Traveling Musician and Composer Ben Cosgrove

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TRAVELING MUSICIAN & COMPOSER BEN COSGROVE
Traveling musician and composer Ben Cosgrove returns to Big Blend Radio’s 1st Friday “Toast to The Arts & Parks” Show with the National Parks Arts Foundation (NPAF) to talk about his recent travels, artist residency experiences, and beautiful new album “Bearings.”


Cosgrove’s new album “Bearings” represents the latest chapter in a career that to date has included solo performances in 49 states (all but Delaware), as well as artist residencies and collaborations with Acadia, Isle Royale, Glacier, and Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Parks (NPAF), White Mountain National Forest, the Schmidt Ocean Institute, the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, Chulengo Expeditions, the New England National Scenic Trail, and NASA. To write the new record, Cosgrove relied on a novel and improvisation-focused compositional style that aimed to reflect the real experience of learning topographical space through movement.

“I’ve always been a bit obsessed with motion,” writes Cosgrove in the liner notes, “and I liked the idea of forcing myself to write a whole record on the move, leaving no opportunity to overthink the songs before they had a chance to breathe. And conceptually, there was something about having to find a song in the moment by moving around the piano — feeling out its contours like you might learn those of a landscape by walking across it — that felt important and true to the way I engage with the world in the rest of my life.” While this approach unifies the album, the landscapes and ideas that inspire its songs range from Hawaiian volcanoes to Kansas skies, and from Midwestern rail yards to the writings of landscape scholar J.B. Jackson.

The initial tracking for Bearings was completed on a Yamaha U3 piano with engineer Kevin Harper at Kleesounds in Nashville, Tennessee. To build out the new music sonically, Ben then returned to work with producer Dan Cardinal at Dimension Sound Studios in Boston, with whom he had previously collaborated on 2021’s The Trouble With Wilderness. Together, the two men carefully shaped the quiet piano melodies into immersive, texturally varied, three-dimensional soundscapes, painting them lightly with layers of winds, strings, synthesizers, and unconventional percussion: Cosgrove played the inside of a grand piano with mallets on one song, while others feature the sounds of couch cushions, loose papers, a drum stool, and a CD jewel case.

The new songs further illuminate Cosgrove’s unique position as a musician suspended somewhere between genres: “I’m either a singer-songwriter who doesn’t sing, or I’m a composer who behaves like a singer-songwriter,” he has said, and his chatty, disarming stage presence would certainly make him seem more like a folk musician than a classical pianist. In addition to his solo instrumental work, Cosgrove regularly tours, records, and collaborates with artists from across the worlds of folk, rock, and Americana music, and while much of his music recalls the work of George Winston, Keith Jarrett, Nils Frahm, or Ludovico Einaudi, his years of experience operating in the worlds of folk, pop, and Americana/roots music are reflected in some of his songs’ more impassioned and percussive moments.

Ben Cosgrove is a traveling composer-performer whose music explores themes of landscape, place, and environment.
Keep up with him at https://www.bencosgrove.com/

 

Check out Ben’s previous Big Blend Radio appearance while he was the NPAF artist-in-residence in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on NationalParkTraveling.com.

 

Learn more about the National Parks Arts Foundation’s unique artist residency programs in parks across the country at https://www.nationalparksartsfoundation.org/

National Parks Arts Foundation

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