"Ms. Beglarian kayaked and bicycled the length of the Mississippi River [and] has translated her findings into music of sophisticated rusticity… [Her] new Americana song cycle captures those swift currents as vividly as Mark Twain did. The works waft gracefully on her handsome folk croon and varied folk instrumentation as mysterious as their inspiration." -The New York Times
The RiverProject was inspired by the convergence of the economic meltdown of 2008 and the reverberations of Hurricane Katrina, alongside the hope and possibility that emerged with the election of Barack Obama. In 2009, I decided to improvise an unofficial Works Progress Administration project (the original WPA project came on the heels of the beginning of the Great Depression) by charting a four-month trip down the Mississippi River by kayak and bicycle. In the company of an everchanging cast of friends and acquaintances, I traveled slowly down the spine of the United States, encountering and uncovering sights, sounds, individuals and communities, and making a journal that paints a very personal picture of modern day America. I have been mining the experience in the years following the trip to develop a repertoire of original compositions and adventurous arrangements of traditional songs, along with spoken, photographic, and video portraits of people and places along the river.
Every performance of Songs from the River Project is a unique array of individual works chosen from this large body of repertoire (currently approximately 200 minutes of material), and shaped into a smoothly flowing evening of music, stories, and visuals to reflect the interests and desires of that evening's audience.
Some pieces take their inspiration from location recordings made along the river, while others are inspired by things people said to me along the journey (“I’m really a very simple person.” “Did he promise you tomorrow?” “Not all luck is good, but all good is luck.”) Some pieces include references to the blues and New Orleans music, and many pieces grapple with death, faith, and politics.
The overall experience for an audience is not unlike a journey down the Mississippi River itself: both familiar and strange --friendly and accessible, full of warmth and playfulness, but with complexity and darkness threaded just beneath. Just like America.
I do believe I am listening to the country – not to Fox News or MSNBC, but to individual people and specific places – and the real news is to be found there.
BRIM is the band I have put together to perform this RiverProject repertoire. The core configuration of BRIM is Ethel co-founder Mary Rowell (one of my fellow-travelers on the Mississippi) and me, singing and playing a variety of instruments including violin, viola, guitar, mandolin, keyboard, and electric bass. In the current touring configuration we are joined by Taylor Levine on guitar and Derek Menchan on cello. In addition, BRIM is often joined by a wide range of guest musicians from Guidonian Hand and loadbang to the eight-piece amplified ensemble Newspeak and the vocal quintet Ekmeles.
Songs from the River Project has been featured on the Bang on a Can Marathon, the Tribeca New Music Festival, the Avant Music Festival, on the radio program Studio 360, all in New York City, and at venues from coast to coast.
Please send an email to discuss booking appearances. Concerts of Songs from the River Project can be presented with as few as two or as many as twelve players. In addition to concert presentations, we are delighted to customize short- or long-term residencies, enlisting local residents, artists, and students as contributors and/or guest performers.
BRIM has released two of a limited edition series of four River Project EPs. Click the CD images below for streaming samples.
Listen to the broadcast of "Eve Beglarian's Huck Finn Adventure" on PRI's Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen.
Read an Interview with Eve Beglarian about the RiverProject's NYC debut, by Amanda MacBlane in Time Out New York
Listen to an interview with Eve Beglarian on Northwest Previews (KQAC, Portland, OR) as she considers what the Mississippi River taught her about life, art, American history, and community. (airdate: 13 Oct 2011)
"Eve Beglarian, composer, experimentalist and collaborator, has built a career translating other people’s obsessions into music... This time the obsession, the mighty Mississippi and its impact on American culture, is her own." -New York Times profile: 2 Sept 2009 • link • pdf
“Everything about Beglarian’s project is quietly idiosyncratic…Beglarian’s suitably Mississippian music laps repetitively. The four trombones are a sheer joy of serenading foghorns. Rowell and Riley are exciting, creative musicians…But what also makes her river music beguiling is her remove as an observer. She is not a documentarian, although she showed slides of some of the sites along the way, gave brief introductions to the places and read excerpts from a blog journal she kept…”The River Project” is a frame of mind.”- Mark Swed, in the Los Angeles Times 1 March 2014 • link • pdf
"Beglarian's warmth, measured speech and apparent love of process [sound] something like what you'd get if Laurie Anderson and Steve Reich moved out to the country and started a folk group. Her narrated travelogue [is] populated with interesting characters, underlain with history and enriched with observations..." -The Oregonian: 24 Oct 2011 • link
"Rivers used to be the main methods of navigation… If you [get to a river town] by car, you drive by Walmart and malls, but by river, you find the remnants of 19th, 18th, even 17th-century America."
"[The] enchanting, enthralling evening proceeded in [a] riverine fashion, flowing and turning, touching visual, sonic, literary destinations, characteristically embracing pop…classical, electric, electronic, acoustic territories and more." -Oregon ArtsWatch • link
"There's no sense in trying to label Beglarian's music... Often, the catalyst for [her] composition is a text or a sound to which she responds." -San Jose Mercury News profile: 11 Mar 2010 • pdf
"Eve Beglarian's 'Night Psalm' [is] an appealing meditation in which velvety descending arpeggios morph into a quietly rumbling harmonic haze." -New York Times review of two River Project pieces: 27 Aug 2011 • link • pdf