Dessner twins' hit and myth show


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The Independent Culture

Aaron and Bryce Dessner, identical twin brothers and twin guitarists for their band The National, are so in synch that their dialogue can, apparently, be difficult for outsiders to understand. Their bandmates call this secret dialect "pillow talk". The same shared understanding is evident in the Dessners' compositions, which are melancholic, euphoric, haunting, beautiful.

"I can stare at Bryce's hands while he plays," says Aaron, "and immediately play something that's intertwined, and vice versa. It makes playing music together really exciting, because we never have to teach each other anything."

When the brothers were commissioned to produce a collaborative work for the Brooklyn Academy of Music's genre-busting Next Wave festival last year, they naturally gravitated towards the subject of twins. "We definitely wanted a piece grounded in our own relationship," Aaron continues, "and our musical relationship is inseparable from our personal one." Working with visual artist Matthew Ritchie, they created a multi-media performance based on a Mayan creation myth, the protagonists of which are a pair of hero twins. The Long Count – a combination of concert, dance and a 70-minute film – is now screening at The Barbican.

It's certainly a family affair; the twins' older sister, Jessica Dessner, choroegraphed it. Also, Matt Berninger, lead singer for The National, contributed his vocal chords to one song.

'The Long Count', Barbican, London EC4 (, tonight and Saturday