It's a term coined by Nate Wooley for the hoped achievements of his seven part song cycle for large ensemble, Seven Storey Mountain. Although named after Thomas Merton's self-referential religious tract, the project, now approaching its ten year anniversary has only an oblique connection to any sense of religious or mystical ephemera. Instead, the SSM compositions work to create a sense of ecstatic joy and emotional release that is purely human; made by people for people.
Now finishing its fifth iteration, the Seven Storey Mountain family consists of almost thirty different musicians from the jazz, new music, noise, and rock communities including Colin Stetson, C. Spencer Yeh, Chris Corsano, David Grubbs, Ben Vida, TILT Brass Ensemble and others. The current version, SSMV is performed by 18 people and has been referred to by reviewers as a modern form of Bruckner or Mahler's imposing grandeur.
SSM began as a commission by Dave Douglas's FONT organization. The first piece was performed by a trio of Paul Lytton, David Grubbs, and Nate Wooley along with tape accompaniment. Each successive version of the piece has been transformative; both with the tape and the orchestration. As mentioned above, SSMV consists of 18 members and the projected forces for SSMVI (which will premiere in 2018) counts almost at 40.
Originally meant only to be performed once per version, the demand has been high enough that secondary performances have been made on the occasion of Phillip Glass's birthday in Brooklyn, Winter Jazz Fest in NYC, FIMAV in Quebec, and the first European version at A'larme Festival in Berlin.
Listen to excerpts from Seven Storey Mountain V, released on Pleasure of the Text Records.
Seven Storey Mountain I and II were released by Important Records and remain in print.
Seven Storey Mountain III & IV were released as a deluxe double disc set on Pleasure of the Text Records and was followed by Seven Storey Mountain V in 2016.
Each disc has art by The Wyvern that progressively changes along with the pieces.
Seven Storey Mountain hits the road in 2017, doing a newly updated version of the opening brass chorale making it, in essence, SSMV.1. On May 20th the original group will convene in Victoriaville for the FIMAV festival, SSM's international premiere. It will be followed on August 3rd by a special performance in Berlin at the A'larme Festival, using a group of core SSM members from New York along with musicians from Germany and Switzerland.