Author Archives: scott wollschleger

That Which Pushes Back is its Force saxophone (sop/ten) and piano (2016)

That Which Pushes Back is its Force

This piece is about rage. It came about through my reflection and interpretation on the significant role rage has played throughout human existence. ​Understandably rage is normally not considered virtuous or socially acceptable – but rage may also be seen as a deep expression of the will to live. I believe it is the root force that compels us to fight against injustice and oppression, and can be a significant power if properly cultivated. When transformed into the social realm, rage changes the world. So the question for me is: how do we transform our rage into something that does good? That Which Pushes Back is its Force​renders a moment of reflection on the ​intensive ​seed within us that causes rage.​ The opening clusters of the work I felt were a metaphor for this seed, and the seed is transformed throughout the work, sometimes to a brutal end, and sometimes to an unexpectedly tender one.

Our Sense of the Real Part IV any instrument(s) with fixed media (2018)

Customized versions for specific instrumentations are available upon request. Write to me at scott(dot)wollschleger(at)gmail(dot)com.

This piece came to me in a dream. I dreamt that all of New York City woke up one morning to see on their news feeds and social media that a nuclear war had started and that the bombs were on their way to the city. In a shared moment of dread the people of the city let out a collective groan. The memory of this groaning sound haunted me for days and the only way to purge the sound from my soul was to compose this piece. The collective groan, which I called “The People’s Cluster”, is realized in sound as an 8-note microtonal cluster chord that is played by 8 pre-recorded violas. The People’s Cluster is interspersed between various field recordings taken from four different peaceful places I’ve come to call home; Brooklyn, New York; Erie and Aaronsburg, Pennsylvania; and Lake Walloon, Michigan. I made these recordings during the summer of 2017. The recordings capture various aspect of daily life: a walk through Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, families celebrating the 4th of July around a lake, distant church bells and trucks zooming by in the morning, the sound of me making chicken wings with my father. The field recordings and The People’s Cluster create a kind of call-and-response pattern. The live instrument(s) always participate in the The People’s Cluster. The cluster returns often and becomes more strange, haunting, enigmatic, and I’d say, even beautiful, with each repetition. The call-response pattern is eventually interrupted with an actual recording of an atomic bomb. The recording used here is from the Castle Bravo nuclear tests conducted in 1954. The fallout from these tests is still with us today. A thin layer of radioactive material will remain on the earth’s surface for tens of thousands of years. Our Sense of the Real Part IV is an attempt to aestheticize the fears we face as we enter our newly-minted, human-made, geological epoch; the Anthropocene. In being just a mere work of sound art, I hope this piece can be seen as a safe way for us to explore our darker impulses and that it causes reflection on what the future has in store for us. Perhaps it will contribute to our efforts to change the situation. Despite the dark tone of the piece, the work’s message is hopeful: We don’t have to blow ourselves up! Our Sense of the Real is series of conceptual works originally created by percussionist Kevin Sims. Thank you Kevin Sims for letting me be part of the series.
Scott Wollschleger
2018

Our Sense of the Real Part IV was commissioned by Noam Faingold for the 2018 OK Electric Festival, Living Arts of Tulsa, with support from John Evans and the Oklahoma Arts Council. Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti gave the first performance March 30, 2018 at Living Arts of Tulsa

Audio for the tape part can be found here.

We See Things That Are Not There for piano and vibraphone with crotale (2016)

Program note by Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti

“We always see things that are not there. That is profoundly sad, but it’s also profoundly hopeful too, because it could mean ‘are not there yet.’ . . . It’s hard to be in that place of uncertainty, so fear is the armor we wear,” says Wollschleger.

As with many of Wollschleger’s duos, We See Things That Are Not There is about how two people are never able to fully see each other. The piece begins with the pianist and percussionist playing the same line in unison. After this first phrase, they try to connect through their shared memory. However, the more they try to communicate, the more things drift apart. They begin to stutter, unable to recall what they were originally trying to say. Wollschleger continues, “The memory of the opening line decoheres, and the process of trying to remember becomes more important than the thing they were trying to remember in the first place.”

Matt Evans (percussion) comments on Wollschleger’s music:

To him, everything is kind of a memory, and everything is imperfect, but also potentially more beautiful. He’s fascinated by the erosion of facts and thoughts, and the weird little holes that get poked in things as they move through time.

Is it a love song? A mis-remembered nostalgic anthem? A quiet, hopeful fanfare? A frightened obsessive meandering? In allowing ourselves to be truly vulnerable we can connect with each other, even if only for a moment. Or perhaps we see things that are not there.

We See Things That Are Not There is dedicated to Kevin Sim. Karl Larson and Matt Evans gave the work’s premiere November 13, 2017 at Cornelia Street Cafe, New York City.We See Things That Are Not There is the concluding track to album, American Dreamfeaturing Karl Larson on piano and Matt Evans on percussion.

Gas Station Canon-Song piano (2017/18)

Program note by Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti

Scott Wollschleger grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania where he says, “The gas station is a more common object than the Mona Lisa. Where I came from, it would be fake for me to claim the beautiful art history of Europe as my own.” Although he has since moved away, Wollschleger often drives across the state when he goes back to visit family. On one particularly long drive, Wollschleger says:

 I stopped in Meadville, Pennsylvania, and the gas station was on this hill. It was dusk, and it was gorgeous. I went into the bathroom and I had a moment where I thought, “is this beautiful?” There was graffiti on the wall, and there were blue tiles, and the light was coming in from dusk, and there was a feeling of dew. In that moment I thought, “Can something so abject also be an object of beauty?” It was almost an exercise in affirmation. The light itself was beautiful, but it was also beautiful because it was existing in that moment. The fact that I stumbled upon it and felt serenity in that space was beautiful. But then it became a mantra about being inspired by one’s immediate surroundings, which is important for artists wherever they are.

Gas Station Canon Song is about reclaiming everyday spaces—such as parking lots and convenience stores—as places of beauty and art. Instead of reserving the designation of “Art” to places that are elsewhere, Wollschleger wrote this work as an anthem for people making art where they are, with objects in their daily lives.

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Gas Station Canon Song is dedicated to Ivan Ilić who also premiered the work May 13, 2017 at Bandon Town Hall, Ireland. Gas Station Canon Song is the opening track to album, American Dream, featuring Karl Larson on piano.

Bring Something Incomprehensible Into This World soprano and trumpet in C (2015)

“Bring Something Incomprehensible into This World” is from the philosopher Gilles Deleuze in reference to Heinrich Von Kleist. I’ve taken 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.

Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti’s program note.

Bring Something Incomprehensible into This World  was commissioned and first performed by Andy Kozar and Corrine Byrne.
The work is recorded on Soft Aberration released on New Focus Recordings

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.

What is the Word was commissioned and first performed by loadbang.
The work is recorded on Old Fires Catch Old Buildings released on New Focus Recordings.
Video of a live performance can be found here.

 

 

 

American Dream piano, bass, percussion (2018)

American Dream is a reflection of the contemporary American state of mind. Without making a direct political statement, the work reflects on the paradoxical nature of the ‘American Dream’ in our current era. The music combines the beautiful/hopeful with repugnant/doom. American Dream is made from what I imagined as bits and pieces of “broken songs” taken from a kind of zombified collective American memory. These simplified songs bits are then arranged as carefully orchestrated floating sounds dispensed in a fragmented time field. Throughout the work the broken song bits are permeated with an ominous sounding tone cluster which is produced by all three band members simultaneously blowing through chromatic pitch pipes. The cluster produces an uncanny feeling that is a mixture of silliness and doom. As I was channeling the world around me, these two feelings seemed unavoidable while writing the piece. At the work’s conclusion the cluster finds its resolution in a surprising, horrifying, and potentially sublime way when all three members of the ensemble noisily activate every available note on the vibraphone with the aid of adult sex toys. This musical moment represents the seductive imagery of a nuclear explosion.

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Official Music Video

American Dream was commissioned and first performed by Bearthoven (Karl Larson, piano / Pat Swoboda, bass / Matt Evans, percussion). The work is featured on Bearthoven’s second full-length album, American Dream, released on Cantaloupe Music.  Please visit here to read Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti’s liner notes to the album. The liner note can also be used as a concert program note.

Violain violin and viola (2017)

My writing process is very hands on and I played around with both instruments to find the sounds I wanted to use for this piece. A lot of the sounds are a result of very fast gestures with unusual bowing technique. In some spots I had to video myself and play it back in slow motion to see what I was doing. Once I saw what I was doing I notated the sound/gesture on staff paper and then taped that individual piece of staff paper to my wall. After some time my walls were decorated with various panels of notation. Many of the panels were made of self-similar sounds which made it easy to “stitch” together the various panels to create larger sections of the piece. The piece was written almost exclusively using this kind of collage or assemblage technique.

The title of the work, Violain, came about through a typo in the music engraving file name. Thank god because the piece was going to have the boring title, “Viola and Violin”. The typo-title is fitting because much of this music embraces a typo aesthetic. Since the music was written by hand musical typos were common and in many places I ended up letting the mistakes stay in the music because they sounded more interesting that what I had intended. By letting the typos be I feel I was also able to give the music an extra layer of joyful Wabi-sabi.

Violain was commissioned and first performed by andPlay.

This live performance by andPlay
Maya Bennardo, violin
Hannah Levinson, viola
February 15, 2018 Waverly Building, New York University
Video by Joel Rust

Anyway, where threads go. It all goes well. voice and piano both doubling on chromatic pitch pipes (2017)

I love John Ashbery’s poetry so when I discovered what seemed to be his Twitter account I was happy to see a daily dose of his strange and enigmatic poetry. The tweets were so good that I was also inclined to set one of them to music. On February 4, 2017 at 11:27am @AshberyEbooks sent out the tweet, “Anyway, where threads go. It all goes well”. I felt this text was beautifully ambiguous in its potential meaning. The text was also a perfect metaphor for my creative process which usually involves freely weaving together different kinds of musical “threads”.  Often I find that these musical threads truly can go in any direction and it all does seem to go well (assuming the piece gets finished). As I was finishing up the composition I began to grow suspicious of the Ashbery account. It seemed to send out tweets every hour or so, even late into the night. I did a little further research. As it turns out @AshberyEbooks is not John Ashbery. The account is not even a living person. It is, in reality, a Twitter bot. This means some clever computer programmer designed an algorithm to spit out text in the style of the beloved poet. Rather than being horrified by this discovery I was delighted by this fact. I also welcome all the various implications one can draw from the situation of non-humans writing poetry for living humans to ponder. And pondering is encouraged in my piece. The text is also set to music in a reflective and meditative way. The words themselves are deconstructed into their constituent parts. The small bits of language playfully melt into the piano’s sounds and there is sometimes a sense of a new language emerging. Perhaps it is fitting that a robot poet spurred such an entropic mutation to take place. I just hope that Mr. Ashbery also feels that the all has gone well.

Anyway, where threads go. It all goes well. was written for Lucy Dhegrae  and was first performed by Lucy Dhegrae and Nathaniel LaNasa (piano) on May 25, 2017 at The Church of the Intercession in New York City.

The recording here is of the premiere.

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”.

Without World was commissioned and first performed by New Thread Quartet  June 6, 2016 at 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 Leilehua 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.

Brontal Symmetry was commissioned and first performed by longleash.
The work is recorded on Soft Aberration released on New Focus Recordings

 

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

Program note by Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti

“I think there’s a kind of emptied quality to the string quartet, and those pieces I wrote at that time.” Scott trails off slightly, then continues, “I think the white noise signified that sort of complete emptiness that’s at the very end of something. But to have that be the actual starting spot was the idea.” We’re sitting in my living room on what is probably the windiest day in winter this season. The old windows in my apartment aren’t sealed well, and the entire recorded interview is accompanied by a pervasive cold wind. Every time Scott pauses as he’s thinking about the white noise sounds, it seems as though the wind picks up, as though it can tell that we’re talking about it. Wollschleger continued:

[White Wall] definitely represented a break in my own work, or in myself, or in my approach to art, where I wanted to see how you could start from nothing, and pull from within itself something. . . . If you were to drain music from itself, what would be left over?

The beginning of the piece is almost a sound installation. We hear the “breathing” of the four instruments as they are activated by white noise. The breathing turns into humming, slowly unearthing a melody. As this “song” emerges from the white noise, it begins to dance around the fluttering creatures that surround it. Wollschleger elaborated:

Again, this notion of unfolding from within itself was the goal—utopian chimera, Adorno’s dream. But I think ending it with a dance was my way of saying this isn’t going to happen. . . . That’s why I think I had to add that second movement.

Yet, the playful dance of the second movement also disintegrates. This pervasive feeling of being drained cannot be shaken. Wollschleger added:

I always think of the white noise as the bleached out remains of a human. Which I think is kind of beautiful idea: when nothing is left, that’s all that’s left, that white noise. . . . And after history, and after Brahms, and after all our feelings, what would there be? The white noise points to that language which might be left for us.

White Wall was commissioned and first performed by Mivos string quartet.
The work is recorded on Soft Aberration released on New Focus Recordings

 

 

 

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 and first performed by Kevin Sims and supported in part by The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and The National Endowment for the Arts

Text written by Abby Minor

Here is an in-depth interview (w/ studio performances) with the composer and percussionist, KevinSims, featured on 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.

This recording: The String Orchestra of Brooklyn
Eli Spindel, conducting
Karl Larson, piano
Recorded live Thursday, June 25, 2015

Roulette; Brooklyn, New York

Reviews from the New York Times and I Care if You Listen.

 

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.

Soft Aberration no. 2 was written and first performed by Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti and Karl Larson and is the title track of the album, Soft Aberration, released on New Focus Recordings. The work is recorded under the title, Soft Aberration.

Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti’s liner note can be found here.

 

Brontal no.3 flute, clarinet, horn in F, violin, viola, cello, piano, percussion. (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  was commissioned and first performed by Red Light New Music Ensemble.
The work is recorded on Barbary Coast released on New Focus Recordings.

 

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.

 

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

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)

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

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.

String Quintet no.1 was commissioned and first performed by 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.

American  was commissioned and first performed by John Popham.
The work is recorded on Soft Aberration released on New Focus Recordings
Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti’s liner note can be found here.
A live performance featuring, John Popham, cello, can be found here

 

Hollow City string quartet (2017)

Hollow City was written for and commissioned by KUAR Public Radio of Little Rock Arkansas. J. Bradely Minnick, the executive producer of a NPR’s, Art and Letters, called me to talk about a radio documentary he was creating with a focus on children with autism who suffer great difficulty leaving their bedrooms. Yet inside their bedrooms these kids have created, through various kinds of art materials, wonderful and fantastic worlds. These creative worlds help as a coping strategy which encourages the children to leave their rooms to explore the outside world. Brad said he felt my music was somehow fitting for this subject matter because my music can be intensely private and quiet yet is often full of expressively outward funky twists and turns. On our phone call he said, “Scott, you’re my Frank Zappa of soft music, would you write me a piece for this show?”. I was happy to accept the offer. Strangely enough I did not think about the radio’s subject matter when I was writing the piece. Rather the music came to me slowly over time as I walked the streets of New York. I reflected on how the many buildings reminded me of how worms and insects burrow into the ground making the ground hollow in some places. I thought about how humans burrow upwards into the sky to create a hollow city in the sky.

The SORA String Quartet gave the first performance of Hollow City June 8th, 2018 at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church Brooklyn, NY.

SORA is:
Allison Dubinski, violin Gabryel Smith, violin Emily Bookwalter, viola Ken Hashimoto, 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.

Again Beginning viola, cello, and piano (2011)

Again Beginning is a series of 17 short movements and is also a mobile form. The players choose a “version” of the piece by arranging and playing the movements in any order, repeating and omitting movements as desired. The movements are linked together by a diffuse network of self-similar musical material.