loadbang: Plays Well With Others

About

loadbang’s third release on New Focus, “Plays well with others,” is a celebration of a community of artists with a shared sensibility. The voice and winds quartet is joined here by string players in works by Taylor Brook, Reiko Füting, Paula Matthusen, Heather Stebbins, Scott Wollschleger, and Eve Beglarian.

Audio

# Audio Title/Composer(s) Time
Total Time 66:49
01Tarantism
Tarantism
9:36
02Riven
Riven
11:06
03You See Where This is Going
You See Where This is Going
7:54
04Mo(nu)ment for C/Palimpsest
Mo(nu)ment for C/Palimpsest
13:19
05CVS
CVS
17:12
06Such is Now the Necessity
Such is Now the Necessity
7:42

On their third release with New Focus, loadbang (Jeff Gavett, baritone; Andrew Kozar, trumpet; William Lang, trombone; Adrian Sandi, clarinet) reaches beyond their idiosyncratic quartet instrumentation to collaborate with a string ensemble. loadbang has cultivated a kind of symbiotic instrumental organism, with the three winds breathing and uttering with Gavett’s oratorical baritone. The approaches to the extended ensemble on this recording that composers Taylor Brook, Reiko Füting, Paula Matthusen, Heather Stebbins, Scott Wollschleger, and Eve Beglarian take are varied and fascinating, keeping the four headed creature that is the core of loadbang at the center while using the strings to provide a sonic environment, commentary, and an expanded sound palette.

Plays Well With Others opens with Taylor Brook’s Tarantism in which he sets 16th and 17th century Italian texts on curing the ills resulting from a tarantula bite (this practice was the origin of the tarantella). Brook establishes loadbang as the musician/doctor, with Gavett providing a mix of dramatic narrative context, specific procedural instructions for treatment, and incantations. Meanwhile the strings are assigned the role of the afflicted party. We hear waves of pain and disorientation in dense dissonant string harmonies, the frenzy of ritualistic dancing in cathartic tutti gestures, and the weariness of post-treatment in undulating, creaking harmonics in the work’s final passage.

On Riven, Heather Stebbins weaves together discarded material from past projects, creating something new and cohesive. Stebbins integrates electronics into the wide ranging timbral texture in such a way that the boundary between man-made and computer generated is blurry. The work opens with a series of punctuated exhalations from which a captivating series of sounds from the core quartet spills out before being reinforced by the strings. If Brook established a dichotomy between the four voices in loadbang and the strings to serve a narrative purpose, Stebbins strives to expand the hybrid instrument to include the new sounds within one dynamic organism. Riven journeys through fragile, fricative sounds, poignant sighs in the strings, and tightly woven electro-acoustic mechanisms.

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In her You See Where This is Going, Eve Beglarian sets a text by Brendan Constantine that investigates the dissonance between the names of things and their essence. Percolating pizzicati in the strings set up chordal sonorities in the winds to close the brief phrases, while Gavett sings melismatic lines. As the piece evolves, those roles reverse, with more sustained harmonies in the strings and the loadbang winds rearticulating the final notes of their gestures as if they are stuttering. The work closes with a more elegiac passage, as the ensemble supports Gavett’s mysterious delivery of Constantine’s final lines: “you imagine hiding when the world finds out you’re not who you’ve said.”

Reiko Füting’s music integrates quotation, evocative non-pitched sounds, and visceral gestures into a texture that develops material through repetition with variation. The title of mo(nu)ment for C/palimpsest refers to sculptures by American artist Dan Flavin, while the whispered texts consist of three fragments: “Je suis,” “Ich bin,” and “I am.” The piece was written in reaction to the attack on the Charlie Hebdo publication in 2015. A gradually accumulating introductory texture grows from rhythmic whispers into multi-timbral mechanisms, as Füting uses the strings to provide coloristic harmonic support and imitative gestural material. The subtle evolution of each gesture through repeated cells creates a meditative atmosphere, a chance to contemplate the many angles of “I am.”

Scott Wollschleger’s CVS is also a meditation, this time on the way in which the commercial forum for disseminating information can flatten divergent meaning. Concepts like “CVS,” “There’s been a terrorist attack,” and “Cool graphics,” can consequently occupy the same space in our minds. Gavett intones “CVS” as a kind of mantra, albeit a palliative one, turning the three letters around and mining them for multiple shades of tone by manipulating the emphasis and vocal inflection. While the words “CVS” and “There’s been a terrorist attack” seem to occupy a similar disembodied expressive space, it is the phrase “Cool graphics” that receives the grandeur of majestic octaves in the ensemble.

The final work on the album, Paula Matthusen’s Such is Now the Necessity, takes full advantage of the expanded sonorous potential of the loadbang plus strings format. Layered, overlapping lines create expansive harmonies evocative of Renaissance polyphony heard in a church whose long reverb tail creates unexpected verticalities. Midway through the work, the wind articulations shorten into passages of enlivened repeated notes and the strings play flowing passagework, creating a heroic antiphonal dialogue that surrounds Gavett’s soaring vocal line.

– Dan Lippel

Ryan Streber, recording engineer and producer

Alex Eckman-Lawn, album art and design

All works recorded at Oktaven Audio in Mt. Vernon, NY on February 28, 2020 and October 28-30, 2021

loadbang

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

Eduardo Leandro

Eduardo Leandro teaches percussion at Stony Brook University in new York, where he is also the artistic director of its new music ensemble, the Contemporary Chamber Players. He taught at the Haute École de Musique de Genève and directed the percussion program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst between 1999 and 2007. He has conducted some of the most important pieces of the twentieth century, including Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and Chamber Symphony, Ligeti’s Piano and Chamber Concertos, Messiaen’s Exotic Birds, Xenakis’ Palimpsest, Boulez’s Derives I, and several premieres for mixed ensemble.

As a percussionist Eduardo Leandro has performed with ensembles such as the Steve Reich Ensemble, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Bang-on-a-Can All Starts. He is part of the Percussion Duo Contexto, which was an ensemble in residence at the Centre Internacional de Percussion in Geneva for ten years. He played regularly with Ensemble Champ d'Action in Belgium, with Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, and with Ensemble Contrechamps in Switzerland, under the direction of Pierre Boulez, Heinz Holliger, and David Robertson among others.

Eduardo Leandro was born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. He attended the Sao Paulo State University, the Rotterdam Conservatory in the Netherlands, and Yale University, having studied percussion with John Boudler, Jan Pustjens, and Robert van Sice.


Reviews

5

Vital Weekly

This is Loadbang's third release on NFR. They are a Quartet of baritone, trumpet, trombone, and clarinet. No, there is no omission in this list, it's just 'baritone' - as in 'baritone vocals'. Now, seeing this is more than a bit unusual, so is their music. I can think of few examples,
where spoken word or classical singing are mixed with instrumentals. A dissonant John Adams comes to mind, or a more melodic Jean-Louis Costes. So we get the whole bandwidth of vocal contributions, from declamation (of Costes-like texts), to classical singing to scat-like phrases, to just using your voice for something. This is a highly interesting feature of the music, although the texts somewhat get in the way of enjoying the music - you do notice they are from New York and gory stories seem to suit them well. What is more unusual - and highly effective - is the use of a string ensemble as 'backing orchestra'. Instead of the new music 'dropping of a sound here and there', with an unnerving interest in 'micro sounds', here comes the New Symphonic, bundling up Loadbang's brass with a glorious string backing. Although flowing in and out (for one, to allow the speaker to be heard, but secondly to build and re-build tension), there is a distinct orchestral note to this music that I very
much like and miss with many of the contemporary composers. Pieces composed by Taylor Brook, Reiko Füting, Paula Matthusen, Heather Stebbins, Scott Wollschleger, and Eve Beglarian are offered here. Stebbins' piece is closest to the 'sound dripping' (pun intended), the Brook and Matthausen pieces start and conclude the CD with the orchestral feel, whereas the other tracks cover the mid-ground, with Füting being the one that brings memories of Jaap Blonk, the vocals (and instruments) used to explore the hiss of breath, and Wollschleger combining this with scat and narration. If you do not find narration a distraction to music listening, this will certainly deliver an expansion of conventional listening to you.

— RSW, 9.14.2021

5

InfoDad

If the sound of Mellits’ works tends to the monochromatic, that of the works played by loadbang (no capital letter – a typical affectation in the avant-garde) is intended to go to the opposite extreme. The quartet includes baritone, trumpet, trombone and clarinet – certainly a very unusual sound combination. And on a recent New Focus Recordings release, these four sounds are joined by those of strings (a chamber ensemble including six violins, three violas, two cellos and double bass) to extend the aural palette. The six works here, by six different composers, are very different in many ways – but the underlying similarity among them is that their preoccupation with using the specific sound combinations made available by loadbang results in music that draws more attention to how it sounds than to what it says. Taylor Brook’s Tarantism actually does this effectively, offering narration consisting of English versions of 16th- and 17th-century Italian texts about tarantula bites and their treatment. The dissonance of the sound picture mixes with rhythmic dancing – tarantula reactions are the source of the tarantella – as the story moves toward eventual exhaustion. Heather Stebbins’ Riven adds electronics to the mixture of loadbang and strings to create a sound world that is dense, often to the point of impenetrability, but not particularly revelatory of anything. Eve Beglarian’s You See Where This Is Going should beware of its title, because anyone who has sampled contemporary music will indeed see where this mixture of vocal gymnastics and largely arbitrary instrumental interjections is going: toward a kind of portentousness that does not lead up to anything particularly significant or moving. The most-peculiar title of a work here – another avant-garde affectation – is that of Reiko Füting’s mo(nu)ment for C/Palimpsest (ah, yes, no capital letter at the start of the complexly punctuated title). Whispered verbal fragments and standard outbursts from both voice and instruments (individual and grouped) create a soundscape of no particular direction or import – and the work continues in this vein for 13 minutes. It is, however, not as long as Scott Wollschleger’s 17-minute CVS, which uses intonation of the drugstore chain’s name and other, very different phrases to create an extended soundscape in which everything said, everything played, seems at the same level as everything else – which appears to be the point. The point of Paula Matthusen’s Such Is Now the Necessity seems to be to contrast long sonic lines with short ones and staccato material with legato, overlaying everything on everything else to create sound that accumulates rather than actually building into anything structural. Only Brook’s Tarantism, driven as it is by audible narrative, goes beyond the purely aural effects to which loadbang is clearly devoted to produce a work that seems to have something to say beyond “listen!” Of course, the point of music is to listen, but the reason for listening matters: if the only purpose of doing so is to hear sonic combinations, then music, however carefully constructed, offers nothing worth hearing again – after the novelty of the sound exploration has worn off.

— Mark Estren, 9.23.2021

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