“Dessner personifies what appears to be a generational shift in musicians. – The Washington Post

BRYCE DESSNER / Untitled Mapplethorpe Project (Working Title)

BRYCE DESSNER is one of the most sought-after composers of his generation, with a rapidly expanding catalog of works commissioned by leading ensembles. Known to many as a guitarist with The National, he is also active as a curator – a vital force in the flourishing realm of new creative music. His orchestral, chamber, and vocal compositions have been commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Kronos Quartet, BAM Next Wave Festival, Barbican Centre, Edinburgh International Festival, Sydney Festival, eighth blackbird, Sō Percussion, New York City Ballet, and many others.


(World Premiere – Concert Version, LA Phil, March 5, 2019)
Libretto by Robert O’Hara
Directed by Daniel Fish
Featuring Roomful of Teeth

Nearly 30 years after Robert Mapplethorpe’s death, we still cannot turn away from what his photos reveal. From this point of departure a new music theater work is conceived. Composer Bryce Dessner and director Daniel Fish in collaboration with Roomful of Teeth and a musical ensemble of 10-15 players seek to make theatrical the ways Mapplethorpe’s works compel an audience’s complicity and characterize them in the act of attention. As a young man growing up in Cincinnati, Dessner’s own exposure to the protests surrounding this galvanizing artist rooted a lifelong kinship to his pivotal body of work. Mapplethorpe’s pictures both unite and divide viewers, provoking a consideration of perceived opposites–their literal as well emotional and cultural meanings – Black/White, Male/Female, Gay/Straight, Art/Porn, Classical/Contemporary. His pictures seduce, shock, offend, excite, intrigue and scare us all at once.  Single images take our breath away through the classic capture of everyday acts of nature and the beauty of their composition. On the other hand, a single image has the power to reveal our fears and our desires and the razor-thin line between the two. This is the dynamic that Fish and Dessner seek to convey. Normally, we confront this work privately, flipping through coffee table books or seeing the work in a museum gallery. But in Untitled Mapplethorpe Project, they ask an audience to experience these reactions collectively. Through music, large scale projection of Mapplethorpe’s images, and a use of both theatrical and photographic lighting techniques, the work puts the audience inside the artist’s view finder, inside his beautiful, bold, voracious view of how nature and humans look, touch, feel, hurt and love one another.

Composition: Bryce Dessner
Vocal Ensemble: Roomful of Teeth
Direction: Daniel Fish
Libretto: Robert O’Hara
Music Director & Conductor: Brad Wells
Set Design: Paul Steinberg
Video Design: Jim Findlay


Artist Press Kit
Artist website


Perfect Moment (In Development)

World Premiere (March 2019)

Worldwide Touring 2019-2021 OPEN


600 HIGHWAYMEN | The Fever


600 HIGHWAYMEN | The Fever