BFO: Jim James
August 14 @ 8:00 pm
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GATES OPEN: @ 5:45 Early Entry | 6:00 General Public
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Jean Sibelius: Tapiola
Jim James & Teddy Abrams: The Order of Nature, with BFO
Indie rockstar Jim James and Teddy Abrams co-wrote a song cycle for James and orchestra entitled The Order of Nature. The nine songs form a song cycle that reflects on humanity’s relationship with nature. As James puts it, the songs probe the idea that, “…nature doesn’t know how to hate… Humans are part of nature, obviously, but why do we have this thing called hatred and how do we get rid of it.” This program also includes a performance of Jean Sibelius’s Tapiola, which literally translates to “The Realm of Tapio,” who is a mythical forest spirit of Sibelius’s native Finland.
Guest Artist: Jim James
The Order of Nature: A Song Cycle is a tour de force that was years in the making and brings together two of the world’s most vibrant and versatile musicians in Jim James and Teddy Abrams.
James is an acclaimed genre-bending solo artist, passionate social activist and leader of legendary rock band My Morning Jacket. Abrams is the music director and conductor of the Louisville Orchestra and his dedication to working with bluegrass, rock and hip-hop musicians while debuting major new orchestral works has galvanized his adopted city. Read More
Neither shies away from a challenge, and with The Order of Nature they’ve crafted a large-scale symphonic suite that has James’ evocative songs as its foundation. Abrams built a grand orchestral house on that foundation, and the result is an explosion of music that boldly synthesizes rock and classical while taking advantage of orchestral music’s inherently cinematic nature.
Lyrically, James takes a deep dive into issues vitally important to him in recent years, including equality and intolerance, human connection and acceptance. They all spin off of the suite’s central theme, which is James’ fascination with the absence of hate in nature. Animals kill each other, but only out of hunger, while humans daily choose hate — we ignore the order of nature and that choice is wreaking havoc.
“The core idea to me is trying to reflect on the fact that nature doesn’t know how to hate,” said James, a Louisville native. “Humans are part of nature, obviously, but why do we have this thing called hatred and how do we get rid of it?
“We’re fighting nature and thinking we can prevail over nature, but we’re killing each other and killing the planet.”
Friends since 2014, Abrams and James committed to this project in early 2017. Within months, James had provided Abrams with unadorned acoustic demos for a new batch of thematically-linked songs. He also picked two songs from his 2016 solo album, “Eternally Even,” and two favorites recorded by Nina Simone, whose deep humanity and spirituality have long been an inspiration. Together, they told his story.
Abrams then spent months building a complex symphony in which the songs could breathe, writing music that captures both the quiet drama of walking alone through a snowy landscape and the urgency of trying to steer a disrupted society toward kindness.
“What I did, which is highly uncharacteristic of me, is put my full faith in Teddy,” James said. “I was like, ‘I trust you and we’ll do this and have fun with it, and just hope that the spirits are with us.’
“For me it was very inspiring, and it was also inspiring to hear what Teddy wrote,” James added, “and I really enjoyed just giving him this seed of a song and just watching it flower.”
Abrams said that James’ songs would, in the classical world, be considered minimalism. His goal was to retain their essence but deliver the opposite of minimalism; he wanted to turn James’ quiet demos into a majestic statement. Abrams used repeating motifs to weave the songs into a seamless whole and leaned on every color in the orchestra’s palette to capture the idea of nature in a way that’s frequently cinematic.
“A lot of the orchestration was trying, I think, in some form to convey that sense of what you might experience in nature,” Abrams said. “I remember thinking about the beginning of ‘Walking in the Snow’ and what would give you … that sense that you can only have when it’s just you and the planet, and coming up with the perfect combination of instruments.”
Abrams said that James contributed ideas along the way, showing an instinctive understanding of orchestral techniques. It was also James’ idea to perform “Who Am I?” as a duet with Abrams on piano, making the song more emotionally naked while symbolizing their partnership.
The Order of Nature debuted April 6-7, 2018 as part of the Louisville Orchestra’s annual Festival of American Music, with attendees flying in from a dozen states and several countries. The second night’s performance is what you hear on this album, recorded in one take, no overdubs.
Pre-concert talk: TBD
Hosted by JPR in the Britt Performance Garden at 7:00 p.m.