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.
American Dream is performed by Bearthoven (Karl Larson, piano / Pat Swoboda, bass / Matt Evans, percussion). The work is featured on Bearthoven’s next full-length album, American Dream, released on Cantaloupe Music on Friday, February 8, 2019. The album includes the works Gas Station Canon Song, American Dream, and We See Things That Are Not There. Join us for the record release show.
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”.
June 6, 2016
New Thread Quartet
University Settlement New York City
New Thread Quartet
Recorded live, December 3, 2016
The Firehouse Space, Brooklyn, New York
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
In this piece the performers use their heartbeats as metronomes.
Cory Bracken, Robby Bowen – vibes
Karl Larson, Hitomi Honda – pianos
Recorded live 2.12.16
The Firehouse Space
Brooklyn New York, USA
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.
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.
Melancholy is the dream state of egoism…
-E.M. Cioran, A Short History of Decay
This performance: Longleash Trio
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.
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)
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.
This recording (live): The Toomai String Quintet
A section from The Late Style.
This recording: Emily Bookwalter, viola. Scott Wollschleger, piano