Six years ago, J. Ralph was on the verge of becoming "The Next Big Thing in Pop Music." Just as his debut album broke, he veered in a new direction, submerging himself in an exploration of orchestral music. While those subsequent compositions found their way onto some of TV's most influential and popular ad campaigns, he has remained focused on his cinematic musical memoir, The Illusionary Movements of Geraldine and Nazu, which features a 79-piece orchestra and players from the Czech and New York Philharmonic Orchestras.
The promotion of J. Ralph follows in a long line of new and independent artists that Barnes & Noble has been instrumental in breaking out, ranging from initial support of superstars Norah Jones and Michael Buble, to debut and developing artists such as Rachel Fuller (Cigarettes & Housework) and Carla Bruni, often generating as much as 30 percent market share of all CDs sold.
"Artists & labels consider Barnes & Noble an essential component to the launching of new artists," said Chuck Gorman, vice president of music for Barnes & Noble, Inc.
"They know that our customer demographic is unique among all retail outlets. We've been particularly successful in promoting a wide range of 'adult artists' that are not given exposure in the mass merchandisers. Our most successful categories are contemporary vocalists, jazz, show tunes and artists of the signer/songwriter tradition."
The genesis of Geraldine and Nazu lies in its first track, "Untitled 17," the swan song of J. Ralph's Lava/Atlantic debut, Music to Mauzner By, which he released under the nom de plume SPY. Mauzner was a musical Rorschach test blending blue-eyed soul, 60's psychedelia, rock, hip-hop, funk, mariachi, drum & bass and numerous other styles. "Untitled 17" was a symphonic musical narrative featuring a 56-piece orchestra arranged and conducted by renowned film composer Carter Burwell (Joel and Ethan Coen, Spike Jonze). While recording "Untitled 17," J. Ralph discovered that the orchestra offered the purest medium for distilling his music warning, following simultaneous debuts on MTV and MTV2, J. Ralph disbanded his SPY project, walked away from the biggest new artist record deal in Lava/Atlantic history, and initiated a five-year self-imposed exile. He took refuge in an abandoned silent movie theater in lower Manhattan, where he constructed a sonic laboratory and carried out a full-scale excavation of what he calls "the orchestra's universal language." He created the music for Geraldine and Nazu relying solely on intuition and experimentation. He has no formal training and does not read or write a single note of music.
During this meditation he uncovered and developed a McLuhanian ideal, which, for him, obliterated and subverted the age-old distinction between art and commerce. This newfound perspective would paradoxically facilitate the making of Geraldine and Nazu. The advertising agency MVBMS found one of his orchestral songs, "M," and licensed it to personify their new Volvo campaign. A few months later, Volkswagen contacted J. Ralph after happening upon a demo of an unfinished orchestral prototype; the company commissioned Ralph to finish his piece ("One Million Miles Away") and premiered it in their "Wedding" spot during the 2001 Super Bowl. Due to unparalleled popularity among viewers, the commercial continued to run for a three years. "M" and "One Million Miles Away" are now both Geraldine and Nazu songs. The album's bonus track is a vocal version of "When She Dances," which is currently featured in a Honda commercial directed by Malcolm Venville.
J. Ralph and his highly successful production company The Rumor Mill have had hundreds of other scoring engagements in between, with as many as 27 spots broadcasting simultaneously. In the ubiquitous medium of television commercials, he has found an infinite canvas in which he exposes hundreds of millions of unsuspecting listeners to the spontaneous music he is devoted to making. He has been featured on the cover of Creativity magazine for re-imagining the way commercial music is created, licensed and perceived and is the first composer to earn two consecutive AICP inductions into the MOMA's Permanent Archive of Film and Video. The Rumor Mill has won virtually every top honor--including AICP, Clio, One-Show, LIAA, Cannes International Advertising Festival awards, as well as an Emmy nomination for the Volkswagen commercial "Squares." The outfit regularly creates scores and sonic landscapes for commercials by esteemed filmmakers such as Errol Morris, Mark Romanek, Tony Kaye, Sam Bayer and Lance Accord, for companies including, Volkswagen, Sony Playstation, Microsoft, ESPN, Canon, and Lee Jeans. Geraldine and Nazu is the inaugural release on Rumor Mill Records, which J. Ralph formed in 2005 to develop his very spontaneous musical sketches into fully realized albums.
Rumor Mill Records will release the album to the marketplace on August 16, 2005.
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