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Album release: Music for Hard Times

The Living Earth Show collaborates with composer Danny Clay on an experimental new age album created as a sonic resource for comfort and calm

New York, NY – On January 18, the “outstanding” (San Francisco Chronicle) contemporary chamber duo The Living Earth Show will release Music for Hard Times, the first album on their newly launched Earthy Records label. Releases to follow on the label in 2022 include Lyra (composer Samuel Adams), Shăh Nămeh: Book of Kings (composer Sahba Aminikia), and A Kind of Ache (composer Sarah Hennies). Music for Hard Times was composed by Danny Clay in March 2020 as an eight-part series of “calming strategies” as his and other working musicians’ lives came to a standstill during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recorded in isolation and compiled and edited by Clay, Music for Hard Times exists in two parts. Book 1 was recorded in April 2020 in the homes of guitarist Travis Andrews and percussionist Andy Meyerson of The Living Earth Show using instruments, voices, field recordings, and found objects. Book 2 was recorded in 2021 and includes young musicians from the San Francisco Girls Chorus – led by Valerie Sainte-Agathe – and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, led by Edwin Outwater.

With Music for Hard Times, Danny Clay aimed at answering the question: “Is it possible for us to use the tools of classical art music to make people feel better?” To test these strategies, Clay called upon longtime collaborators Meyerson and Andrews of The Living Earth Show, who spent the following weeks recording the sixteen hours of raw material that became Music for Hard Times Book 1.

In January 2021, the duo enlisted the San Francisco Girls’ Chorus and students from the San Francisco Conservatory to help realize and refine Clay’s vision. Music for Hard Times Book 2 emerged as the collective product of hundreds of hours of recordings by these scattered forces, with recordings made all over the world sent to Clay’s home studio in San Francisco to create a whole.

“In contrast to Book 1, the recordings from the chorus members and conservatory instrumentalists range broadly in sound qualities, recording techniques, and acoustic environments,” writes fellow composer Timo Andres in the album’s program notes. “Incidental noises, environmental sounds, and intrusions that could be considered ‘imperfections’ were encouraged. Clay deftly turned these gulfs in production values into yet another musical parameter to be considered, toyed with, and emotionally charged.” Though originally intended as a tool for musicians, the collaboration of Music for Hard Times became something bigger – serving the purpose of communal self-care. “The whole process functions as a bridge, connecting conservatory training to instrumental practice to what it means to be a human being,” says Andres. “As we listen, we’re lifted out of our claustrophobic quarantine apartments and into the wider world, alongside the musicians themselves.”

To complement the album, visual artists Nick Ross and Brandie Grogan have created a limited-edition book, and artist Jon Fischer produced a full-length film. An accompanying score is available for all who wish to take on Clay’s “calming strategies.” The composer writes that, “While originally conceived for specific instruments (guitar, vibraphone, assorted percussion), these strategies can be realized using whatever a person has at their disposal, regardless of musical experience.”

A video clip of Music for Hard Times: Book 1 can be experienced HERE

Music for Hard Times audio:

streaming via Soundcloud HERE

wav files can be downloaded HERE

mp3 files can be downloaded HERE

cover art HERE

full liner notes and score HERE

Music for Hard Times

The Living Earth Show

Danny Clay, composer

San Francisco Girls Chorus

Valérie Sainte-Agathe, Artistic Director

San Francisco Conservatory of Music Orchestra

Edwin Outwater, Music Director

Jon Fischer, film

Edited & mixed by Danny Clay

Mastered by Ryan Kleeman & Travis Andrews

Read full press release here


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