“Each step on the musical journey of this album seems carefully selected and well placed. Petits Artéfacts is a wonderful collection of styles in today’s new music scene and a stunning display of the abilities of its curator Nick Photinos.”
JARRETT GOODCHILD, I Care if You Listen
Petits Artéfacts brings together never-before-recorded works from some of the most acclaimed names in new music — David Lang, Andrew Norman, Bryce Dessner, David T. Little — but also a newer generation of groundbreaking composers like Angélica Negrón, Florent Ghys, Molly Joyce, and Pascal Le Boeuf, who are quickly gaining notoriety as well. The music ranges from quirky and hilarious to profound and ethereal, and the pieces create worlds and context far outweighing their length. The music is enlightened with the help of Photinos’s favorite collaborators, pianist Vicki Ray and percussionist Doug Perkins. Perkins also serves as the album’s producer, with Todd Reynolds and Pascal Le Boeuf as co-producers.
The idea for the album began to take shape when Photinos premiered a work by bassist Florent Ghys at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival called Petits Artéfacts for cello, electronics and video. Florent’s piece explored a breadth of musical styles in a single multi-movement piece, with a mixture of play (in the movement “Game”), spoken word (in “Information”), electronic manipulation of sound (“Cuisine”), purely acoustic sound and emotional depth (“Factory”), playing against highly processed sound (“Family”), and layering of sound (“Flower”). Ghys’s piece brought to mind all the other short yet powerful pieces Photinos had performed over the years, written by some of the most compelling creators in new music but never before recorded. The idea to create a collection of these special small, man-made objects — these “petits artéfacts” — was born.
Photinos hand-picked the pieces on Petits Artéfacts for the personal connection he has felt with them, and their creators, musically and emotionally.
“I identify with these pieces, and with the composers who wrote them. The composers span a generation but we all have a shared sense of musical upbringing, loving and letting in Classical music but also the many musical influences we grew up with — such as pop, jazz, rock, and electronica,” explains Photinos.
“These are all pieces I love playing and love listening to, and I wanted this to be an album that doesn’t just sit on a shelf but actually gets put on in a car, that someone can jam out to. These pieces share some of the hallmarks of pop without being pop: short length, ‘hooks,’ and a strong rhythmic drive. But they also explore the depth and breadth of these composers and what the cello can do, what kind of voices it can have in the 21st century.”
Many of the pieces on the album feature the artifacting of the sound of the cello, which explores the concept of an artifact also being a computer glitch, whether aural or visual. This is most notable in Ghys’s piece “Cuisine”, which breaks up the sound of the cello into a bubbling, boiling texture. It is also featured through use of delay as an artifacting of sound, which is prominent in David T. Little’s piece “and the sky was still there”. This definition shaped the album art as well, adapted from video Ghys created for his piece “Flowers”; the dandelion image is natural, but visual artifacting effects make it appear between two states, turning it into a man-made, manipulated object. Even the font is visually artifacted — a glitch in the computer program used to design the album art automatically eliminated the horizontal beam from capital A’s.
“I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to interpret and explore the music and ideas on Petits Artéfacts, and say something first about these special pieces since they are all debut recordings,” continues Photinos. “However it would make me incredibly happy if this recording gave other cellists the opportunity learn about this music and start playing it themselves, expressing their own unique interpretations and connections.”
released August 25, 2017
Producer: Doug Perkins
Engineer/Mixing/Post-Mastering: Patrick Burns
Mastering: Joel Gordon
Producer for “and the sky was still there”: Todd Reynolds
Producer for Alpha: Pascal Le Boeuf
Mixing for Alpha: Dave Darlington
Tracks 1-6, 8-12, and 18 recorded June 30-July 1, 2016 at Shirk Studio, Chicago, IL
Tracks 7 and 13-17 recorded June 29, 2016 at Music Institute of Chicago, Evanston, IL
Track 12 recorded May 16, 2016 at I.V. Lab Studios, Chicago, IL
Track 12 backing tracks by
Charles Yang (violin) on May 16, 2016 at I.V. Lab Studios, Chicago, IL
Jefrey Zeigler (cello) on December 7, 2015 by John Kilgore at John Kilgore Studios, New York, NY
JACK Quartet (Christopher Otto and Ari Streisfeld, violins; John Pickford Richards, viola; and Kevin McFarland, cello) on May 9, 2014 by Andy Taub at Brooklyn Recording, Brooklyn, NY
Front cover photo: David Montgomery
Back cover photo: from video by Michael McQuilken
Album design: Messy Queen Productions
Multi-Grammy Award-winning cellist Nick Photinos is one of the most innovative and multifaceted cellists of our time. An ardent advocate of new music, he has worked closely with many of the foremost composers of this era and has premiered hundreds of works throughout his career. Apart from four Grammy wins, he has received Musical America’s Ensemble of the Year Award, the Macarthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, the inaugural Chamber Music America Visionary Award, the Naumburg Award, and the Concert Artists Guild Grand Prize.
Described as a “commanding soloist” (ClevelandClassical.com) whose “virtuoso cello playing is scintillating” (Chicago Classical Review) and “outstanding for his exquisite precision” (SFCV.org), Photinos has collaborated and toured with an astounding array of artists including rock/pop artists Björk, Wilco, Bryce Dessner, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, film composer Gustavo Santaolalla, classical artists Dawn Upshaw, Philip Glass, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, and jazz artists including Sheila Jordan, Laurence Hobgood, Zach Brock, and Matt Ulery. He has appeared as soloist with numerous orchestras including the Cleveland, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Toronto, Utah, and Atlanta Symphonies, the last with whom he recorded Jennifer Higdon’s On a Wire. He has performed across the globe including the Sydney Opera House, the Barbican in London, KBC Hall in Seoul, Carnegie Hall in New York City, Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles, and Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside Denver.
This season Photinos debuts in Sweden, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, in a solo recital at the Winnipeg Gallery of Art, and at the inaugural Chosen Vale International Cello Seminar. He also performs across nine US states and returns as a soloist to the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival and the Bang on a Can Summer Festival, where he has taught since 2007. In 2019 he reached millions of listeners on “Live from Here” with Chris Thile and on Netflix’s original movie The Two Popes.
Photinos’ numerous recordings span the Cedille, Nonesuch, New Amsterdam, Greenleaf, and Naxos labels. He recorded for Wilco on their Grammy-nominated album The Whole Love, and with Autumn Defense on their album Once Around. His debut solo album, Petits Artéfacts, deemed “a bold solo debut from one of the most notable artists in contemporary music today” by PopMatters, was released on the New Amsterdam label in August 2017 and features first recordings of the most acclaimed names in new music (David Lang, Bryce Dessner, David T. Little, Andrew Norman) as well as a younger generation of groundbreaking composers (Pascal Le Boeuf, Molly Joyce, Florent Ghys, Angelica Negrón).
During Photinos’ 24-year tenure as the founding cellist and co-Artistic Director of Eighth Blackbird, he performed over 1000 concerts and premiered hundreds of new works, including Steve Reich’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Double Sextet and works by Andy Akiho, Michael Gordon, Amy Beth Kirsten, David Lang, David T. Little, Nico Muhly, Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, Julia Wolfe, and Pamela Z. Eighth Blackbird held multi-year residency positions at the Curtis Institute of Music, the University of Chicago, and at the University of Richmond.
Photinos is a graduate of Northwestern University, the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. He lives in the Chicago area with his daughter and wife, with whom he is co-Artistic Director of Chamber Music at Bethany, a concert series bringing world-class instrumental and vocal chamber music to Chicago’s north side.