Dawn Chorus

Music inspired by our National Parks
David Biedenbender
Molly Joyce
Rob Deemer
Jeff Herriott
Phil Kline
Ashley Stanley
Alexandra Gardner
Paula Matthusen
Patrick Harlin
Betsey Biggs
Niko Schroeder
Grand Valley State University (GVSU) New Music Ensemble
Bill Ryan
Catalog Number: 
#1 044
new classical
new music

Allendale, MI

Release Date: 
Apr 24, 2020
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
Dawn ChorusiTunes Artist's PageiTunes Album Page
Song TitleTimePrice
1.Red Vesper (Chamber Version)07:17$0.99
2.Bite the Dust07:49$0.99
3.Firehole Mists07:18$0.99
4.Heat Curls Up from the Dust07:21$0.99
5.Dawn Chorus06:25$0.99
6.Night Sketches04:41$0.99
8.on the analogical understandings of space06:44$0.99
9.Wind Cave05:53$0.99
11.Canvas the Bear (Extended Version)03:55$0.99
One Sheet: 

Artists are hardly strangers to working in the wilderness but this project made that a requirement. Student performers from Allendale, Michigan – home to the ever-enterprising Grand Valley State University (GVSU) New Music Ensemble – and fearless composers from across the nation, went back-a-bush to listen, explore, and respond to some of our great environmental treasures.

“In 2014 we started an ongoing project in which we commissioned composers to respond to our national parks. We then travelled to these parks and performed the music in the lands that inspired it. To date we have commissioned twenty composers and performed in fourteen national parks. This album is a collection of eleven of those works, as diverse and engaging as the parks they were based on: Arches, Badlands, Capitol Reef, Grand Teton, Wind Cave, and Yellowstone. The music is deeply personal to the composers, who were each commissioned because of their strong connections to our natural environment. With performances in amphitheaters, visitor centers, lodges, and even deep in the wilderness, this music has reached thousands of park visitors and illustrated how incredible landscapes can impact creative artists.”—Bill Ryan, Director

The intrepid artists on this album responded in various ways to their park experiences; from being awestruck by the silence and grandeur, to the geological transformations, misty rivers, bird song, “perfect mountainousness,” stargazing through rock formations, the resonance of caves, a “sonic time-lapse of the history of this land,” and a close encounter with a bear. The range of accomplished composers also includes two former ensemble members, demonstrating the fertile breeding ground of Michigan as well as the wealth of creative resources across the land.

Based in Allendale, Michigan, the New Music Ensemble at Grand Valley State University promotes the music of our time through commissions, tours, recordings, educational events, workshops, and videos. Founded in 2006 by their director Bill Ryan, the ensemble not only prepares students for careers that include contemporary music, but also help them become exceptional educators, advocates, and leaders in the music field. Their recording of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians (innova 865) was named one of the top five classical recordings of the decade by WNYC. This release, Dawn Chorus, is their fifth to date.

The ensemble has completed five tours and performed at major venues throughout the country. With awards from New Music U.S.A. and the National Endowment of the Arts, the ensemble has commissioned over 70 compositions from such notable composers as Sarah Kirkland Snider, Zoe Keating, Nico Muhly, Marc Mellits, Anna Clyne, and David Lang.



"The Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble, an undergraduate group formed by the composer Bill Ryan, has made an impression with ambitious feats since its start, in 2006, and “Dawn Chorus” is among its most compelling ventures. The album features eleven appealing works from a series of commissions inspired by America’s national parks and meant to be performed within them. Even in this studio recording, the elemental character conjured in the pieces—some sunny and frolicsome; others suffused with mystery and awe—is a welcome reminder of what endures just beyond our present isolation." [FULL ARTICLE] - Steve Smith


"Dawn Chorus is hardly the first time an artist has drawn for inspiration from nature, as works by Thoreau, Whitman, and Beethoven attest. But the idea of compiling parks-inspired works by eleven composers into a single volume helps set the seventy-minute release apart. That dimension helps it resonate more powerfully, yet even if the listener were ignorant of the theme the musical material would remain compelling on purely musical grounds, thanks to the quality of the composers' creations and the renderings given them by the ensemble." [FULL ARTICLE]


"The pieces are designed to be played on location, but most of the music is vivid and beautiful enough to bring the landscape to you." [FULL ARTICLE] - Joshua Kosman


"New album from GVSU music students is a love letter to the National Park System" [FULL ARTICLE]


"In their fifth release, the eight astoundingly talented student musicians perform 11 of these commissioned works." [FULL ARTICLE] - Tiina Kiik