Unique ensemble loadbang (baritone Jeff Gavett, trumpeter Andy Kozar, trombonist Will Lang, clarinetist Carlos Cordeiro) releases their second full length recording on New Focus, continuing to chronicle their commissions. "old fires catch old buildings" features new works by Scott Wollschleger, Paula Matthusen, Angélica Negrón, Reiko Fueting, Taylor Brook, and loadbang members William Lang and Jeff Gavett.
|01||Ouaricon Songs: Volume 2|
Ouaricon Songs: Volume 2
Sciarrino SongsWilliam Lang
|07||mo(nu)ment for C|
mo(nu)ment for C
|08||Musicorum et Cantorum|
Musicorum et Cantorum
What is the WordScott Wollschleger (b.1980)/text by Samuel Beckett
|12||old fires catch old buildings|
old fires catch old buildings
The intrepid quartet loadbang exists between the margins defined by their unorthodox instrumentation and the unnameable music that lies at that intersection (baritone voice, bass clarinet, trombone, trumpet). If this release, loadbang’s third overall, and second on New Focus, can be summed up in no other way, it is certainly a testament to the fact that composers approach this ensemble with a sense of freedom and otherworldly creativity they might not find in themselves with more conventional instrumentations. The deftness with which the ensemble fields these diverse scores and renders them expressive is further testament to their virtuosity, musicianship, and committment. Taylor Brook’s Ouaricon Songs: Volume 2 opens the recording, oscillating between moments of austere beauty evoking Hindustani music (Brook studied Indian classical music performance in Kolkata, and the practice finds its way into his music, particularly in his use of microtones) and sarcastic moments of levity, short fanfare bursts of material that sound like they found themselves lost in the wrong piece. The effect is a clash of musical identities — a schizophrenic dialogue that is held uneasily at bay for much of the work and seems to boil over in the last few minutes. Trombonist and composer Will Lang contributes a new work to this collection, his Sciarrino Songs, an ethereal and ephemeral four movement piece that centers around repeated, intoned pitches surrounded by gentle trills and wind sounds. Angélica Negrón’s dóabin is inspired by a story of two San Diego identical twins in the 1970s who invented their own language to communicate in the absence of learning a language from their caretakers. Hocketing lines in the winds and electronic pads frame the invented syllables in the baritone, and children’s voices in the electronics, occasionally colored in quasi-unison by the instruments, animate the twins’ world with joy and fantasy despite their linguistic isolation from others. Reiko Füting’s mo(nu)ment for C opens with meticulously choregraphed phrases of breaths and vocal syllables, and pitched material enters gradually as notes breathing into the texture. As the soundworld evolves, groups of repeated notes crescendo, ascending lines are passed through the ensemble, and the baritone voice floats above, in between, and around the ensemble. The foundation of pulsing breath sounds is never far away in this tightly wrought piece that develops its argument through repetition with variation, motivic development, and timbral accumulation. The impetus for Jeff Gavett’s Musicorum et Cantorum is drawn from writings by medieval music theorist Guido d’Arezzo that posits fundamental distinctions between instrumentalistis and singers — Gavett sets out in this piece to render those distinctions irrelevant in various ways. Scott Wollschleger’s What is the Word is a setting of Samuel Beckett’s final poem, dedicated to a friend with aphasia, a disorder that disables an individual’s ability to formulate and comprehend language due to brain damage. In the opening movement, we hear a steady chromatic ascent in the voice, intensifying the poem’s stuttered utterances as they progress. In the second and third movements, Wollschleger manifests the affliction in the fragmentary presentation of both text and musical material, constructing glitchy, off-kilter machines in the ensemble that struggle to limp forward. The work finishes with a last gasp at being understood in the clarinet, rising chromatically in an echo of the opening movement before a final slap ends the piece, presumably in resignation to the power of this frustrating condition. Paula Matthusen’s title track closes the recording, a cathartic layering of live recordings of loadbang from different points in the group's history, suspended together in the listener’s present moment of experience.
– D. Lippel
New York City-based new music chamber group loadbang is building a new kind of music for mixed ensemble of trumpet, trombone, bass clarinet, and baritone voice. Since their founding in 2008, they have been praised as ‘cultivated’ by The New Yorker, ‘an extra-cool new music group’ and ‘exhilarating’ by the Baltimore Sun, ‘inventive’ by the New York Times and called a 'formidable new-music force' by TimeOutNY. Their unique lung-powered instrumentation has provoked diverse responses from composers, resulting in a repertoire comprising an inclusive picture of composition today. In New York City, they have been recently presented by and performed at Miller Theater, Symphony Space, MATA and the Avant Music Festival; on American tours at Da Camera of Houston, Rothko Chapel, and the Festival of New American Music at Sacramento State University; and internationally at Ostrava Days (Czech Republic), China-ASEAN Music Week (China) and Shanghai Symphony Hall (China).
loadbang has premiered more than 250 works, written by members of the ensemble, emerging artists, and today's leading composers. Their repertoire includes works by Pulitzer Prize winners David Lang and Charles Wuorinen; Rome Prize winners Andy Akiho and Paula Matthusen; and Guggenheim Fellow Alex Mincek. Not content to dwell solely in the realm of notated music, loadbang is known for its searing and unpredictable improvisations, exploring the edges of instrumental and vocal timbre and technique, and blurring the line between composed and extemporaneous music. To this end, they have embarked on a project to record improvisations and improvised works written by members of the ensemble. These recordings are designed, fabricated, and released in hand-made limited editions. loadbang can also be heard on a 2012 release of the music by John Cage on Avant Media Records, a 2013 release of the music of loadbang member Andy Kozar titled 'On the end...' on ANALOG Arts Records which was called ‘virtuosic’ by The New Yorker, a 2014 release on ANALOG Arts Records titled Monodramas, a 2015 release on New Focus Recordings titled LUNGPOWERED which was called ‘new, confident, and weird’ by I Care If You Listen and 'an album of quietly complex emotions' by The New Yorker, and a 2017 Bridge Records release titled Charles Wuorinen, Vol. 3, featuring the music of Charles Wuorinen.
loadbang is dedicated to education and cultivation of an enthusiasm for new music. They have worked with students ranging from elementary schoolers in the New York Philharmonic's Very Young Composers program and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids Program to college aged student composers at institutions including Columbia University, Cornell University, Manhattan School of Music, New York University, Peabody Conservatory, Princeton University, University of Buffalo, and Yale University. They are in residence at the Charlotte New Music Festival, the Longy School of Music's summer program Divergent Studio, and all four members are on the instrumental and chamber music faculty of the Longy School of Music of Bard College in Boston.http://www.loadbang.com
Taylor Brook has studied composition with Brian Cherney in Montreal, Luc Brewaeys in Brussels, and George Lewis, and Georg Haas in New York. Brook has also studied Hindustani musical performance in Kolkata, India, with Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya. His music is often concerned with finely-tuned microtonal sonorities and toying with multifarious musical references and styles.
Brook writes concert music, music for video, and music for theater and dance. His work has been performed around the world and has been described as “gripping” and “engrossing” by the New York Times. Brook has won numerous awards and prizes for his compositions, including the MIVOS/Kantor prize, the Lee Ettelson award, and several SOCAN young composers awards including the grand prize in 2016. Brook has been a finalist in the Gaudeamus prize and was awarded honorable mention for the Jules Leger prize two years in a row. His music has been performed by ensembles and soloists such as the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Quatour Bozzini, JACK Quartet, MIVOS quartet, Talea Ensemble, Ascolta Ensemble, and many others.
Brook's current projects include a new piece for New Thread Saxophone Quartet and a new string quartet for the JACK quartet. Brook holds a master’s degree in music composition from McGill University. He currently resides in New York City, where he is completing a doctorate in music composition at Columbia University and working as a freelance composer.
Reiko Füting was born in 1970 in Königs Wusterhausen in the German Democratic Republic. He studied composition and piano at the Dresden Conservatory (Germany), Rice University, Manhattan School of Music, and Seoul National University (South Korea). Some of his most influential teachers have been Jörg Herchet and Nils Vigeland (composition), and Winfried Apel (piano). In addition to being a composer, he is an avid performer who has appeared in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Since 2000, Füting has been teaching composition and theory at Manhattan School of Music, where he serves as the chair of theory department. He has also taught vocal accompanying at the Conservatory of Music and Theater in Rostock, Germany, and appeared as guest faculty and lecturer at universities and conservatories around the world.http://www.reikofueting.de
Scott Wollschleger’s music has been highly praised for its arresting timbres and conceptual originality. Wollschleger (b. 1980) “has become a formidable, individual presence” (The Rest Is Noise, Alex Ross) in the contemporary musical landscape. His distinct musical language explores themes of art in dystopia, the conceptualization of silence, synesthesia, and creative repetition in form and has been described as “apocalyptic,” “distinctive and magnetic,” possessing a “hushed, cryptic beauty,” (The New Yorker, Alex Ross) and as “evocative” and “kaleidoscopic” (The New York Times).
His concert works have been performed across the US and the world, including the Turner Contemporary in Margate, England, the NOW! Festival in Graz Austria, MATA Festival Interval Series, Bowerbird in Philadelphia, and the Bang on a Can Festival at MASS MoCa. Mr. Wollschleger has received support from a variety of organizations including, The New York Foundation for the Arts, New Music USA, BMI and the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust for New Music. Mr. Wollschleger was a Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of Red Light New Music, a 501c(3) non-profit organization dedicated to presenting and crafting contemporary music.
His debut album, Soft Aberration, was released on New Focus Recordings in 2017 and was named a “Notable Recording of 2017” in The New Yorker. His second album, American Dream, written for the trio, Bearthoven, was released on Cantaloupe Music in 2019. This album, Dark Days, was released by New Focus Recordings in 2021.
Wollschleger’s work is published by Project Schott New York.
Paula Matthusen is a composer who writes both electroacoustic and acoustic music and realizes sound installations. She has written for diverse instrumentations, such as “run-on sentence of the pavement” for piano, ping-pong balls, and electronics, which Alex Ross of The New Yorker noted as being “entrancing”. Her work often considers discrepancies in musical space—real, imagined, and remembered. Awards include the Walter Hinrichsen Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Fulbright Grant, two ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers’ Awards, and the 2014 - 2015 Elliott Carter Rome Prize. Matthusen is currently Associate Professor of Music at Wesleyan University of the Music Department.
“Old Fires Catch Old Buildings” was released by “New Focus Recordings” on May. Album was recorded by “Loadbang” ensemble, which members are Jeff Gavett (baritone), Andy Kozar (trumpet), Will Lang (trombone) and Carlos Cordeiro (clarinet). The ensemble is famous for interesting and innovative performances of contemporary academical music, written by new music composers. Their compositions always are filled with bright, evocative and inventive musical decisions, colorful instrumentation, musical experiments, unusual sounds and special effects. Musicians like to experiment in all ways of musical language = they not hesitate to make an extravagant or strange combinations of iinstruments, styles or fuse together absolutely different musical language elements. Their music is based on contemporary academical music, academic avant-garde and experimental music. These basic styles also are mixed together with mild intonations of various music styles – the elements of traditional and modern jazz, free improvisation, electronic music, dance music, citations of famous classical music composers, ethnic music elements of various countries – that’s just a little part of all the elements, which are used in their music. It has dynamic, modern, expressive and interesting sound.
“Old Fires Catch Old Buildings” is formed by 7 compositions, written by different contemporary music composers – it’s Scott Wollschleger, Paula Matthusen, Angélica Negrón, Reiko Fueting, Taylor Brook, William Lang and Jeff Gavett. Each composition has its own and original style, sound and playing manner. The ensemble creates interesting and modern interpretations, which are totally based on contemporary academical music and academic avant-garde. Colorful instrumentation, expressive and sharp sound, dissonance and aggressive harmony, dynamic rhythmic and eclectic stylistic combinations make a bright, frsh, evocative and modern sound of whole compositions. The music written for vocal and 3 reeds – trombone, clarinet and trumper. This interesting combination of instruments open for musicians a new field for sound experiments, inventive musical decisions and wide range of unusual timbres. The compositions are based on synthesis of various academic music styles – expressionism, post-expressionism, modernism and post-modernism, minimalism, aleathory, dodecaphony, puantilism, serialism and the mild intonations of concrete and spectral music are combined here. These elements highly differ from each other – despite of strong differences, all the elements are mixed together and form a colorful and expressive musical pattern. The polyphony is another one important element of this album – colorful and glamorous solos of brasses are based on individual playing manners and styles. The musicians are experimenting in various fields of musical language – that’s especially heard in instrumentation section. Traditional and experimenal ways of playing are masterfully and organically fused together. Special effects, own and innovative playing techniques are blended together with glissando, arpeggio, virtuosic and brilliant passages, marvelous and powerful blow outs and other instrumentation elements. That makes an effort to wide range of strange and unusual sounds and timbres and creates a colorful background. Voice melodies bring a specific and interesting sound to the compositions – Jeff Gavett certainly knows, how to use and create an interesting and effective sound. He tries out wide range of specific and extended voice playing techniques – masterful jumps from the highest to the deepest registres, hollows, glissandos, screams and other similar playing techniques are mixed with elements of scat, wav-wav, free improvisation and other intonations of various jazz styles. The vocalist demonstrates the wide abilities of his voice – he switches between different moods, expressions and styles. Trumpet solos are bright and loud. Vivacious, brilliant and moving solos are filled with wild fast and rapid passages, shrieky tunes, dynamic and expressive rhythmic, powerful and turbulent blow outs and spontaneous solos. Deep and static trombone highly contrasts with trumpet and its bright, clear and warm sound. Sometimes from the deep, dark and static bass line, trombone melodies turn out to be rigorous, aggressive, provocative and filled with innovative instrumentation decisions and strange timbres. Clarinet melodies are very moving, sensitive and expressive. It’s gently fit together with trumpet – vivacious and expressive melodies, passionate and emotional playing manner, extended playing techniques, brilliant and marvelous passages, powerful blow outs are the main elements of trumpet melodies. All four musicians are playing very expressively and creatively. Even though that their music is based on contemporary academical music, it has strong relation with various jazz styles and free imrpovisations. Free imrpovisation rests very important element for whole musical pattern – each musician has a place to experiment, search new sounds and timbres and make spontaneous musical decisions. This album has marvelous and innovative sound.
— Avant Scena, 6.18.2018
I’m not the first to note the aeolian bias of loadbang’s unique lineup. Three years on from their previous release in Lungpowered, commentators on old fires catch old buildings, released in May 2018 by New Focus Recordings, still mention the ensemble’s peculiar constellation of tone colors—comprising baritone Jeffrey Gavett, clarinetist Carlos Cordeiro, trumpeter Andy Kozar, and trombonist William Lang—in almost automatic fashion.
It’s easy to brand the group as another curio pulling itself up by its bootstraps in a contemporary music scene crowded with eccentric instrumentations the likes of which Berlioz and Rimsky-Korsakov could scarcely have imagined. At a closer look, though, their very existence reads like a history lesson in disguise: as major orchestras and chamber music organizations devote more time, money, and program space to the 19th through early 20th-century repertoire and its later imitations, new music diehards assemble in ever-more unorthodox, portable combinations. That’s nothing new, and it’s to the credit of the composers on old fires catch old buildings that the music isn’t limited to Orchestration 101 timbre studies.
“Lung power” remains relevant here nonetheless, in that almost every featured work has in some way to do with voice—both literal (as in the frequent focus on Gavett’s piquant high register—an unforgettable, instantly recognizable sound) and metaphorical. In a range of works full of speech and whispers, matters of expression—especially strained, frustrated, or impossible expression—are conflated with those of projection.
Questions of deconstructed verbal and musical language are already foregrounded in Taylor Brook’s Ouaricon Songs: Volume 2, in which a precarious, microtonal sinew of almost-folk-melody winds through imaginary territories of a speculative North American continent. There is a palpable sense of giddy and fearful possibility, of groping in the dark, which is momentarily cheapened on several occasions by recourse to too-literal evocations of old popular tunes—but the work’s underlying expressive impulse, both celebration and memento mori for the flotsam of North American culture, remains undiluted.
Two barely-whispered pieces by Reiko Füting and William Lang follow, offset by more extroverted offerings of Gavett and Angélica Negrón. Füting’s mo(nu)ment for C, written as a memorial for victims of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting, opens with hushed, shuddering pulsations of breath and fricatives, at first intermittently colored by single pitches and gradually developing into a tangle of pitched oscillations. Text (“Je suis”–“I am”–“Ich bin”) is never more than faintly discernible, and the “mechanical” influence of Ligeti never seems far off: the theatrical clockwork of wiped-over syllables evokes a fretful, sometimes rancorous Ligetian spirit as much as the pensive solidarity implicit in the work’s text.
Hushed repetitions and stylistic reminiscences also feature prominently in Lang’s Sciarrino Songs, whose four brief episodes, ranging in length from 24 seconds to a minute and a half, are replete with the delicate pianissimo shadings and hieratic utterances characteristic of their namesake. Lang’s division of the Songs into separate movements seems gratuitous at first, but the demarcated stillness of his approach gradually gives a ceremonial feeling, as though each movement were a glimpse into some longer, inscrutable litany of severely-circumscribed chants.
In terms of instrumental approach, the contributions of Angélica Negrón and Jeffrey Gavett—doabín and Musicorum et Cantorum, respectively—seem like natural program companions to those of Füting and Brook. Like Füting, Negrón constructs a vertiginous hocket of breath and language, in this case overlaid on cryptic recordings of children’s speech. The work is inspired by a true case of “twin talk” documented in the 1970s, and though its sunny groove provides expressive contrast in a program of comparatively serious music, its simple, pop-inflected excavation of a backstory filled with exploitative and isolating details leaves a nagging sense of disconnect. Gavett fares better—in Musicorum et Cantorum he succinctly explores the relationship between singing and playing in vivid, rough-edged timbral composites that sometimes recall the heterophonic undulations of Ouaricon Songs.
Paula Matthusen and Scott Wollschleger provide the album’s closing works. Matthusen’s old fires catch old buildings begins unassumingly, with sustained chords and bluesy melodic fragments drifting in a soundscape of live and prerecorded performances. Approximately midway through, there is a disarming moment of focus as Gavett sings in falsetto over distorted doubling, the parts’ strict unison fraying slightly over approximately a minute’s duration. In context the effect is striking, Narcissus-like, and this spare centerpiece proves to be the work’s most compelling passage.
Wollschleger’s What is the Word takes as its basis the final text of Samuel Beckett, and though the Irish playwright’s oeuvre is more complex than a simple text-setting can hope to accommodate, Wollschleger’s approach is not quite this: part recitation, part instrumental abstraction, the composer harnesses a deliberately-limited catalogue of sonic materials to convey an altogether personal response to the Beckett source in a triptych of quietly obsessed miniatures.
Though they arrived on the scene without a repertoire to speak of, loadbang’s decade-long output now speaks for itself in quality and depth of involvement. The program collected here is fastidiously performed and curated, and the recorded sound engineered by Ryan Streber is close but not overly precious. The featured composers—far from treating the quartet as a novelty—each demonstrate careful attention both to the group’s diverse timbral and technical resources and to the exigencies of their own creative vision. With a substantial roster of collaborations and three full-length albums now behind them, loadbang has reached a happy milestone in old fires catch old buildings—may we hear them in many more.