Category Archives: Chamber Music

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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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.

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

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

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

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

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.