Richard Reed Parry goes classical with new solo release

Richard Reed Parry Deutsche Grammophon release was inspired by an experience the Arcard Fire bass player had while studying electro-acoustic music and dance at Concordia University.

Music for Heart and Breath released on legendary classical label Deutsche Grammophon

Richard Reed Parry's Music for Heart and Breath is the fruit of the Arcade Fire bass player's desire to make classical music with a visceral impact. (Deutsche Grammophon)

Richard Reed Parry is perhaps best known as the bass player and accordion player with Arcade Fire.

The slim redhead is currently on tour with the band in Germany, playing the Hurricane Festival near Hamburg, Germany. 

The night before their performance, Parry did some performing of his own at a bar in Berlin where he showcased compositions from Music for Heart and Breath — his first foray into classical music.

"It was kind of amazing to be in the giant bar with a huge sound system, a place for electro-acoustic music with people smoking and hanging out but they were completely silent during the performance and completely enthusiastic when we finished a piece. It was marvellous," he told CBC News.

The Deutsche Grammophon release was inspired by an experience Parry had while studying electro-acoustic music and dance at Concordia University. 

The music he was listening to then was far too cerebral for his tastes.
"I didn't feel any visceral impact when I was listening so my mind wandered and I wondered what would be the opposite, what would be the most physical music directly related to the body. My thoughts drifted to using heart beat and breath," he said.

So he did, first composing a duet for piano and viola. 

"The violist is playing with her breathing and bowing and the pianist with his heartbeat wearing a stethoscope so that the piece would move at whatever speed the violist was breathing. I was really taken with the result even in most simple and primitive form. I found myself listening over and over again and really loving the the supremely gentle quality of the music. It always pulls my attention into an internal space," Parry said.

He recorded with some friends from the pop music scene, including Bryce and Aaron Dessner (from The National) and indie classical composer Nico Muhly and the classical Kronos Quartet. 

He then sent the recording to labels on his wish list, including Deutsche Grammophon — one of the top classical music labels. 

"I made the record on my own terms. I wanted to do it exactly the way I want to do it thinking hopefully someone will want to get behind the record as it is. [Deutsche Grammophon] was definitely on my dream list. They told me they found the music had a special quality to it. It comes at a timely moment for them. The music industry has changed, the audience for classical music has changed and there are people now like myself  who are willing to straddle multiple different worlds, who are able to step into writing for chamber ensemble," he said.

Parry will take the new album on tour once Arcade Fire winds up its current tour. They play Montreal's Parc Jean-Drapeau August 30th.

Parry is planning a small North American tour with shows in Montreal, Toronto, New York and, possibly, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Vancouver.