitly linked.
An endlessly ambitious and creative person, Parry's solo work represents his own search for an aesthetic and experiential balance, a way to follow his own path while continuing to navigate - and loving - the rollercoaster ride of being part of one of this generation's most acclaimed bands. "I absolutely need to do this," he says. "I have to express and explore all the sides of my musical picture."
Adding to the breadth of that picture, Parry has premiered a piece for Bang On a Can at the Ecstatic Music Festival in New York, created a surround-sound, sci-fi electronic composition for synths, voices and, yes, bicycles called "Drones/Revelations" , and collaborated on The National's last two critically acclaimed albums, the Grammy-nominated "Trouble Will Find Me" and "High Violet". He recorded and produced Montreal artist Little Scream's magnificent debut album "The Golden Record" and is currently putting the finishing touches on her upcoming sophomore release.
In fall of 2014 the Brooklyn Academy of Music will debut a series of compositions he wrote for the Brooklyn Youth Chorus as part of Black Mountain Songs, an event curated by Parry and Bryce Dessner which will also include pieces by Nico Muhly, Tim Hecker, Dessner and Pulitzer winner Caroline Shaw.