Based in the Twin Cities, the 113 Composers Collective was formed in 2012 to create immersive opportunities for new means of musical expression, including through their annual Twin Cities New Music Festival. Their association with Duo Gelland extends back over a decade, and Resistance/Resonance presents highlights of the resultant repertoire for two violins, music that is intimate and charged with the insight of close collaboration.
|02||A Lifeless Object, Alive (Dysarthria)|
A Lifeless Object, Alive (Dysarthria)
Autochrome LumièreJoshua Musikantow
Difficult FernsAdam Zahller
|10||cistern . anechoic . sonolucent|
cistern . anechoic . sonolucent
Resistance/Resonance is an album of violin duets written by composers of the Twin Cities-based 113 Composers Collective. These 6 pieces provide ample field for Duo Gelland (Cecilia and Martin Gelland, violinists) to display their wide-ranging voices, from pure noise to the luminous ringing of harmonics. Swedish-German Duo Gelland was formed in 1994; since then more than 200 works have been dedicated to the ensemble. They have worked with filmmakers and choreographers as well as composers, and enrich that work with scholarship and research into historical lost repertoire. Their long collaboration is obvious on this cd, in the way they match tone color and balance, and their synchronized interaction across complex rhythmic structures.
The album opens with Jeremy Wagner’s Oberleitung. This is the German word for “overhead lines,” the kind that carry electricity. It is perfectly descriptive of the skittering, arachnid energy of much of the music. Wagner takes advantage of the violins as much for their percussive attacks as for pitch. After a brief opening incantation, crackling battuto and drop-bow gestures are batted back and forth between the instruments in shaped, fast-moving volleys, as if they are playing a game, creating virtuosic swarms. Wagner gives each of them room to breathe, allowing the series of gestures to speak for themselves inside the larger form.
In contrast, A Lifeless Object, Alive (Dysarthria) by Michael Duffy opens with full-throated double stops, shadowed by soft, porous wisps of sound. This gesture happens many times in the piece: it is as if the long, noise-laiden tones charge the air with sound, and the high, quiet resonances are the afterimage, or the dust settling. The emphasis here is on the grain of the sound, on the continuous morphing and layering of timbre. Layering these tones in separate registers (one violin playing very high, the other much lower) brings an additional degree of depth to the mostly slow-moving lines. Keening, slow glissandi give the piece an air of sorrowful remembrance.Read More
Autochrome Lumière by Joshua Musikantow is a work infused with nostalgia. Fittingly, a more traditional, melodic style of playing is often in the fore here. The music meanders slowly, talking outside of time. The end of the first movement seems to slide up and away, pianissimo, like a memory vanishing. In the second movement, one violin takes the melodic foreground while the other slides in and out of the background with multiple commentaries, whether a waltz beat, or pecking battuto bows, or tapping on the body of the violin. The final movement speaks vividly, in tangled, vexed phrases. It brings to mind the poem that accompanies Musikantow’s piece:
...I contemplate how the dramatic, percussive hang up
is not possible with mobile phones.
You need a landline.
You need a phone with weight; a phone with spiral cords you can twirl
a phone you can hold in the nook
your head and your collarbone,
almost as if playing the violin.
Sam Krahn’s piece Resistance/Resonance starts with satisfyingly meaty scratch tones from one violin and microtonal ornamentation and double stops from the other. The music is pulled back and forth between these two poles; resistance and resonance, noise and pitch. Krahn cultivates engaging music that bridges the two, with gorgeous bent double stops and emotional friction between the two voices . The violins are both attracted and repelled by each other, sometimes standing apart playing without any regard for one another, and sometimes coming together, hovering just outside of consonance.
Difficult Ferns by Adam Zahller is highly microtonal, and heavily ornamented. The piece moves forward on tiny, highly specific changes in rhythm, pitch, and color. The two violins sometimes seem as two projections of the same image, shimmering and wavering through small differences in pitch or rhythm. Zahller creates shadowy, ghostlike images by asking the player to use harmonic touch in the left hand, transforming mid-range pitches into very high, unstable auroras of sound. Much of the music is very quiet, encouraging the listener to lean in and focus more closely on the changes, and saving the louder end of the auditory spectrum for intense moments.
The closing work on the recording, cistern . anechoic . sonolucent by TIffany M. Skidmore is inward-looking, understated. The music floats languidly, slowly moving like a jellyfish in calm water. Like the Zahller, it too explores the quiet range of the instruments, with only a few gestures stepping forward out of the shadows, only to recede again. The mood is one of soulful contemplation. The most arresting part occurs at the very end, when, having placed heavy mutes on the strings to further dampen the sound, the breathing of the two musicians become audible.
Certain musical elements run through the music of the 113 Composers profiled here: rhythmic complexity that creates a timeless, sliding, even atemporal environment; quarter-tone harmonies; very finely-grained manipulation of timbre and articulation via extended, sometimes virtuosic playing techniques. Much of this music is also laden with extra-musical associations: a Wittgenstein quote for the Wagner, the nostalgic poem for the Musikantow. Other warmly surreal poems and abstract drawings fill the accompanying CD booklet. Therefore, this is music of multiple complexities, not just in the score but between the music and the quotes, poetry, and images that accompany it. It is enigmatic, mysterious, but always gesturing toward new interpretations.
— Kyle Bartlett
113 is an artist-run collective consistently recognized for its “intimate performances of world-class ambitious music” (Secrets of the City) and commitment to providing “meaningful performance opportunities for local musicians” (Classical MPR). Dedicated to offering immersive opportunities for new means of musical expression, 113 provides a direct, honest, unrestricted platform for musicians pursuing bold, personalized artistic visions through community building, education, and programming, including our annual Twin Cities New Music Festival. Since its inception in 2012, 113 has presented over 100 world premieres. Over the course of more than a decade, the composers of 113 have forged a close collaborative friendship with Duo Gelland—composing new works for them regularly, presenting concerts, engaging with children and adults of all ages in new music workshops, and touring together throughout the United States and Europe. Resistance/Resonance encapsulates this connection and some of the intense expressive possibilities of our continuing work together.
Duo Gelland was founded in 1994 by violinists Cecilia and Martin Gelland, who met in the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra and started exploring duo repertoire together. The violin duo's unexpected artistic possibilities and powers to speak awakened the couple's passion to explore this constellation deeper—its inexhaustible sound palette, its present and historic art of interpretation and improvisation, each scores' ability to ignite communication between them and their audiences of all ages, its mobility onstage and offstage, and its potential for collaboration with choreographers, stage directors, and even children.
Already an international phenomenon in the world of violin duos, Cecilia and Martin Gelland let go of their full-time orchestral positions in 2001 to focus entirely on the violin duo. Over 200 works have been dedicated to them—not only duos, but also theatrical works and a dozen double concerti. Many of these works can be heard on their 20+ CD albums. They have appeared as soloists in both halls of the Berliner Philharmonie, Musikverein Vienna, Tonhalle Zürich, Stockholm Concert Hall, and throughout the US. They are guest lecturers at Musikhochschule Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy in Leipzig. Articles about their work can be found in the encyclopedias Die Violine and MGG. They are supported by Swedish Arts Grants and the Swedish Arts Council.
In 2008, Duo Gelland received the prestigious Annual German Record Critics’ Award for their experimental short film, produced by Johan Ramström, with their semi-live performance of Traumwerk by James Dillon. In 2009, James Dillon invited them to University of Minnesota, where they first met and collaborated with members of 113 Composers Collective, who were, at that time, his students. A mutual affinity and rewarding artistic exchange with 113 gradually grew into an annual event of premieres, recitals, lectures and master classes at universities and festivals with accompanying workshops for children and teens in underprivileged schools. Together with members of 113, they met audiences in many US cities, as well as in Sweden and Germany.
For nine years, Duo Gelland were artists-in-residence in the mountainous municipality of Strömsund in northern Sweden, where their interactive, artistic, eye-level work method with school kids was developed. This method has been the subject of research in three countries.
Duo Gelland and their two children have two home bases between tours: Strömsund, Sweden and Lübeck, Germany close to the North Sea, a 45-minute train ride from Hamburg.
Cecilia Gelland studied at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, later in Cologne, Germany, and in the US, where her teachers were the LaSalle Quartet and Kurt Sassmannshaus at CCM. Her mentor was composer Allen Sapp.
Martin Gelland was born in Munich, Germany, studying there with the former Vienna concert master Gerhart Hetzel, later with Ricardo Odnoposoff in Stuttgart, and finally with Max Rostal in Bern. He participated in recurrent master courses with Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Franco Gulli, and Valery Klimov.
Jeremy Wagner is a composer, sound designer, performer and tinkerer who works at the intersection of music, mathematics, science and technology. His music attempts to elevate human virtuosity, broadly considered. In recent years Wagner has specialized in enabling performances of contemporary music involving realtime processing and interaction. Recent appearances include numerous productions with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Eco Ensemble, C4NM, CCRMA, West Edge Opera, Spoleto Festival USA, Roulette and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, among others.
Since 2016 Wagner has served on the staff of the Center for New Music & Audio Technologies (CNMAT) at the University of California, Berkeley where he develops new hardware and software for novel human+machine interactions in new music contexts. Recent projects include audio spatialization research for AR/VR, creation of the CNMAT Stompbox, the CNMAT Magnetic Piano Resonator, the CNMAT Mobile Multichannel Array as well as ongoing collaborations with Carmine Cella related to machine learning applied to compositional use cases. Since 2020 he has served as lecturer of Music Perception & Cognition at the UC Berkeley Music Department.
Jeremy holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Music Composition and Saxophone performance from Wichita State University as well as a Masters (2008) and a PhD (2012) in Music Composition from the University of Minnesota. He is a founding member of Minnesota’s Contemporary Music Workshop (CMW); he is recipient of the 2011 McKnight Composer Fellowship, winner of the 2013 Ensemble Etcetera composition competition and the recipient of a 2014 project grant from New Music USA.
Michael Duffy (b. 1976), is a composer/improviser/sound artist/performer who cut his teeth in DIY hardcore punk. His work has been performed by Dal Niente, Irvine Arditti, Noriko Kawai, Duo Gelland, JACK Quartet, International Contemporary Ensemble, Second Instrumental Unit, and Zeitgeist. He is a member of the 113 Composers Collective and performs in the electro-acoustic duo Shield Your Eyes. Co-founder of the Contemporary Music Workshop at the University of Minnesota, he studied composition with James Dillon and currently works as the Music Technology, Media Lab and Studios Specialist.
Prior to moving to Minneapolis in 2006, he attended the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, CUNY studying composition with Jeff Nichols and Bruce Saylor, computer music with Hubert Howe and percussion with Michael Lipsey.
Joshua Musikantow (b. 1981) is a composer, author, and percussionist specializing in nontraditional tuning systems. A Chicago native, he has resided in the Twin Cities since 2007. Much of his work contains both original text and music. His work has been performed in England, France, Sweden, Germany, the Czech Republic, and across the United States. He has received commissions from Noriko Kawaii, Zeitgeist, The No Exit Ensemble, Strains New Music Ensemble, Duo Gelland, Without Fear of Wind or Vertigo, The Spitting Image Collective, The Gregorian Singers, and members of the Chicago symphony orchestra, James Dillon’s Contemporary Music Workshop, among many others. He has been the recipient of the McKnight Artist Fellowship (2013), the JFund award (2012), a Foundation for Contemporary Art emergency grant (2017), and other honors.
He earned his BM in Music Composition at Lawrence University, his BA in English at Lawrence University, his MA in Music Composition at the University at Buffalo, and his PhD in Music Composition at the University of Minnesota. His dissertation advisor was the acclaimed Scottish New Complexity composer, James Dillon.
Sam Krahn is a composer, guitarist, and teacher. His works have been performed by members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Zeitgeist New Music Ensemble, TAK Ensemble, Fidelio Trio, Ensemble Dal Niente, Duo Gelland, the Cascade Quartet, Artemis Vocal Ensemble, Strains New Music Ensemble, the Gregorian Singers, Benjamin Cold, Bill Solomon, and many others.
He has received numerous commissions to compose new works for Ed Harrison of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Maraca Concerto), Duo Gelland (Butoh Study #1, Resistance/Resonance), Nexus Duo (Moon Forms), Bill Solomon (Cascade/Noise Generator), Great Falls Symphony (Sounds for Silent Film), Benjamin Cold (flux-mirror), and the Anaphora Contemporary Ensemble (String Quartet No. 1). In December of 2015, his first musical comedy, An Evening with Krampus was premiered in a 5-show run at the Phoenix Theater in Minneapolis.
He participated in the 17th World Saxophone Congress and Festival, the MATA Festival in New York City, the 2015 Root Signals Electronic Music Festival, and the 70th annual Cheltenham Music Festival. He received a grant from New Music USA for a 35-minute work for saxophone and electronics and was a recipient of the 2017 Montana Arts Council Artist’s Innovation Award. He currently teaches at Green River College in Auburn, WA.
Adam Zahller is a composer and multi-instrumentalist born and raised in the Midwestern United States.
Tiffany M. Skidmore (b. 1980) is an American composer and performer based in Minneapolis. Her chamber, choral, and orchestral work has been interpreted by acclaimed experimental music specialists throughout the United States and Europe. She is a Schubert Club Award Winner, a 2018 McKnight Composer Fellow, and the 2018-19 Zeitgeist New Music Ensemble Composer-in-Residence. She is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the Twin Cities-based 113 Composers Collective, an organization that produces concerts, festivals, and guest artist residencies throughout the world.
Soprano Nina Dante writes that “Tiffany Skidmore’s music brings to mind Sciarrino’s description of his own music: hearing it is like watching a volcano erupt from afar. While Skidmore’s music burns it’s own path outside of Sciarrino’s aesthetic, the description holds true. Her music often features slow moving textures dotted with energetic events (imagine a constellation moving across the sky over the course of the year, and interjecting shooting stars), a starry sound world, coldly emotional content, and a mix of musical abstraction with direct theatrical/conceptual content. For these reasons, like reading a myth of ancient times, we experience the drama of her works from a distance.”
Duo Gelland is comprised of virtuoso violinists Cecilia and Martin Gelland. In their nearly 30-year history, the duo continues to champion contemporary music to a seemingly inexhaustible degree. In the duo’s latest release titled Resistance/Resonance, members of the 113 Composers Collective were commissioned to provide the six pieces on the album.
Each piece delivers a wide-ranging approach to the violin duet from a noise-based aesthetic to shimmering landscapes produced by string harmonics. Jeremy Wagner’s Oberleitung is a jagged study in electric gestures. Michael Duffy offers contrast with airy tones and gentle threads. The nostalgia-laden Autochrome Lumière by Joshua Musikantow offers a more melodic approach matched with prickly taps of the bow on the instruments. Sam Krahn’s piece, the title track, is an engaging juxtaposition of different characters that provide interesting contrast and occasional togetherness. Difficult Ferns by Adam Zahller is a decidedly micro-tonal work filled with unstable and phantom imagery. The last track on the disc, cistern . anechoic . sonolucent by Tiffany M. Skidmore, creates a distant shadow aura amid slow-moving whispers – a piece that is magnificent in its understated quality.
Duo Gelland has produced yet another astounding example of their talents, and they handle each piece with an expressive and technical mastery that is not to be missed.
— Adam Scime, 6.29.2021
An extremely adventurous project, Resistance/Resonance brings the 113 Composers Collective together with Duo Gelland for 6 pieces that allow Cecilia and Martin Gelland to showcase their inimitable and vast violin dynamics.
Jeremy Wagner’s “Oberleitung” leads the listen with both tense and playful string manipulation that’s equally haunting and exciting in its calculated precision where the violins even sound percussive, and “A Lifeless Object, Alive (Dysarthia)”, by Michael Duffy, follows with an artistic approach to space and time being adjusted with the utmost care that’s capable of noisy as well as soft moments.
The middle tracks offer us 3 chapters of Joshua Musikantow’s “Autochrome Lumiére”, where the violins dance around each other with sublime melody, furious string acrobatics, and even calming gestures of bare beauty. The title track, one of the album’s best, then quivers with a cinematic appeal that’s blurry and innovative in its pitch focused range.
The final two tracks, Adam Zahller’s “Difficult Ferns” and Tiffany M. Skidmore’s “cistern. anechoic. sonolucent.”, continue the creative landscape, as the former alternates between calm and swift across its 3 movements of fascinating tonality, and the latter finishes with a dreamy 10 minutes that explores the serene side of the violin.
For fans of unconventional violin music, or those that absorb atypical chamber and orchestral sounds, this is a journey worth taking that embraces intimacy and exploration in ways that few could replicate.
— Tom Haugen, 5.05.2021
There is a common sensitivity that often unites artists. Take, for example, what is proposed by the collective of composers and musicians of the metropolitan area of Minneapolis-Saint Paul who formed 113 (One Thirteen), a league between American artists and a European rib, represented by the Duo Gelland: in common are scores, knowledge, educational programs, seminars and concerts capable of involving composers and musicians even outside the main board of the aggregation. The Gellands are naturally the greatest beneficiaries of this communion born in 2012 and which allowed the two violinists to broaden the geographical range of their repertoire; New Focus Recordings took care of formalizing things in a recording, which collected almost all of the "American" compositions in Resistance / Resonance, 7 compositions in total, also considering a QR code reference to youtube prescribed inside of the booklet.
Of the Gellands we can only say a lot of good and their performances show once again how the two violinists have an exquisite refinement in dealing with scores of a certain type, in which specific sounds are foreseen, which require the internalization of what is written: based on a collaborative process with the composers and trusting their experience, the duo is able to animate any sound, endow it with a subliminal message that is almost impossible not to notice.
In Oberleitung by Jeremy Wagner, the inspiring theme is the skyline of the San Francisco Bay Area and the hyperbolas that theoretically constitute its visual outline: the violins follow a psychoacoustic route, they immerse themselves in a series of unconventional maneuvers like rebounds of perspectives, elongation, dialogicity, which are exacerbated by the excellent recording that captures the sonic detail, restoring acoustic depth to the instruments; in A Lifeless Object, Alive (Dysarthria) by Micheal Duffy, the two violinists cross an iridescent sound reality that aims at excellence in the reworking of the subtle lengthening of the notes and ornaments, in view of a probable implicit acceptance of the characteristics of dysarthria, in the form of liberation of vocal modulations duly transferred to the instrumental field; in Autochrome Lumiere by Joshua Musikantow, a richly harmonic but inhomogeneous texture is imposed, which is joined by a chisel on the strings and body of the violins: the type of detail, continuously faded and mottled, refers to autochromia, the photographic technique of the early twentieth century that gave life the first “colored” shots, summarized in a particularly sensitive form of color, almost like in paintings; friction and physicality are the attributes of Sam Krahn 's Resistance / Resonance , a piece that travels on the eccentric tonal properties of violins and ends with an indefinable jolt, the result of an insistence on the high registers and a rubbing that produces a pulley noise; still Difficult Ferns plays on a gentle advance that brings with it a series of unconventional positioning, all manifestations of a vital flow of transport similar to that of the ramifications of Paul Klee 's Space Hunger, dynamic forces that flow in the ground and ask for space to grow, while cistern. anechoic. sonolucent by Tiffany M. Skidmore is a game against the light, incredible dazzling sounds as a result of a transposition of acoustic effects, the sense of width of a cistern then locked up in an anechoic chamber; the compositional part in digital indication is Scarlet Membrane by Joey Crane, a fantastic application of semantic abulia a la Lachenmann, a piece in which the Gelland spouses engage in multiple attitudes on the body of the instrument (a pronounced tactile propensity), with sounds that are only sketched, in a coordinated and grounded scenography on the gestural relationship and a witty sensitivity.
— Ettore Garzia, 5.25.2021
The 113 Composers Collective, based in the Twin Cities, was formed in 2012 and was designed to create immersive opportunities for new means of musical expression, including via their Twin Cities New Music Festival. The Duo Gelland (violinists Cecilia and Martin Gelland), heard here, has enjoyed an association with the collective which dates back over a decade.
This is probably the first disc to come my way with no fewer than four booklets. Each has a similar abstract image on the front and none tells us too much about what we will hear.
The first piece, Oberleitung (2010) by Jeremy L. Wagner, offers as an explicatory note only a quote from Wittgenstein: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one music be silent” (the final proposition of the Tractus Logico-Philosophicus). Inspired by the contours of the San Francisco Bay skyline, and “the contemplation of the catenary curve as an organizing structure,” it is an active, angular work that requires nothing less than complete concentration throughout from performers (and listeners). The Duo Gelland’s performance is utterly remarkable in its intensity and coordinated execution, while the recording captures every nuance (particularly perhaps the resonance of the violin’s lower register).
The piece A Lifeless Object, Alive (Dysarthria) of 2013 by Michael Duffy refers in its title to a speech impediment in which there is a particular difficulty with the pronunciation of phonemes. It dates from 2013 and seems to offer a meditation on pain framed by two gritty, uncomfortable outbursts, the opening followed by keening gestures that reminded me of the music of James MacMillan. The power of non-vibrato and scraped sounds is remarkable when heard in sustained form such as this. A very visceral piece, it is really quite disturbing.
Getting a whole booklet to itself on account of the reprinting of a poem, Joshua Musikantow’s Autochrome Lumière (I–III, 2016) is inspired by the technique of the work’s title. Patented in 1903, this type of photography utilized an additive color mosaic screen plate process with grains of potato starch as filler, resulting in a dappled texture (more like a painting, then, than a photograph). Using microtonal shadings, Musikantow creates a sound image that is “blurry, but familiar” in his own words. The poem that accompanies the performance might well be by the composer himself, but it is not explicitly credited as such (his name instead appears below the work title, shunted to the side in different font size and emphasis). The piece is remarkable, with the work’s second panel particularly appealing on a purely sonic (and rhythmic) level, with one violin setting up a semi-percussive pulse against which the other can fly.
The disc takes its title from Sam Krahn’s 2013 piece Resistance/Resonance, which seems logically placed in the sequence, as it extends the “semi-percussive” effects to those of grating noise, against which Krahn pits moments of real beauty. There is another parallel with Musikantow’s piece in the use of microtones, here creating the utmost sense of unease, against which a lyrical streak seems to struggle to emerge. The two violinists seem to relish those contrasts, particularly the opportunities to let their instruments sing.
In the three parts of Difficult Ferms (2014) by Adam Zahller, the composer enriches the pitch field with four “arrowed” accidentals that indicate various forms of indeterminate pitches. The demands are huge: double trills, and tremolos whose speed needs constantly to be varied. The piece is intended to offer an “openness to the spirit of the moment,” in the words of the composer (in the published score). Precision should meet playfulness, and it certainly does in this account. Again, poetry is printed in this work’s individual booklet: One poem is called “Martin,” the other “Cecilia.”
The 2016 piece cistern. anechoic. sonalucent by Tiffany M. Skidmore reflects on the empty space of an anechoic chamber (I stood in one once, in IRCAM in Paris, and it offers a very different experience, in which the sound seems to stop when you speak before it even leaves your throat). In contrast, a cistern offers vast reverberation. The description in the online notes I found to this piece describes the anechoic experience perfectly, translated into music: “Once attempts to introduce musical material into the sonic space are abandoned, only the sounds of breathing, bodily fluids circulating, and blood pounding in the ears remain.” Skidmore’s piece unfolds slowly, a kaleidoscope of jagged pieces in bright but not comforting colors.
Finally, there comes a piece that one locates via QR code on YouTube—it is not on the disc (the QR code turns up in one of the booklets). Although uploaded five months ago, I appear to be the one person to have “liked” Joey Crane’s Scarlet Membrane, wherein the two violinists appear dressed in black against a black background. Breathing sounds, tappings, and strokings use the violin as a percussion instrument. As activity increases, plucked notes make an occasional appearance. It’s good to have some atmospheric visuals, too.
This is a stimulating program performed at the highest level of excellence, and sensitively recorded.
— Colin Clarke, 7.17.2021
Duo Gelland gets to work over 6 pieces from the collective that were written for two violins. Don’t come here looking for a typical chamber recital. Some nice leading edge avant garde work is on tap and the vet duo knows how to get inside the music and make the most of their two voices as they assail against and into the future. A fine passel of ars gratia artis, it’s so left leaning that dopers could almost adopt this as some new head music now that tea is getting more and more legal.
— Chris Spector, 4.03.2021