The National's Bryce Dessner Releases New String Composition 'Impermanence'

The National’s Bryce Dessner has released a new piece, “Impermanence,” from his upcoming collaboration with the Australian String Quartet and the Sydney Dance Company, Impermanence/Disintegration. The album will arrive April 2nd via 37d03d, the label Dessner founded with his brother/National bandmate Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon.

While this marks the first time “Impermanence” has been released in full, half the composition arrived last year in a video featuring Sydney Dance Company dancers Mia Thompson and Riley Fitzgerald performing choreography by Rafael Bonachela. Clemens Habicht directed the video.

“Impermanence” marks the third offering from Impermanence/Disintegration, following “Emergency” and “Requiem-Ashes.” Dessner composed and arranged the nine tracks on the album, save for “Another World,” which was written by Anohni, with Dessner doing the string arrangements. The album was performed by the Australian String Quartet: Dale Barltrop on violin I, Francesca Hiew on violin II, Stephen King on viola, and Rachael Tobin on cello.

The accompanying dance production, which is dubbed Impermanence, was supposed to premiere in Sydney last March but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With case numbers incredibly low throughout Australia, however, Impermanence was able to finally premiere in February, and an Australian tour is scheduled to take place this summer.

“When Rafael [Bonachela] and I chose to create a piece inspired by the fragility of life, the impermanence of our world and our planet, and of so many things we think are eternal that are, in fact, extremely fragile, we never imagined how this idea would confront us so directly in our process,” Dessner tells Rolling Stone. “First in the horrible fires that consumed Australia last year as we were starting to create and then with the piece and tour being canceled last spring as we watched the entire world devastated by a terrible pandemic. Two years later, I am so happy that our work is finally seeing the light of day… I’m hopeful that audience and artist can return to the theater for more live performances soon.”

In a statement, Bonachela, who’s also the artistic director of the Sydney Dance Company, said: “It has been a real treat to conceive of this work together with Bryce Dessner and the Australian String Quartet — to explore the emotional drivers through both dance and music and to arrive at a place where the parts knit together so closely to make the whole. And ironically, to be able to shape Impermanence in response to such unexpected, but life-changing global events. For me, this encapsulates the incredible power of contemporary dance and music and how the response of the artist can truly resonate.”

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