Other Minds is proud to present Jepson Prairie, a new album of recent work by Bay Area composer Tom Bickley. Jepson Prairie continues Other Minds’s tradition of presenting work by under-recorded yet notable composers. Bickley has long been a presence in American New Music as evidenced by his long-standing Deep Listening work and affiliation with the Cornelius Cardew Choir, among others. Despite his many years of composing and performing, Jepson Prairie is Bickley’s debut commercial release as a solo composer.
Many of the pieces that comprise Jepson Prairie use field recordings as their foundation—deep listening is essential to finding a way into the interior of this music. Soundscapes from sources as varied as restored wetlands outside of Bickley’s hometown of Houston, Texas, a train station in Kyoto, Japan, and construction sounds from the composer’s current home of Berkeley, California make appearances over the course of the disc. Bickley arranges delicate instrumental accompaniment to his (sometimes) processed field recordings, drawing out details from the natural soundscape that could easily go overlooked if not for the composer’s subtle interventions.
As a composer, Bickley seeks to “listen to the world, always hoping to hear more and more fully,” a pursuit made evident by Jepson Prairie. Bickley uses expanded time frames and slowly morphing gestures to draw the listener’s ears into minute tones and timbres. The composer’s interest in plainchant, gagaku, and shōmyo (a style of Japanese Buddhist chant) reveals itself in the work’s bare formal structures and near-static harmonic movement.
"It’s often difficult to ascertain where nature ends and Bickley’s interventions begin—the highest compliment that could be paid to compositions so utterly sympathetic with their source material." Matthew Blackwell, Bandcamp Daily, November 2023