Lee Weisert: Wild Arc

, composer


Composer Lee Weisert, faculty member at University of Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, writes acoustic and electro-acoustic music that seeks to find, through experimentation, tinkering, and unconventional approaches, a ritualistic and expressively deep world of sound.


Composer Lee Weisert, faculty member at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, writes acoustic and electro-acoustic music that seeks to find, through experimentation, tinkering, and unconventional approaches, a ritualistic and expressively deep world of sound. From Triangle Umbrella Octopus, a collage of sounds made from rewired children’s toys, to Hohle Fels, recorded with Weisert playing only key click sounds on flutes and clarinets, his music manages to both excavate fresh timbral territory while still retaining a sense of narrative and architecture, something often lost when composers dig deep to unearth new textures. Pianist Clara Yang’s poignant performance on the Messiaen-esque Erard stands out on this disc as a monologue amidst the otherwise electronics dominated program, but also reveals another rich side of Weisert’s writing, and one that provides context for the lush verticalities we hear in the electro-acoustic work Shirt of Noise. Also notable is saxophonist Matthew McClure’s performance on the dystopic track, Any thing that is Strang, intentionally mixed as if the performer found himself underwater or behind a thick curtain. Each work on this engaging recording comes from a finely considered starting point, making these pieces not just fascinating end products, but also documentations of a composer interested in rigging up unlikely processes as the genesis for new work.

Lee Weisert

Lee Weisert is a composer of instrumental and electronic music and an associate professor in the Music Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he teaches courses in composition, electronic music, and musicianship. He has degrees in music composition from the University of Colorado, California Institute of the Arts, and Northwestern University. His primary composition instructors were James Tenney, Michael Pisaro, Jay Alan Yim, and Chris Mercer.

Weisert’s recent music has incorporated increasingly disparate elements such as orchestral instruments, found sounds, field recordings, digital synthesis, and analog circuitry, in an attempt to find, “through experimentation, tinkering, and unconventional approaches, a ritualistic and deeply expressive world of sound” (Dan Lippel, New Focus Recordings). His instrumental music has been commissioned and performed by nationally recognized performers and ensembles including Stephen Drury, the Callithumpian Consort, ICE, JACK Quartet, Spektral Quartet, Wild Rumpus, Yarn/Wire, Matthew McClure, Clara Yang, and Joann Cho.

His electronic music has been presented at numerous national concerts and festivals, including ICMC, SEAMUS, and NIME. Along with composer Jonathon Kirk, he is a member of the Portable Acoustic Modification Laboratory (PAML), a collaborative sound installation team. PAML’s most recent project, Granular Wall, uses robotics and motion analysis technology to translate the fluid motions of thousands of floating microspheres into a musical composition. Lee and Jonathon presented their work at the 2014 TEDx Conference at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Weisert’s compositions and sound installations have received grant funding from New Music USA, the North Carolina Arts Council, the Illinois Arts Council, the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts, and the UNC Performing Arts Special Activities Fund. His music is published by New Focus Recordings. Wild Arc, his debut CD of original compositions, was released in 2014, and has been praised by critics as “dazzling” and “mind-melting.” Wild Arc is available for purchase online from Amazon, iTunes, and the New Focus Recordings label site.




Chicago Reader

This dazzling survey of the music of Lee Weisert benefits from his involvement—the composer, who lives and teaches in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, plays on all but one of the eight pieces, switching among guitar, winds, and electronics. "Érard," a solo piano meditation deftly performed by Clara Yang, is delicate and deliberately mechanical; the rest of this rigorous collection explores the possibilities of electronics, either on their own or with conventional instruments. "Hohle Fels" is a mind-melting collage of the tiny sounds that the keys and holes on flutes and clarinets make when pressed or closed—accidental noises created in the process of playing intentional notes. "Entropic Death" is an electronic "process piece" in which two pure 400 Hz sine waves drift gradually and randomly up and down in pitch until one of them reaches 50 Hz above or below where it started; at that point both tones split, creating two at 350 Hz and two at 450; this continues, creating all sorts of bizarre momentary chords and intervals, until 14 simultaneous sine waves express a range of frequencies from 50 to 750 Hz. Part of the beauty of this piece—which it shares with most of the music on Wild Arc—is that you don't need to understand the methodology in order to enjoy it.

—Peter Margasak

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