Author Archives: scott wollschleger

Without World saxophone quartet (2016)

The idea of “world” is very much a human idea. If we think about the end of the world we still most likely imagine a planet being there (though perhaps a radically transformed planet). In writing Without World I tried to imagine a musical landscape that is without the human idea of “world”.

World Premiere:
June 6, 2016
New Thread Quartet
University Settlement New York City

This recording:
New Thread Quartet
Recorded live, December 3, 2016
The Firehouse Space, Brooklyn, New York

Brontal Symmetry piano trio (2015)

Program note by Anne Lanzilotti

Brontal Symmetry is comprised of a series of “discarded scraps” of music from other pieces, here introduced in a sort of memory game. Each sound object is revealed and then slowly taken away while new ideas are introduced. What is left from these “scraps” is a series of sensations—objects without the context of their original meaning.

The word “brontal” is a made up word that longtime collaborator Kevin Sims coined after making a series of pencil drawings on orange paper. The word now embodies a lot of Wollschleger’s aesthetic: the idea that we can create something very basic and human that is about discovering the sensation of an object. In this way, we are making something unfamiliar very immediate. Just as with children, this process of discovery can be very focused and also at times very funny.

The humor of curiosity is very apparent in Brontal Symmetry. In recent personal correspondence with Pala Garcia of Longleash, for whom the work was written, she said:

I think the funniest aspect of Scott’s piece is the cartoonish aesthetic—even in the most chaotic, violent parts, it still only feels like cartoon violence—nothing irreversibly fatal, just punch-drunk swirling stars. The last piano flourish reminds me of cartoon heroics—like when classical masterworks are used in cartoons for melodramatic effect. The opening sections have their own kind of humor, more a caricature of humdrum monotony—perhaps the kind of New York City monotony that’s never actually that ordinary or boring, just predictably weird.

 

This recording, live February 11, 2017
presented by Kettle Corn New Music
at Scandinavia House
New York, New York

longleash

Bring something incomprehensible into this world soprano and trumpet in C (2015)

“Bring something incomprehensible into this world” is a slightly modified quotation from the philosopher Gilles Deleuze. I take it to be an affirmation of what creativity is all about and it’s what the artist should do when they create a work of art. What would be the point of bringing something too comprehensible and pre-packaged into the world? You can do it, but I think that’s boring. Don’t make boring work! Rather make something that pushes your mind and body and make something that creates new sensations and movements. Maybe you’ll even have a new idea happen too. I prefer the scramble the mind has when it encounters a work of art as opposed to some kind of serenity and sedation that comes about from a unified experience. In Bring Something Incomprehensible Into This World the trumpet and voice are in a playful dialogue. The text is presented in fragments. The fragments are made of single words or just syllabic sounds. I found breaking the text up into smaller sounding parts allowed me greater flexibility when writing the piece and ultimately allowed for a more free-spirited approach. The arrangement of the vocal sounds sometimes imply new words and phrases. Often the trumpet and the voice blend together to create what I call a “dirty unison”. I imagined the sounds of the words themselves being “smeared” by the trumpet’s sounds. I think the interaction between the voice and the trumpet implies a kind a hybrid instrument or a mutant offspring that is the combination of the trumpet and the human voice. The piece is written for and dedicated to Andy Kozar and Corrine Byrne.

Scott Wollschleger
2015

We Have Taken and Eaten a monodrama for solo percussion (2015)

In writing We Have Taken and Eaten, I tried to construct a musical language that was composed of sound materials that might have been left over in the dustbin of history. I imagined the soloist acting as the last human scavenging through the garbage heap of culture and then trying their best to construct a story from the fragments of trash. The story is about what we did to ourselves and the planet, and it’s also a story that attempts to create a new narrative for ourselves as we move into an uncertain future. And in the words of the poet, Abby Minor: “We Have Taken and Eaten is the result of collaboration between a composer, a percussionist, and a poet. The poems grew from ideas and questions raised by two sources: the origin stories in the biblical Genesis, and Englishman Thomas Hariot’s Narrative of the First English Plantation in Virginia, a sixteenth-century account written in support of North American colonization. The poems try, in their own way, to explore the questions raised by both of these texts about the relationship between relentless productivity and punishment/oppression. In making this piece we were interested not so much in presenting a story or an argument as a non-linear meditation on the origin stories from which the poems, and consequently the music and the performance, emerged.We aimed, as Gertrude Stein aimed in her own plays, not for a narrative but for a landscape. We think of this music as one impression of the intimate emotional traces left by these master narratives as they continue to move, glacier-like, slowly over and through us, as they continue to undergird our lives in perplexing and powerful ways.”

Commissioned by Kevin Sims and supported in part by The Pennyslvania Council on the Arts and The National Endowment for the Arts

Text written by Abby Minor

Here’s a link to a very in-depth and brilliantly produced radio episode of Arts & Letters by J. Bradley Minnick of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Public Radio.

World Premiere:
June 13, 2015; Bremen Town Ballroom, Millheim, Pennsylvania
Kevin Sims, solo percussion
Abby Minor, reading and psaltery
Martha Hoffman, psaltery
Bryan Ferlez, drone temple bowl

 

 

Meditation on Dust piano and string orchestra (2015)

 

What would happen if a Richard Strauss tone poem was left out in the desert for 1000 years? This was the central questioning metaphor I had in mind when writing. What I imagine left is a kind of harmonic dust. Meditation on Dust is a dream landscape shaped by these harmonic particles. The piano, which in many ways acts as a hyper-violin, cuts through the dust and sometimes is enveloped within it. As the dream evolves we come back to the original Strauss moment but soon depart from it. Meditation on Dust was commissioned by the String Orchestra of Brooklyn. My deepest gratitude to Karl Larson for collaborating with me on this project.

Reviews from the New York Times and I Care if You Listen.
This recording: Karl Larson, piano with The String Orchestra of Brooklyn
conducted by Eli Spindel

Recorded live Thursday, June 25, 2015
Roulette; Brooklyn, New York

www.thesob.org
www.karllarsonpiano.com

String Quartet no. 2 “White Wall” string quartet (2013/14)

 

White Wall is an austere yet playful sound world which is based around white noise and fragments of sound. The central image of combing through a cultural landscape-turned-desert occupied my mind as I wrote the work. It is music written at the end of the world, i.e., today. White Wall also invokes a sense of touching and breathing. In shaping the white noise I tried to turn the quartet into a breathing apparatus that would always imply (concurrently and somewhat paradoxically) both a moving pattern and a simultaneous erasure of that pattern.  The first movement is a slow uncovering of a melody. The second movement is something of a dance that disintegrates.

 

This performance: Mivos string quartet.

 

 

 

Soft Aberration no. 2 viola and piano (2015)

Soft Aberration no. 2 is a piece about imitation, but rather than sharing identical musical material I imagined each instrument as a damaged reflective surface which projects a kind of “broken echo” between the two instruments. In some sense the piano wants to “see itself” in the viola’s music and the viola wants the same from the piano. The two struggle with this throughout the piece and at various times they find a way to “see” each other.

This recording:
Anne Lanzilotti, viola
Karl Larson, piano

What is the Word baritone, bass clarinet, trumpet and trombone (2014)

 

At the age of 83 Beckett wrote his last poem “What is the Word”. The poem was dedicated to a friend who was suffering from aphasia – a language disorder that includes losing the ability to speak, read, or write.

The text bears the marks of struggle and exhaustion. The words stutter forward and appear without context. The poem lacks a coherent subject (there is an obvious absence of any personal pronouns). As the work proceeds the sounds of the individual words become more and more apparent. The materiality of each word becomes exposed and we might even want to call them sound-objects rather than words. Yet despite the lack of cohesion we still feel the text expresses some kind of personal suffering. And rather than peter out the poem grows more aggressive as it moves forward. The words, acting as sound objects, perhaps communicate something else; what is lacking in concrete meaning is made up for in the vivaciousness of the rhythm that is present. There is perhaps a primordial will to life heard in the rhythm of the words, a struggle pushing ahead in the face of meaninglessness. The situation is both tragic and comic, or as with many of Beckett’s texts, a tragicomic.

This unidentifiable place in between suffering and the will to live compelled me to set the text. My setting of the poem is in three sections. The first section attempts to be a “musical reading” of the entire text, word for word, with no extra repetition of words other than what is presented in the poem. The second section playfully explores the text and various vowel sounds constituting the words. The final section is a further breakdown and explosion of the language into both instrumental and vocal sounds.

The failure of Beckett’s text to produce meaning can be read as bleak and depressing, but I tend to read it the opposite way. Beckett’s text is untethered from having to mean anything – I find this liberating. I hope my setting of the text presents both the power of the poem and possible modes of communication when meaning is unbound.

This performance: loadbang.

The complete (3-movement) version can be found here.

Brontal no.3 ensemble (2012)

Brontal no.3, a piece in four short sections, is composed around a very simple melodic line: a low note followed by a higher note. This is a kind of “Ur-melody” or “Ur-motion” around which the rest of the music is constructed. The Ur-melody originates in the viola and is echoed or shadowed throughout the piece by the other instruments.

This “echo-chamber” effect grows murkier in the second and third sections. Here the ensemble is almost always divided into two groups, each playing in different time signatures; one group is led by the violist and the other is conducted. Contrasting the always-changing Ur-melody is another melody which is also played by the viola. This melody is like a bird’s refrain. Each time it returns, it marks a little piece of sonic territory. Towards the end of the piece, the refrain fails to return­­, in some way implying that our little bird flew away.

The word “Brontal” is a neologism coined by Red Light percussionist, Kevin Sims. We take it loosely to be the adjectival form of the word brontosaurs, although the term has a broader use and can describe something that is strange, primordial, monolithic, and of odd proportions.

Brontal no.3 is scored for flute, clarinet, horn in F, violin, viola, cello, piano, percussion.

This recording:  Red Light New Music Ensemble. Erin Wight, viola
Now available on iTunes here.

Thanks to Josh for posting the sound with score here.

In Search of Lost Color piano (2010)

In Search of Lost Color is a four-movement work that explores the expressive possibilities of piano resonances decaying and overlapping one another. The sounds are generated through physical gestures that are both violent and graceful. The initial attack of the sound is often shrill but what results is a cloud of rich harmony that can be heard glowing in the background. One is encouraged to listen to the way these harmonies decay and bleed into each other.  The “bleeding” is a formal element helping to give shape to the melodic lines throughout the piece.

Movements no.’s I-III similarly share an opening section composed of repeated material followed by a cloud-like section where the piano’s decaying resonances take over the texture. Movement no. IV seems to start in the middle things and is one large cloud-like section unto itself. The slow moving decaying resonances create a texture that is stretched-out evoking an empty space of solemn desolation.

This recording: Yegor Shevtsov, piano

 

 

 

 

Density is a Kind of Love bassoon, bass clarinet, marimba (2015)

 

Various clarinet and bassoon multiphonics are weaved together with the marimba forming an erotic soup of harmony. The marimba, which in some way has nothing in common with the other two wind instruments, finds a way to both interact with them yet also break free from their love song until the end of the piece when all three instruments find a new configuration.

Audio of the premiere can be found here.

 

www.chriswatford.com
www.transientcanvas.com

Secret Machines no.1-6 various chamber and solo (2007-12)

Natacha: “…a strange synthesis of schizophrenically sourced sounds, surreptitiously settling cerebrally in the soulful center of solemnity and frivolity…”.

Scott: “I would call them ‘secret’ and it’s about how they are constructed…a strange conceptual synthesis of how a machine would be personal to the point of a secret, almost something naughty…”.

Secret Machines are a series of pieces based around the idea of schizophrenic musical flows cut and connected together to form little musical machines.

No.1 for flute, violin, cello, piano percussion (2008)

No.2 for flute, violin, cello, piano percussion (2008)

No.3 for flute, violin, cello, piano (2008)

No.4 for piano (2008)

No.5 for flute, viola, cello, piano, percussion (2009)

No.6 for piano (2007, revised 2012)

Chaos Analog piano (2007)

Chaos Analog is about the physicality of playing an instrument and the animal nature of creating a sound. Various kinds of bodily experiments took place at the piano; screaming, dancing, grunting, nudity and auto-eroticism. The question became: How do I record the immediacy and violence of an improvised gesture? Notation? What I ended up with is an “analog” of the sounds created in the heated moment, a Chaos Analog. As Gilles Delueze says, an “analogy (resemblance) that is produced by non resembling means”.

Blue Inscription piano (2010)

Blue Inscription is a miniature piece and it is my attempt to write a simple song. The piano, with its unique resonance, creates a kind of hazy harmonic field. Certain notes will stand out for a brief moment and then quickly fade away and disappear into the wash of harmony. I wanted to make a song that always seems to fade away.

String Quintet no.1 two violins, viola, cello, and double bass (2011)

A string quintet composed of many brief lively sounds which act as constellations or parts of a sonic mobile. The performers “play” with the sounds to create a flowing sonic tapestry. Initially the constellations are bound together by a driving common 8th-note pulse but as the piece progresses the music becomes less mobile and less flowing. The constellations become fixed in place and are no longer mobile. Towards the end of the piece they loosen up again, but this time the sonic constellations are unbound and without a common pulse. The sounds become free-floating sounds like tiny nomads. The quintet is divided into three large sections or movements. Each movement relies on single tonal center which acts as a harmonic drone for the entire movement. The overall tonal architecture of the piece is a monolithic chord progression; E-major, D-major, C-major, B-Major. Each movement is further comprised of many self-simuilar sections that are juxtaposed to create a rhizome-like form. The purposely monotonous repetition of some sections creates a sense of disproportionality. So even while the tonal scheme of the work is comfortably grounded and comprehensible, a coherent formal understanding of the piece is resisted in favor of playful disorientation.

This recording (live): The Toomai String Quintet

America cello (2013)

I grew up in a post-industrial city where the landscape was marked by endless strip malls and gas stations. But even within this nihilistic and vapid landscape I developed a sense of hope for our ability to overcome negative spaces with art and the power of creating something beautiful. America, for solo cello, is an energetic and tightly structured piece that explores timbre, virtuosity and differential repetition. The music’s “glitchy” feeling is created by a perpetual 7 against 3 rhythm which dominates the texture along with the use of micro-meters (3/32 and 1/16) and rapid timbral shifts. I composed the piece by exploring the timbral shifts that take place when playing the same pitch on different strings. Playing techniques of sul tasto, flautando, sul pont, and pizzicato create a continuum of tonal color which add to the stream of perpetual variation. Harmonically the piece is based around a very narrow range of pitches, just a small cluster, c-c#,d-d#. This cluster is explored in various playing positions on the cello and in the attempt to create overlap and sustain between the notes of the cluster there is a kind of acrobatic choreography that takes place as the cellist jumps from low to high positions on the fingerboard. The work was constructed in a Cagian way. I’d write a bar or two and email the manuscript to John Popham. John would record the music on his cell phone and email the fragment back to me. I collected these fragments over the course of 2 years. Our original plan was to keep our email/fragments process going until America (the country) collapsed but instead we opted to just complete the work since we figured the world might end before the country does.

This performance: John Popham, cello

 

Larval Soup viola and vibraphone (2009)

Larval Soup is a virtual composition which explores relationships between discontinuity and the present moment. It is composed in such a way that the players must constantly choose what they will play, mapping out their course, sometimes even folding two different ideas into each other simultaneously. The performers are “composing” in real time. The goal is to make the performance itself more vital and living.

I is not me solo percussion (2013)

 

I is not me.
Nor is it we.
Not who am I,
but where am I.
Here between I and me.
Becoming a stranger.

no grandma
no nostalgia
no place
no Sundays
Searching is still permitted.
no irony
no funny

 

Kevin Sims, percussion

text by: Leslie Touch

Folding any instrument(s) (2012)

“Folding…” is a short open instrumentation work which was written as a gift for my friend and composer, Christopher Cerrone. The piece is made up of a series of small melodic fragments. The performers construct their own melodic phrases from these fragments and the phrases are played in a repetitive way to create a rhythmic texture. The melodic fragments themselves where taken from various sketchbooks where I had on numerous occasions attempted to compose an actual piece with these fragments but could never could find a right way to order the material. The solution was to not compose a traditional piece, but rather to leave the material open to future reconstructions. So in this regard the performers are also composers of this piece.

Invisible Opera violin and cello (2011)

A piece written around musical material from Christopher Cerrone’s opera, Invisible Cites. This piece was premiered live on on WKCR Radio, New York City in 2011. More information on Chris’s opera can be found here.

 

Secret Machine no.4 piano (2007)

Natacha: “…a strange synthesis of schizophrenically sourced sounds, surreptitiously settling cerebrally in the soulful center of solemnity and frivolity…”.

Scott: “I would call them ‘secret’ and it’s about how they are constructed…a strange conceptual synthesis of how a machine would be personal to the point of a secret, almost something naughty…”.

Secret Machines are a series of pieces based around the idea of schizophrenic musical flows cut and connected together to form little musical machines.

This recording:
Timo Andres