Osnat Netzer: Dot : Line : Sigh

, composer


Composer Osnat Netzer releases her debut recording, featuring performances by Ensemble Dal Niente in full ensemble and chamber settings, saxophonist Geoffrey Landman, Mivos Quartet, flutist Eric Lamb, violist Michael Hall, pianist Marianne Parker, and the ~Nois saxophone quartet. Netzer's music engages with various abstract concepts, including cognitive linguistics and the experience of physicality.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Performer(s) Time
Total Time 54:41
01They bury their dead with great ululations
They bury their dead with great ululations
Ensemble Dal Niente9:12
Geoffrey Landman, alto saxophone, Osnat Netzer, piano6:46
03I won't be outrun by a cavalry of snails
I won't be outrun by a cavalry of snails
Ensemble Dal Niente11:22
04Schertch (scherzo sketch)
Schertch (scherzo sketch)
Mivos Quartet, Eric Lamb, alto flute4:24
Michael Hall, viola, Marianne Parker, piano9:21
07away dream all away
away dream all away
Amanda DeBoer Bartlett, soprano, Constance Volk, flute, Doyle Armbrust, viola4:28

In the opening paragraph of her eloquent liner notes for Dot : Line : Sigh, Osnat Netzer explains the genesis of this creative title. Since 2014, her work has been influenced by an interest in cognitive linguistics, and those explorations manifest in her work as ways of employing musical vocabulary. “Dot : Line” then is a gesture involving a punctuated sustain; “sigh” manifests as a stylized, contoured line. Throughout the works on Dot : Line : Sigh, we hear this elemental dichotomy despite divergent aesthetic undercurrents in the music.

The opening track, They bury their dead with great ululations, references a tradition of hiring women to wail at funerals, as a way of giving permission to the mourners to release their own grief. Originally written for Winsor Music and performed here by Ensemble Dal Niente, the piece opens with plaintive unisons that divide and stretch against one another, catalyzing fervent passagework that rotates around the central pitch. Scurrying activity builds in the strings underneath slowly bent notes in the winds before diminishing to a breathy texture with eerie pointillistic passages. Growing insistence in the accompaniment supports lyrical material in the winds before we hear the characteristic unison gesture from the opening return. Netzer makes an analogy between the hired wailers and artists – indeed, art’s function is to give license to experience on a deeper level.

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Pillars, for alto saxophone and piano, opens with a series of punctuated complex timbres – a version of the “dot : line” Netzer mentions in the notes. As we are drawn into this hybrid timbre, Netzer varies what happens within that sustained duration; the piano subdivides the duration with repeated notes or angular figures, the sung note in the saxophone glides up to a different pitch. The piece evolves through a kind of counterpoint of layered ideas; many of the fragments Netzer introduces early on are fleshed out and integrated with each other and built into a vigorous texture. During the second half of the piece, Netzer takes a playful approach to subverting the groove with accents that articulate odd groupings.

I won’t be outrun by a cavalry of snails for two sopranos and ensemble is theatrical in nature, living in a fantastical, feverish space of abstraction. The vocals are comprised of nonsense words and extended vocal techniques, and merge with the gestural, virtuosic quality of the instrumental playing. Doppler effect-esque passages enhance the work’s surreality, always living somewhere in between the real and unreal.

Schertch (scherzo sketch) is a short work for flute and string quartet, inhabiting a scherzo character and flaunting phrase expectations in Hayden-esque fashion. As in Pillars, Netzer’s affinity for rhythmic play takes a forward role, while angular lines are offset by sighing gestures. The piece contains the album’s most neoclassical music, and it is a treat to hear Netzer have fun toying with the historical template.

Balance is at the core of Contrapose, a work for viola and piano. Drawing inspiration from the Vijñāna school of yoga, Netzer embedded concepts of “rooting” and “connecting” into the work; the basis of this philosophy is that every impulse must be balanced out by its opposite. In Contrapose, this means the viola and piano are constantly equalizing the gestural, timbral, and motivic vocabulary of the piece.

Netzer writes that I AM FUCKING ZEN for saxophone quartet is “a process-based composition, wherein a short musical idea undergoes gradual transformations.” The pitch material moves seamlessly between triadic structures and microtonal inflections of the corresponding pitches, creating an intentional disorientation. Off-kilter rhythms percolate within a context of quick dynamic contrasts, creating a kind of linear counterpoint of associated material. Netzer ingeniously leads the quartet in and out of quasi-unison passages that break independently before linking up again. Later in the piece, the horns imitate each other’s contour, distorting it through augmentation, diminution, and pitch adjustment. Irregular unisons return to close out this unique and affecting piece.

The album closes with away dream all away for soprano, flute, and viola, a light hearted, neo-soul setting of a text by Samuel Beckett. The material is presented in modular fashion, interspersing fragments that each have their own character and profile. Jagged repetition with occasional variation plays a significant role in the piece, as familiar material is recontextualized and changes meaning as its surroundings shift. Amanda DeBoer Bartlett’s soprano alternates between taking a lyrical lead and functioning as a third instrument, punctuating the timbral texture of the flute and viola.

– Dan Lippel

They bury their dead with great ululations
Recorded July 14, 2023 at Gannon Hall, Holtschneider Performance Center, DePaul School of Music, Chicago, IL
Producer: Osnat Netzer
Engineer: Dan Nichols
Edited and mixed by Dan Nichols at Aphorism Audio

Recorded March 24, 2022 at Pickman Hall, Longy School of Music, Cambridge, MA
Recording producer, sound engineer, editing and mix: Zach Herchen

I won’t be outrun by a cavalry of snails
Recorded June 14, 2021 at Nichols Concert Hall, Music Institute of Chicago, Evanston, IL Producer: Benjamin Melsky
Technical Assistance: Igor Santos
Engineer: Dan Nichols
Edited and mixed by Dan Nichols at Aphorism Audio

Schertch (scherzo sketch)
Recorded February 1, 2023 at 4tune Audio Productions, Vienna, Austria
Producer: Osnat Netzer
Recording producer, sound engineer, editing and mix: Martin Klebhan

Recorded October 8, 2022 at Gannon Hall, Holtschneider Performance Center, DePaul School of Music, Chicago, IL
Producer: Osnat Netzer
Assistant Producer: Annegret Klaua
Engineer: Dan Nichols
Edited and mixed by Dan Nichols at Aphorism Audio


Recorded April 29, 2023 at Gannon Hall, Holtschneider Performance Center, DePaul School of Music, Chicago, IL
Producer: Osnat Netzer
Engineer: Dan Nichols
Edited and mixed by Dan Nichols at Aphorism Audio

away dream all away
Recorded March 31, 2023 at Gannon Hall, Holtschneider Performance Center, DePaul School of Music, Chicago, IL
Producer: Osnat Netzer
Co-producer and assistant engineer: Frank McKearn IV
Engineer: Dan Nichols
Edited and mixed by Dan Nichols at Aphorism Audio

Mastered by Fredrick Gifford

Cover artwork by Ayala Netzer (all rights reserved)
Headshot by Steven Sacks
Design, layout & typography by Marc Wolf, marcjwolf.com

Dot : Line : Sigh was funded in part by supoort from the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc., and DePaul University URC Grant. 

Osnat Netzer

Israel native Osnat Netzer is a composer, performer, and educator. Inspired by performers’ bodies, personalities, and their relationship to their instruments, Osnat creates her compositions collaboratively, tailoring her work to the performer’s sensibilities, physicality and improvisational inclinations.

Netzer’s works have been commissioned and performed by Del Sol Quartet, Ensemble Dal Niente, ~Nois, International Contemporary Ensemble, Patchwork, mezzo-soprano Lucy Dhegrae, bass David Salsbery Fry, saxophonists Kenneth Radnofsky, Doug O’Connor and Geoffrey Landman, Spektral Quartet, and Winsor Music, among many others. Her works are published by Edition Peters and earthsongs, and recorded on Bridge Records and New Focus Recordings.

Her opera, The Wondrous Woman Within, was described as “riotously funny” in The New York Times when its first scene was performed at New York City Opera’s VOX festival in 2012 and “challenging and fascinating” by critic Amir Kidron when it received its World Premiere in a sold out run at Tel Aviv’s Cameri Theatre in 2015.

As a pianist and performer, she regularly plays and conducts new music by fellow composers, as well as her own songs and compositions. Also a committed and passionate educator, Netzer teaches at The Walden School and has served on the faculties of New England Conservatory, Longy School of Music of Bard College and Harvard University, and as of 2023 is Associate Professor of Composition and Musicianship at DePaul University in Chicago, IL.


Ensemble Dal Niente

Ensemble Dal Niente performs new and experimental chamber music with dedication, virtuosity, and an exploratory spirit. Dal Niente’s roster of 23 musicians presents an uncommonly broad range of contemporary music, guiding listeners towards music that transforms existing ideas and subverts convention. Audiences coming to Dal Niente shows can expect distinctive productions—from fully staged operas to multimedia spectacles to intimate solo performances—that are curated to pique curiosity and connect art, culture, and people.

Now in its second decade, Ensemble Dal Niente has performed concerts across Europe and the Americas, including appearances at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC; The Foro Internacional de Música Nueva in Mexico City; MusicArte Festival in Panama City; The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Darmstadt Summer Courses in Germany, where it was the first-ever ensemble to win the Kranichstein prize for interpretation in 2012.

The group has recordings available on the New World, New Amsterdam, New Focus, Navona, Parlour Tapes+, and Carrier labels; has held residencies at The University of Chicago, Harvard University, Stanford University, Brown University, Brandeis University, and Northwestern University, among others; and collaborated with a wide range of composers, from Enno Poppe to George Lewis to Erin Gee to Greg Saunier and Deerhoof.

The ensemble's name, Dal Niente ("from nothing" in Italian), is a tribute to Helmut Lachenmann's Dal niente (Interieur III), a work that upended traditional conceptions of instrumental technique; and also a reference to the group’s humble beginnings.


Geoffrey Landman

Geoffrey Landman is a performer, teacher, and advocate of the saxophone and new music. He has performed across North America, Europe, Singapore, Thailand, and in New York City’s most well-known venues including Carnegie Hall, Miller Theatre at Columbia University, The United Nations, and Trinity Wall Street.

He performs with new music groups including Either/Or Ensemble, NovusNY, and Wavefield Ensemble, and has collaborated with many acclaimed artists, including vocal- ists Donatienne Michel-Dansac and Tony Arnold, JACK String Quartet, TILT Brass, Prism Saxophone Quartet, pianist/composer Osnat Netzer, and poet J.D. McClatchy. For 8 years Geoffrey was the soprano saxophonist with the New Thread Saxophone Quartet, a new-music saxophone quartet he co-founded in 2011.

Dr. Landman is the Associate Professor of the Practice in Saxophone at the University of Kansas, and previously served on the faculty of the Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge, MA. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, post-graduate work at the Hochschule für Musik Basel in Switzerland, and New England Conservatory where he was the first ever DMA in saxophone performance in the school’s history.

Mivos Quartet

The Mivos Quartet is dedicated to advancing and performing new music in all its variety to diverse audiences worldwide. The quartet commissions and premieres new repertoire for string quartet, working closely with composers over extended time periods, treating each new piece as a true collaboration. Mivos maintains an active international performance schedule, with regular appearances as ensemble-in-residence at festivals including June in Buffalo, Shanghai New Music Week, and VIPA (Spain). Mivos takes part in many educational residencies at universities and summer festivals, working with young performers and composers to develop their skills. The quartet also runs two composition prizes to help discover and promote emerging composers in the US and abroad. Beyond these activities, Mivos is committed to collaborating with guest artists, exploring multimedia projects involving live video and electronics, and performing improvised music.

Eric Lamb

Flutist Eric Lamb is in demand internationally as a concerto soloist, recording artist, recitalist, concert curator and chamber musician. Since leaving his post as a core mem- ber of the International Contemporary Ensemble, Eric performs regularly as guest with a long list of the world's most important orchestras and soloist ensembles including the Boulez Ensemble, Klangforum Wien, Ensemble Modern, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Geneva Camerata, Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, Omega Ensemble (Sydney), the Cleveland Orchestra, PHACE, Camerata Bern, the City of Birmingham Orchestra, ASKO Schoenberg Ensemble and the Radio Orchestra Frankfurt. He has been invited to perform at festivals in Melbourne, Darmstadt, Graz, Salzburg, Lockenhaus, Acht Brücken in Cologne, Mostly Mozart Festival, Heidelberg Spring Mu- sic Festival, and the Bucharest Festival for New Music, to name but a few. Presently, Eric Lamb teaches flute, improvisation and is Chair of woodwind, brass and percussion performance at the Fredrich Gulda School of Music in Vienna Austria.

Michael Hall

Michael Hall lives in Chicago and has performed and taught across Europe, Asia and the United States. Described by the New Music Connoisseur as “utterly masterful,” and Chamber Music Today as having “superb technique,” he recently made his Chicago Orchestra Hall solo debut performing the world premiere of Kim Diehnelt’s “Montegar,” and concluded a recital tour to Vienna, Austria and Udine and Tolmezzo, Italy. Hall has been a featured performer at the Thailand International Composition Festival in Bangkok, the Positano Chamber Music Festival in Italy, the Vianden International Chamber Music Festival in Luxembourg and the Composer’s Concordance Series in New York City. January 2018, Hall gave the world premiere of Stacy Garrop’s Viola Concerto - “Krakatoa,” with the Bandung Philharmonic in Indonesia.

Marianne Parker

Marianne Parker’s playing has been described as, “a cut above...her sympathetic fingers offering well-sculpted phrases and impassioned pealing” (Chicago Classical Review). Her work can be heard on four albums, Pages intimes (2019), Pyano Sa (2020), and Currents in Time (2020, PARMA/Navona Records), and Decho Ensemble (2023). Marianne is curator for the Anthology of 21st century works for solo piano through NewMusicShelf Publishing. An active chamber musician, Marianne’s first foray into new music was with L+M Duo, which she co-founded in 2016 with marimbist Laurel Black. Marianne is in demand locally, regionally, and nationally as collaborator and performer. Marianne has been a featured performer at the Bowling Green State University New Music Festival, James Madison University Contemporary Music Festival, Nief Norf Summer Festival, UIC Wind Ensemble, with whom she premiered Alan Theisen’s piano concerto AMP in 2023, and many others. She serves as President of New Music Chicago, an organization that serves the city’s vast ecosystem of new music creators.

Marianne has performed with many ensembles across the Midwest, including The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, Present Music, Access Contemporary Music, Fourth Coast Ensemble, Crossing Borders Music, and more. She served as the principal pianist for the Chicago Civic Orchestra from 2013-2015, during which time she worked with longtime Chicago Symphony, Pianist Mary Sauer and Chicago Symphony Creative Consultant, Yo-Yo Ma.


Founded in 2016, ~Nois (pronounced “noise”) has become one of the premier ensembles in the United States by combining contemporary chamber music and improvisation to connect with audiences in unique concert experiences. Heralded as “fiendishly good” (Chicago Tribune) and known for their “supremely sensitive balance and control” (Chicago Classical Review), ~Nois has been awarded top prizes at prestigious chamber music competitions including the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competi- tion and the M-Prize International Arts Competition.

Since their founding, ~Nois has presented over 120 performances in 24 states. In addition to their regular concert season in Chicago, ~Nois has performed on festivals and series such as Big Ears, LONG PLAY, the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, and the University of Chicago Presents Series. In addition, ~Nois is in demand as a guest artist and lecturer at universities across the nation having held residencies and given performances at over 44 institutions including University of Southern California, the University of Colorado - Boulder, the Manhattan School of Music, and Princeton University. During the 2022/23 season, ~Nois has been appointed as an Entrepreneurial Musical Artist in Residence at Michigan State University alongside Imani Winds and Damien Sneed.

Dedicated to expanding and redefining the saxophone quartet repertoire, ~Nois has premiered over 80 works including compositions by Gaudeamus Prize winners Kelley Sheehan and Annika Socolofsky as well as 2018 Guggenheim Fellow Tonia Ko. ~Nois’ recent commission, I Tell You Me by Annika Socolofksy was called “grotesquely gorgeous” by the Chicago Tribune and the premiere performance was included in their list of “Chicago’s Top 10 moments in classical music, opera, and jazz that defined 2021”.

Constance Volk

Constance Volk is a musician, a painter, and an illustrator. She is a member of Ensemble Dal Niente, the Grossman Ensemble, the Chicago Wind project, and Fulcrum Point New Music Project. She has collaborated with Alarm Will Sound, Eighth Blackbird, and Lookingglass Theatre. Her illustrations are featured with ‘Density Seeds’, an offshoot of the ‘Density 2036’ solo flute repertoire project by Claire Chase. Constance is the creator of ‘Connie’s Characters’, a series of mix and match coloring books full of wacky weirdos.

Doyle Armbrust

Noted as “a well-connected pillar of the Chicago new-music scene” by The New York Times, violist Doyle Armbrust is a founding member of the multi-Grammy-nominated Spektral Quartet. Motivating his work are the twin beliefs that 1) Curiosity should be the only prerequisite for a captivating musical encounter, and 2) For a musical encounter to be relevant, it must immediately connect to what it means to be alive today. This creed threads through his professional writing, found within the pages of Time Out Chicago, Chicago Magazine, and Crain’s Chicago Business, as well as program books at the Chicago, St. Louis, and Cincinnati Symphonies. Doyle is currently violist for new-music supergroup The Grossman Ensemble as well as host and creator of The Society of Disobedient Listeners pre-concert discussion series at UMS (University of Michigan). He is conspicuously proud to serve on the D-Composed board of directors.



Bandcamp Daily Best of Contemporary Classical

In her liner notes for this multivalent portrait album, the Chicago-based Israeli composer Osnat Netzer explains the musical language that gave the collection its title: “Though the pieces differ in musical language and aesthetics, they all share the tropes of a punctuated sustain (Dot-Line) and many forms of pitch bends, glissandi, and stylized portamenti (Sigh).” Those qualities do, indeed, ripple through these intimate, beautifully proportioned works, injecting into them passages that are alternately halting, arching, and shimmering. But these seven works, mostly recorded ensembles from her adopted base of operations—she teaches at DePaul University—testify to an impressive versatility and range. Ensemble Dal Niente brings stunning sensitivity and grace to the sorrowful They bury their dead with great ululations, a work named for the ancient practice of employing women to wail loudly and pull on their hair at funerals to normalize the expression of grief, with the chamber quartet articulating many of those note and phrase manipulation. The music doesn’t scream, but it is deeply felt. Netzer herself plays piano on Pillars, a duo with alto saxophonist Geoffrey Landman that seeks to embody the main principles of her compositional thinking. Mivos Quartet are joined by flutist Eric Lamb on the 2014 piece Schertch (scherzo sketch), which is fully realized in spite of its title, generating some humor in its collision of classical tropes and dizzying, spiraling lines. My favorite piece is the amusingly titled I AM SO FUCKING ZEN, a deliciously microtonal work elucidated with impressive precision by the saxophone quartet ~Nois.

— Peter Margasak, 2.29.2024


Relevant Tones Interview


— Matthew Dosland, 3.11.2024



Composer Osnat Netzer debuts her album, Dot : Line : Sigh, featuring Ensemble Dal Niente, saxophonist Geoffrey Landman, Mivos Quartet, flutist Eric Lamb, violist Michael Hall, pianist Marianne Parker, and the ~Nois saxophone quartet.

The opening composition, They Bury their Dead with Great Ululations, starts with plaintive unisons that divide and stretch against each other, leading to vigorous passagework and scurrying activity in the strings. The accompaniment grows insistent, supporting lyrical material in the winds before returning to the characteristic unison gesture from the opening. The composition Pillars, for alt saxophone and piano, explores various timbral and acoustic potentials of both instruments. The piece transforms as layered fragments intertwine and merge into a vibrant tapestry. Instruments engage in constant dialog, complementing each other, but at the end of the piece, they oppose one another, creating a rhythmic storm. The piece I won’t be outrun by a cavalry of snails for two sopranos and ensemble is theatrical, living in a fantastical, feverish space. The vocals blend seamlessly with the instrumental melodies. While the composition Schertch (scherzo sketch) tries to define the proper balance between flute and string quartet, I AM FUCKING ZEN for a saxophone quartet (played by ~Noise) is built on a short musical idea that undergoes gradual transformations. The composition Away Dream All Away combines soprano, flute, and violin, each displaying virtuosity and technical skill. It serves as the musical backdrop for Samuel Beckett’s text. The soprano transitions between center stage and blending in with the flute and viola, adding punctuation to the timbral tapestry.

— Pedja Kovačević, 5.11.2024

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