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Ravel In The Forest (Live & Immersive)

'Ravel In The Forest' defies categorization, providing a refreshing experience that reconnects audiences with nature, music, and introspection. 
- Shesaid. so

There are few places more beautiful, or serene than the universe of pianist Belle Chen’s new album ‘Ravel In The Forest’
- ​Flush the Fashion 

Pianist-composer Belle Chen premiered her unique immersive live performance at London's Stone Nest, thrilling audiences by bringing her whimsical and imaginative album ‘Ravel In The Forest’ to life with her contemporary chamber ensemble.


Praised as an artist that is “Original and provocative… feels like the sense of discovery...” (-  Brian Eno), the Australian Music Prize-nominated artist has performed solo shows on stages including Royal Albert Hall’s Steinway Series, LSO St. Luke's, Kings Place, Shambala Festival, Her Majesty's Theatre Adelaide, Latitude Festival, Melbourne Recital Centre and Piano City Milano.


In her live shows, Belle takes a quirky, yet tender approach to musical storytelling. With the unmistakable influences of Maurice Ravel, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Joe Hisaishi’s melodic sweetness shining through, Belle blends sonic synth explorations and free flowing improvisations that feel equally at home on jazz or experimental stages.


For this London premiere performance, Belle was joined by a string quartet from the award-winning Engines Orchestra led by Phil Meadows (Metropole Orkest, BBC Concert Orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia), multi-instrumentalist Brendan Cox (Imogen Heap, Guy Sigsworth, Patrick Wolf), and Korean piri artist SEAYOOL. 


Presented in stunning immersive audio featuring an 8.2.8 L-Acoustics PA driven by L-ISA sound technology and engineered by Delta Live, this performance sonically transformed the iconic Stone Nest chapel.

 

Belle Chen's 'Ravel In The Forest' Live Immersive
Belle Chen - Piano, Keys, Synth

Phil Meadows - MD with the Engines Orchestra String Quartet

Brendan Cox - Keys, Guitar

Seayool Kim - Piri


UK Premiere, March 14th, 2024 Stone Nest, Shaftesbury Ave, London 
https://www.stonenest.org/events/belle-chen-presents-ravel-in-the-forest-live-immersive

Belle Chen - Ravel in the Forest - Artwork - Low Res.jpg

Ravel in the Forest

The New Album from Belle Chen.

Liner notes by Claire Jackson

Notes fall like raindrops, quickening pace as the clouds gather. The piano melody splish sploshes into the electronic soundscape; the trees become denser, the journey more profound. Passages of Time, the opening track to pianist-composer Belle Chen's new album Ravel In The Forest, leads the listener through ancient woodland, quiet clearings and tropical canopies. We're accompanied by birds, a chameleon, a dragonfly – the wonder of the natural world is imbued into this imaginary space. For although Chen has taken inspiration from her own forays in the forest – beginning with a yellow carabeen tree in Queensland, Australia – her distinctive music is not intended to be a straight-forward representation. Taking cues from a breeze in the leaves, Chen fills her canvas with soft melodies and sympathetic synths. 

 

Further inspiration comes from the French composer Maurice Ravel, whose name features in the album title. 'I love his ability to evoke colours,' says Chen, 'His writing for the piano is orchestral and very imaginative. The music has so many textural layers and earworms.' Adagio, Sans references the Adagio assai from Ravel's piano concerto; an excerpt that Chen grows through kaleidoscopic twists, becoming the seed for a new piece, Assai, Assai, with a life of its own. The four-note motif from Ravel’s La vallée des cloches (Miroirs) appears in And It Rains, a gently lilting ode to the refreshment of a tropical rainstorm, while Kingdom Animalia gives a nod to Assez vif from the string quartet, with intricate melodic development that erupts into rainbow sound, evoking a coming-together of forest inhabitants.

 

'Ravel' could also be read as 'ravel' – a hint at at the music's continual growth; a subtle development like the balling of wool. There is a counterpoint too – the unravelling – heard in the fast-paced The Dragonfly and My Deers. Here is a strong visual representation of the titular creatures moving through the forest: we follow, taking in the world from their point of view, propelled by the energetic backdrop.  

 

While there is a definite hum of wings in The Dragonfly, the piece leaves room for the listener to find their own imagery – unlike Rimsky-Korsakov's iconic 1900 piece Flight of the Bumblebee, with its frenetic buzzing phrases, Chen shows rather than tells. 'These are snapshots rather than stories,' she says of the musical vignettes. 'Three Birds has three piano parts, but I've kept things impressionistic – there is space for the listener to fill in the narrative.' It's a departure from the composer's previous work with field recordings and adds to the ethereal aspect of the music. 

 

The atmospheric style is enhanced by the use of a felt piano, which Chen plays throughout the album. The upright in her studio has additional material to 'dampen' the instrument's action, providing the gorgeously soft timbre. 'I wanted to get away from a traditional classical piano album where there is an emphasis on capturing an instrument immaculately and chose instead to lean towards a warmer sound that's more exposed; it's flawed and more human,' she explains. The occasional creaking pedal and key reminds Chen of 'the sound of branches cracking underfoot on the forest floor'. Every detail is honestly and beautifully presented in spatial audio via Platoon.

 

Adding felt to an upright piano – known as a type of 'prepared piano' – is a technique more commonly associated with the minimalistic, post-classical calm of Nils Frahm, but Ravel In The Forest incorporates the sound in active sections, too. Chen creates versatile effects by adding in electronic delays and whoops, moving between intimate reveries (Fleeting, Aromatic and Birthday) to the quasi-orchestral My Deers. The sonic landscape is thickened by the Budapest Art Orchestra strings, who bring lush luminescence to Moonrise and Closer. There is sweetness, perhaps a sting too, to this dramatic space. 

'I had been living in London, detached from nature in my day-to-day life, and, on a return visit to Australia, I watched one particular tree over sunset in the depth of the tropical rainforest,' remembers Chen, who was born in Taiwan and spent her childhood in Australia and New Zealand. 'Out of nowhere, something triggered the birds, then the frogs, followed by other animals that I could hear but could not see – I stood there, immersed in the sound of nature's evening chorus. This was a really pivotal moment. It reminded me of my place within the ecosystem.'

It's a refresher we all need from time to time: Ravel In The Forest is there to help reconnect with nature, music – and ourselves.

View the music videos now - www.youtube.com/@BelleChenMusic

What press are saying about Belle Chen’s ‘Ravel in the Forest’

#7 UK Specialist Classical Charts

#15 ARIA Classical Charts

Metal Magazine

Her music is not only meant to connect listeners to nature, but to connect them to themselves.

c-heads Magazine

Nature’s melody lingers in Belle Chen‘s music, shining through each composition like a gentle caress of comfort.

Jammerzine

She understands how each note is a masterpiece and how every phrase is a musical poem. She gets it. Plain and simple. This is an artist that you listen to on your alone time and ingest. Take in. Absorb. It’s right here.

Flush the Fashion (Live Concert Review)

Much like the album, from the first keys slowly sprouting like young seedlings, in no time at all, forests and vistas were painted all around us. The performances were immaculate, warm, soothing..

Shesaid. so

'Ravel In The Forest' defies categorization, providing a refreshing experience that reconnects audiences with nature, music, and introspection.

Links to reviews at www.bellechen.com/press

Ravel in the Forest
Composed by Belle Chen
All instruments and programming by Belle Chen
Mixed by Dougal Lott at Platoon7 London
Additional Mixing by Bobby Williams
Mastered by Dave Darlington of Bass Hit Studios NYC
Atmos Master by Stan Kybert of Music Immersive
Produced by Belle Chen & Burke Turner

 
Released on the Platoon Label: PLAT19545
Listen now via your preferred music service

© 2023 Belle Chen

"Chen's touch on the piano is gorgeous"

- Michael Coghlan, The Clothesline Adelaide

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