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2007 Media Release - Joanna Newsom with the Sydney Symphony

Issued Thursday, November 1 2007


Conductor Jonathan Stockhammer

“This extraordinary harpist has a glorious, untamed voice and a sheaf of tricky song-poems…conjuring one startlingly vivid image after another.” The New York Times

“She’s less a songwriter than a craftsman of musical trinkets, each one a miniature marvel of detail and originality.” The Japan Times

“Avant-garde American music for the back porch.” Pitchfork\

After beguiling audiences with her performance in The Famous Spiegeltent at Sydney Festival 2007, California-based harp virtuoso Joanna Newsom makes a much anticipated return.  Newsom will perform her astonishing symphonic album, Ys, accompanied by the Sydney Symphony in the grandeur of Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, following sell-out shows in London’s Royal Albert Hall and Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Weaving nuanced, gothic tales and her ethereal, melodic harp over expansive orchestrations arranged by Van Dyke Parks, Newsom’s second album, Ys (pronounced ‘ees’), is hailed as a stunning achievement worldwide.  Epic in its scope, even more musically rich and lyrically complex than her debut The Milk-Eyed Mender, Newsom proved with Ys that she is a conceptual musical talent with no peer, happiest in uncharted territory.

Orchestrated by Van Dyke Parks, the opulent orchestral arrangements in Ys lend a dark romanticism to Newsom’s ambitious and sweeping song suites.  Newsom’s Ys, released in 2006, features her gloriously untamed voice at its very best. 

Joanna Newsom's music is a confounding mix of her delicately broken-down voice – part child, part crone – threaded through Appalachian folk, bluegrass and psychedelic indie pop.  Newsom studied the harp from the age of seven, traversing traditions as diverse as Celtic and Senegalese, Venezuelan and western Classical, Newsom’s arrangements are infused with a tinge of other-worldly timelessness.

Reminiscent of Bjork, Gillian Welch and Cat Power’s Chan Marshall, Newsom’s vocals can pack a yowling punch as suddenly as they might turn soft and sweet.  Her songs tell meandering stories – formally pure but highly individual.  Her eccentric aesthetic enhances the sense that she hails from another time, evoking objects and sensibilities that sit well beyond the details of the present day.

After the release of her debut album, The Milk Eyed Mender, Newsom developed a huge underground following that led to her touring with Will Oldham, Cat Power and Devendra Banhart.  She then toured Japan, Australia, New Zealand (with Smog) and Iceland, along the road playing at festivals in Bonaroo, Sasquatch, Green Man, Rothskilde and the Patti Smith-curated Meltdown Festival as well as a benefit concert with her hero, Neil Young.

Her upbringing in Nevada City, California was richly musical – her mother is a trained concert pianist, her father a guitarist, her siblings play the drums and cello.  Composer/pianist Terry Riley, Howard Hesh and W Jay Sydeman were neighbours.

Newsom’s homespun album, 2004’s The Milk-Eyed Mender was acclaimed as a breakthrough on the “Weird New America” scene, populated by the likes of Devendra Banhart, Espers, Sunburned Hand of Man, No-Neck Blues Band and Jack Rose.  Her 2006 release, Ys, attracted attention for its layered orchestration – a development from her previous, solo style.

Sometimes ethereal and fragile, sometimes ornate and wild, but always deeply personal, Joanna Newsom’s ragged, homespun wisdoms, floating over the lapping notes of her harp and the Sydney Symphony, will transfix and delight.

Where: Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House Bennelong Point, East Circular Quay
When: January 25 & 26 at 8.00pm
Duration: 2hrs, including interval
Price: A reserve $80 / $70
B reserve $70 / $60
C reserve $60 / $50
D reserve $50 / $40
Bookings: Sydney Opera House  02 9250 7777


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