Jordan De La Sierra
Born in 1947, pianist, vocalist, and post-minimalist composer Jordan De La Sierra (his birth name is Jordan Stenberg) is one of the pioneers of new age music, though his work predated the industry genre. Born in California's San Joaquin Valley, De La Sierra's childhood was well-rounded. Not only did he pursue music -- with training in classical vocal and piano traditions -- he was an avid basketball player and moviegoer. At 15, he and his pop band at the time recorded their first single, "The Voice in the Wind" b/w "Every Time It Rains" for Hollywood's Joli label.
At 17, De La Sierra gave his first classical vocal recital in four languages -- English, Spanish, German, and Italian -- earning a full scholarship to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. While attending, he not only studied the canon, but the work of experimentalists including Erik Satie (whose work would hold a lifelong influence), John Cage, Earle Brown, Morton Feldman, and Robert Ashley, and he performed their works in various student ensembles and began an exploration of a singular style of song forms that would serve his later career. After graduating, De La Sierra and a loose-knit group of collaborators founded Project Artaud in an abandoned warehouse in San Francisco's Mission District, with dancers, musicians, and light shows by Daniel Conrad.
In 1969, De La Sierra met Terry Riley, who would not only become a teacher but a mentor. Riley brought De La Sierra along when he began his three-year study with Hindustani classical singer (and teacher of the Kirana Gharana tradition) Pandit Pran Nath, who was instrumental in the development of concepts of just intonation in the West that influenced Riley and LaMonte Young. As a direct result of this study, De La Sierra's first long-form work, Music in Bong, was composed. One of its sections, "Seahorse Butterfly Cuckoo Bee Swan Zebra Owl," was performed on San Francisco radio station KPFA in 1972. In 1975, De La Sierra showed up at KPFA during a broadcast of Stephen Hill's Hearts of Space and asked to perform on the program while it was in progress. Familiar with his work, Hill allowed it.
Gymnosphere: Song of the Rose The composer's masterwork, Gymnosphere: Song of the Rose, was recorded in a small studio in San Francisco with Hill as producer. After completing the live five-and-a-half-hour session, the tapes were taken to the city's famed Grace Cathedral, where they were played against the church's giant walls, and a small team of recording engineers captured the naturally reverberating echoes. The double album -- with a detailed booklet filled with India-inspired drawings and observations by the composer -- was issued on the independent Unity label in 1977.
De La Sierra took a break from minimalism to become a singer/songwriter, eventually fronting the Jemstone Band between 1980 and 1984. He returned to his unique style of post-classical composition on the more formally new age Valentine Eleven, issued by Global Pacific in 1988, just as the new age genre began to take off commercially. His third album, Nature House, was recorded for the label in 1990 but was shelved due to financial problems that resulted in the label going defunct. De La Sierra also worked with the Grateful Dead's Mickey Hart on the Diga Rhythm Band album in 1974. In 2014, the Numero Group reissued a deluxe version of Gymnosphere: Song of the Rose, in collaboration with the composer and Hill. In addition to remastered music, the new edition also restored De La Sierra's original artwork.
Artist Biography by Thom Jurek