Rebekah Heller: 100 Names


Rebekah Heller releases her debut recording and launches Tundra, the new imprint for recordings by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) with several boundary pushing works for bassoon and electronics.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Time
Total Time 50:11
02Qualia II
Qualia II
04and also a fountain
and also a fountain
05On speaking a hundred names
On speaking a hundred names
0610pm: Ixtab
10pm: Ixtab

Rebekah Heller (“an impressive solo bassoonist” The New Yorker) releases her debut recording on Tundra, the new imprint for recordings by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). This recording features works written for Heller by composers Dai Fujikura, Marcos Balter, Nathan Davis, Edgar Guzman, and Marcelo Toledo, with a bonus track by Du Yun. Focusing on electro-acoustic music that pushes the boundaries of extended technique, the repertoire on 100 Names suggests influences of spectral music, noise styles, and performance art, by mining the bassoon's uniquely rich wealth of multiphonics, unconventional timbres, and incorporating auxiliary instruments.

Executive Producer, Session Producer: Claire Chase
Editing producer: Jacob Greenberg
Engineer, Post-production: Ryan Streber 
Liner Notes: Doyle Armbrust 

Rebekah Heller

Praised for her “flair” and “deftly illuminated” performances by The New York Times, bassoonist Rebekah Heller is a uniquely dynamic chamber, orchestral and solo musician. Equally comfortable playing established classical works and the newest of new music, Rebekah is a fiercely passionate advocate for the bassoon. Called an "impressive solo bassoonist" by The New Yorker, she is tirelessly committed to collaborating with composers to expand the modern repertoire for the instrument.

As a member of the renowned International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Rebekah has played concerts all over the world. She has been a featured soloist with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, and has played solo works in cities both near and far - including São Paolo, Rio, Paris, Berlin, Köln, Chicago, New York, Boston, Minneapolis, and many more.

Before moving to New York, Rebekah completed a one-year appointment as Principal Bassoonist of the Jacksonville Symphony and has served as Principal Bassoonist with the Atlanta Opera Orchestra, and the Utah Festival Opera.
From 2005-2008, Rebekah was a member of the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Florida. During her time there, she worked with some of today's most innovative and electrifying musical minds, including Michael Tilson Thomas, Robert Spano, Marin Alsop, Oliver Knussen, Yo-Yo Ma and Christian Tetzlaff.



New York Times

Born in Brazil and based in Chicago, the composer Marcos Balter is making big waves lately for his adventurous, unpredictable works. On “100 Names,” the debut CD by the International Contemporary Ensemble bassoonist Rebekah Heller, Mr. Balter’s “… and also a fountain” stands out among an arresting batch of pieces, transforming words by Gertrude Stein into an enigmatic, deliberately intoned ritual. (Steve Smith, NYT artsbeat)


New Music Box

It’s refreshing to hear the bassoon edging its way towards the sonic foreground in contemporary music. Anyone with doubts about how cool the instrument can be has perhaps not yet heard bassoonist and core member of ICE Rebekah Heller perform; in her hands, the oft-underappreciated woodwind is transformed into a fierce creature that cannot be ignored onstage. Whether the music being performed is a cadenza from a Mozart piece or a new work by an ICELab participant, she will make you wonder how you never noticed the instrument before.

Her first solo CD, 100 names, features six work for solo bassoon, both alone and paired with electronics. All of the composers represented make use of Heller’s virtuosic playing abilities, loading up their compositions with the most extended of extended techniques. The potential “gimmicky” feel is absent though, because the pieces were obviously created in collaboration with Heller, who is clearly comfortable handling such musical material. The first piece by Edgar Guzman, ∞¿?, opens the disc with a bang; a thick, low electronic tone with rough edges cuts in and out, is quickly joined by the bassoon in its lowest range, and from there the two engage in an undulating dance of rollicking multiphonics, beating tones, and multi-tongued, staccato interruptions. The texture thickens and becomes increasingly complex as it reaches a climactic, abrupt ending.

Marcelo Toledo’s Qualia II employs a totally different sound world, beginning with high-pitched squeaks, dramatic, close-miked breath (and breathless) sounds, and amplified key clicks. Low range melodic cells are underscored by Heller’s “helicopter” technique (in which the bassoon actually does sound like a helicopter hovering at a distance), interrupted by a dramatic set of her vocalized yelps and groans. The mood then calms to slower, more extended wind and noise drones. The piece is like solo instrumentmusique concrète.

Dai Fujikura’s Calling is an artful construction of multiphonics wrapped around a beautifully mournful melodic line that slinks through the sound field, gradually incorporating the multiphonics into itself. On speaking a hundred names for bassoon and processing also shows off a lyrical side; fellow ICE member Nathan Davis deftly combines multiple layers of bassoon that expand and contract within the stereo space, shifting in mood from happily frenetic to angry to tranquil. Ultimately the story ends with the bassoon being swallowed in its own electronic processes, flying away into high frequencies, like a helium balloon let loose into the sky.

…and also a fountain falls the farthest from the sound worlds presented on 100 names, brought to you by Marcos Balter. It features more of Heller’s voice—this time reciting passages from Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein—heavily reverbed, and punctuated with small percussion instruments in addition to fragile bassoon textures. It shows a sparse, stripped down side of the instrument, and also reveals Heller’s willingness to try anything.

The bonus track (a sip of espresso to end the program?), Du Yun’s 10pm, ixtab is a dramatic pile-up of bassoon tracks and recorded found sound. It’s a speedy, intense roller coaster ride that slams to a halt as abruptly as it began.

For a thorough tour of the capacities (and extremes) of the bassoon, 100 names is the recording to check out. Hopefully other bassoonists will also start to perform these works (not to mention commission new works and make albums of their own!) and continue to expand the available repertoire for the instrument. Bassoon is not just for inner orchestra voices anymore.

-- Alexandra Gardner, New Music Box, 8.13.2013


Cleveland Classical

International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) bassoonist Rebekah Heller has released an exciting debut CD on Tundra Records, ICE’s own new label. Heller’s performance on this album affirms her as a leading voice reimagining the role of the bassoon in contemporary music. Leveraging ICE’s practice of collaborative commissions with noteworthy composers,100 NAMES presents five wildly different works that probe the full range of sounds a bassoon can be coaxed to produce.

Opening with Edgar Guzman’s ∞¿? (2008), loud electronic static noise is paired with Heller’s provocative low blasts and sputtering high staccato notes. As the electronic drone repeats and morphs, Heller wails in a free-jazz riff reminiscent of Sam Rivers or Albert Ayler.

Marcelo Toledo’s Qualia II (2011) is full of the sounds of the Argentine jungle. And the jungle comes alive with the chirps of birds, animals scurrying in the underbrush, and the gurgle of a flowing river. Heller produces shrieks (made by blowing her reed into cupped hands) and whispered exclamations of percussive key-tapping mixed with expressive breaths and thin melodic threads.

The sounds of ancient horns and exotic tones populate Dai Fujikura’sCalling (2011). Exploiting the bassoon’s raw, raspy timbre, the piece has a distinct messaging cadence and plays out in call-and-response fashion, beautiful and tender with long-held notes.

Heller literally becomes a trio during Marcos Balter’s …and also a fountain (2012), performing on bassoon, percussion, and narrating text from Gertrude Stein’sTender ButtonsWith a sharp strike on a wood block she recites Stein’s text in a mystery-shrouded whisper. Strange eerie sounds emanate from the bassoon in response to her own recitation, punctuated here and there by triangle clangs, rattle shakes, and block strikes. Heavy reverb provides a mesmerizing atmosphere of overlaid sounds. The piece concludes in a cascade of swift hard hits on the wood block and screeching bleats from the bassoon.

The CD closes with On speaking a hundred names (2010) by ICE percussionist Nathan Davis. The title plays on the fact that bassoon is an instrument where a multitude of fingerings are capable of producing the same sound. From its elegiac beginning, this is the most tonality-centric composition on the CD, complete with electronics repeating and transforming the bassoon sounds achieved through live processing. A wild middle section is a track meet for Heller’s fingers. Sounding like an organ grinder on LSD, it gives way to a quiet contemplative mood, with a slow-building crescendo to the finish.


The Whole Note

American bassoonist Rebekah Heller is a respected performer in both classical and contemporary music styles, and a core member of the U.S.-based International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). In her debut solo release on ICE’s own Tundra label, Heller performs with a sweet tone, precise attack and colourful phrases in six recent compositions written for her.

She is especially original in her witty musical repartees to the electroacoustic tapes, feedback effects and live processing. The gut-wrenching distortion and percussive bassoon make the opening track by Edgar Guzman loud and in-your-face memorable. Though more tape effects provide colourful backdrops to the bassoon in works by Marcelo Toledo and the bonus track by Du Yun, these are no match for the superb composition On speaking a hundred names by Nathan Davis. This strong composition for bassoon and live processing is a showpiece for Heller’s sensitive interpretation and enviable breath control. The bassoon solo Calling by Dai Fujikura is a microtonal outing that demonstrates her strength as a soloist. Not only can Heller play the bassoon, she can fearlessly speak the text of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons and play percussion too in the moving work …and also a fountain by Marcos Balter.

100 names features a wide breadth of extended bassoon techniques, all performed beautifully, and sure to be enjoyed by new music lovers. Rebekah Heller needs to be congratulated for her dedication to the bassoon, and her ability to inspire composers. -- Tilna Kiik




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