Ben Cosgrove is a composer, pianist, and multi-instrumentalist. He performs regularly as both a solo artist and as a sideman, and has toured widely across the US and Canada. He also writes scores for films, plays, radio, and television, and has produced several well-received albums of original instrumental music. His live performances on solo piano are at once dazzling and intimate, the music... more
Ben Cosgrove is a composer, pianist, and multi-instrumentalist. He performs regularly as both a solo artist and as a sideman, and has toured widely across the US and Canada. He also writes scores for films, plays, radio, and television, and has produced several well-received albums of original instrumental music. His live performances on solo piano are at once dazzling and intimate, the music both delicate and commanding.
In recent years, Ben’s interest in landscape has become the strongest force guiding his composition and performances. “I don’t think of my pieces as rendering places in music,” he notes in a 2012 article in Harvard Magazine, “but more just as responding to places musically. Writing music just happens to be the way I process the world.” For years, Ben has been inspired by the ways people respond to built and natural environments, and through songs with names like “Prairie Fire,” “I am Walking Inland,” “Nashua,” and others, he seeks to recreate these phenomena with sound. A year spent researching the preservation of natural soundscapes in America’s natural parks has also shaped much of his new material. “I’m interested in the relationship between sound and a sense of place,” he says. “So much of the North American soundscape is becoming clouded with drones and mechanized noise that it’s quickly losing this rich diversity that is still so obvious in the continent’s visual landscape.”
In February 2014, Ben released a highly anticipated album of new material, much of which reflects this concern. Field Studies is his first full-length studio offering since 2011′s Yankee Division, which focused specifically on the environment of north-central New England. The music on Field Studies looks through a broader lens, considering the human experience of many dramatically varied physical landscapes across North America. Different sections of the album utilize field recordings, innovative arrangements, and elegantly interwoven melodies to evoke deserts, wilderness lakes, prairies, mountain ranges, coastlines, and sprawling suburbs all in turn. In one piece, swirling arpeggios capture the disorientation of a fast drive across the plains; in another, murmuring dissonances suggest the swell of the tide. Taken as a whole, the new record and the performances Cosgrove has been giving to promote its release offer a one-of-a-kind aural tour of the continent.
In addition to his solo work, Ben works with a wide range of other artists: he tours and records regularly with the Minnesota-based stompgrass band Saint Anyway and constitutes one half of the folk duo 90-Mile Portage. He is working this spring to produce a new record, Ellery, for the Maine-based singer-songwriter Max Garcia Conover, and he has also worked with musicians including David Berkeley, Charlie Christos, Forrest O’Connor, and Diet Folk, playing keyboards, upright and electric bass, mandolin, trombone, trumpet, accordion, ukulele, violin, and other instruments both in concert and on record. He regularly composes string and horn arrangements for others’ projects and has recorded original music for clients including Grand Teton National Park, WHRB, Bristlecone Media, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. In addition to his current position at Harvard, he has been honored with residencies and fellowships by such institutions as Middlebury College and Acadia National Park.
Ben is also an enthusiastic writer of nonfiction, and his essays about sound, art, landscape, and place have been published by Appalachia, The Island Review, The Harvard Advocate, The Bad Version, The Monadnock Conservancy, and land that i live, where he is a regular contributor.less