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Shara Worden (left) and Aaron Dessner (right) performing The Long Count

Aaron Dessner (born April 23, 1976) is a founding member of The National. Together with Matt Berninger, who writes the lyrics, Aaron writes much of the music for the band. He is a Brooklyn-based, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer.


  • 1 Aaron and Bryce Dessner
  • 2 Producer
  • 3 Guest Performer
  • 4 Collaborations and Contributions
  • 5 Dark Was the Night
  • 6 The Long Count
  • 7 Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
  • 8 External links

Aaron and Bryce Dessner

Main article: Aaron and Bryce Dessner

Aaron and Bryce write and play guitar for The National. The brothers both graduated from Cincinnati Country Day School in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1994. The brothers are co-founders, alongside Alec Hanley Bemis, of Brassland Records, a label that has released early albums from The National, theClogs catalog and releases by Doveman and Nico Muhly.

The two Dessners also write, produce, and perform contemporary music internationally in collaboration with many artists. In August, 2008, Aaron and Bryce performed a collaborative concert with David Cossin, and Luca Tarantino as a part of Soundres, an international residency program for contemporary music and art in Salento, Italy and at the Guitare Au Palais Festival Perpignan France. They also performed at Matthew Ritchie's Ghost Operator opening at the White Cube Gallery in London.


Production credits include 2009's AIDS charity compilation, Dark Was the Night, for the Red Hot Organization, as well as Doveman's 2009 release, The Conformist, and Sharon Van Etten's latest album Tramp, which was released in February, 2012 by Jagjaguwar. It is Sharon Van Etten's third full-length release, and the follow-up to 2010's acclaimed Epic. Aaron is currently producing the new album for British indie-folk group This Is The Kit. The album will be released on Brassland Records, which was started in 2001 by Alec Hanley Bemis and Aaron and Bryce Dessner.

Guest Performer

In addition to extensive touring and performances with the National, Aaron has performed with and supported David Byrne, Clogs, Doveman, Final Fantasy, Feist, Grizzly Bear, Hayden, Justin Vernon and My Brightest Diamond.

Collaborations and Contributions

Aaron is a frequent collaborator with a wide range of musicians. In 2009, Aaron contributed a track to the Dark Was the Night compilation. This track, "Big Red Machine", was co-written with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, and was also featured in the 2010 film, “Last Minutes with ODEN,” a short documentary that later went on to win the overall Best Video Award at the first annual Vimeo Awards ceremony. Vernon and Aaron collaborated once again at the 2010 MusicNOW Festival, performing a cover of Sharon Van Etten's "Love More" together. In 2008, Aaron premiered sketches with Thomas Bartlett (Doveman) at the same event.

Marshall Curry's award winning documentary Racing Dreams includes music contributed by both Aaron and The National. "Win Win" directed by Thomas McCarthy closes with "Think You Can Wait," a track written by Aaron and Matt Berninger, recorded by The National with additional vocals from Sharon Van Etten.

Aaron and Bryce Dessner are friends and frequent collaborators with Richard Parry, a member of the band Arcade Fire. Richard contributed to multiple songs on The National's 2010 album High Violet, playing double bass and guitar on 'Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks', and doing the vocal harmony arrangement on 'Conversation 16'. They also frequently appear on the same festival bills.

In March 2012, Aaron, Scott Devendorf and Bryan Devendorf teamed up with Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir for a live webcast, which featured two musical sets and a political discussion. The event was produced by Head Count, a non-partisan organization that uses live music events to promote voter registration and awareness.

Dark Was the Night

Main article: Dark Was the Night

In 2009, brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner produced an extensive AIDS charity compilation, Dark Was the Night, for the Red Hot Organization. The record features exclusive recordings and collaborations from a long list of artists including David Byrne, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, Feist, Sharon Jones, Cat Power, Grizzly Bear, My Morning Jacket, and Spoon. Dark Was the Night has raised over 1.6 million dollars for AIDS charities as of May 2012.

On May 3, 2009 4AD and Red Hot produced Dark Was the Night - Live, a concert celebrating the newest Red Hot album. The show took place at Radio City Music Hall and featured several of the artists that contributed to the compilation.

The Long Count

The Long Count is a large commission for the BAM Next Wave Festival that finds Bryce and Aaron working alongside visual artist Matthew Ritchie. Together they created a work loosely based on the Mayan creation story Popol Vuh that includes a 12 piece orchestra and a number of guest singers, including Kim and Kelley Deal (The Breeders, The Pixies), Matt Berninger (The National), Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), and Tunde Adebimpe (TV On The Radio). The work had its world premiere at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in September 2009 as part of the Ellnora Festival. It has since been performed at BAM, the Holland Festival and the Barbican.

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry was a music festival curated by Aaron and Bryce Dessner and took place May 3-5 2012 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The festival showcased the contemporary Brooklyn music and film scene and included performances by the Walkmen, St. Vincent (musician), Beirut (musician), The Antlers (band), yMusic, Jherek Bischoff and newly commissioned films by Jonas Mekas, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tunde Adebimpe, among others.