Richard Cameron-Wolfe: An Inventory of Damaged Goods

, composer


The music of Richard Cameron-Wolfe is not intrinsically abstract, instead residing in various realms of non-abstraction - each composition’s seed-ideas emanating from an extra-musical impulse. Here we find, for example, psychodrama (three micro-operas), sound-portraits (Inventory, Lilith), esoteric symbolism, and ritual processes – all articulated in macro- and micro-structures based on the irrational elasticity of the prime-number series.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Performer(s) Time
Total Time 79:00

An Inventory of Damaged Goods

Gayle Blankenburg, piano
01Prelude: Tortuous Path; Le Roi subaquatique; (Anomaly I); "As Above"
Prelude: Tortuous Path; Le Roi subaquatique; (Anomaly I); "As Above"
Gayle Blankenburg, piano7:21
02(Anomaly II); Vertigo; (Anomaly III); "So Below"
(Anomaly II); Vertigo; (Anomaly III); "So Below"
Gayle Blankenburg, piano8:28
03(Anomaly IV); Antoinette with Cat and Cigarette; Postlude: Autopoiesis
(Anomaly IV); Antoinette with Cat and Cigarette; Postlude: Autopoiesis
Gayle Blankenburg, piano7:38
04MeMarie: micro-opera for soprano alone
MeMarie: micro-opera for soprano alone
Elisabeth Halliday, soprano5:07
05Invocations of the Aetherwind: four alchemical miniatures for piano
Invocations of the Aetherwind: four alchemical miniatures for piano
Gayle Blankenburg, piano6:50
06Mute Hand Muse: micro-opera "for a waking dreamer"
Mute Hand Muse: micro-opera "for a waking dreamer"
Elisabeth Halliday, soprano, Rachel Rudich, flute, Gayle Blankenburg, piano8:46
07Prima Materia: etude for piano
Prima Materia: etude for piano
Gayle Blankenburg, piano3:42
08Kyrie(Mantra)II: duo for flute and prepared piano
Kyrie(Mantra)II: duo for flute and prepared piano
Rachel Rudich, flute, Gayle Blankenburg, piano10:23
09Lilith: duo for violin and piano (first version)
Lilith: duo for violin and piano (first version)
Miranda Cuckson, violin, Michael Brown, piano11:43
10A Sound-Shroud for Bill Knott: micro-opera
A Sound-Shroud for Bill Knott: micro-opera
Sara Schoenbeck, bassoon, Kevin Kline, narrator, Jen Baker, trombone, Ken Filiano, contrabass2:20
11A Song Built from Fire II: version for piano with soprano
A Song Built from Fire II: version for piano with soprano
Gayle Blankenburg, piano, Elisabeth Halliday, soprano6:42

The music of Richard Cameron-Wolfe is not intrinsically abstract, instead residing in various realms of non-abstraction - each composition’s seed-ideas emanating from an extra-musical impulse. Here we find, for example, psychodrama (three micro-operas), sound-portraits (Inventory, Lilith), esoteric symbolism, and ritual processes – all articulated in macro- and micro-structures based on the irrational elasticity of the prime-number series.

The repertoire of this CD brings together musicians from New York City and Los Angeles - eight outstanding performing artists with a deep understanding of contemporary music styles, vocabularies, and rhetoric. In addition, Cameron-Wolfe’s long-time friend, the distinguished actor Kevin Kline, makes a special “under the radar” guest appearance as poet-narrator in the micro-opera Sound-Shroud.

Where some artists strive for perfection, I am reconciled to merely telling the Truth. I note that artists and craftsmen of many world cultures have intentionally introduced flaws into their creations, thus reminding themselves that im-perfection is an essential component of being human. We see an example of this in the Navajo weavings, where one can find the ch’ihónít’i, the “spirit line”. Our flaws make us credible.

An Inventory of Damaged Goods (2015-16)
This large-scale solo piano “suite” bears comparison with Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Between its Prelude and Postlude are five “portraits”, linked by “anomalies” - brief transition (“promenade”) sections. It was composed, as with all of Cameron-Wolfe’s piano music, for his sister, Gayle Blankenburg.

MeMarie micro-opera for soprano alone (1970)
This “three-act” soprano theatre-piece was created in response to the death of the composer’s grandmother, whose name was Marie. Inspired by the visual-sonic-kinetic aesthetic of “concrete” poetry, its libretto is a collage of three elements: a poetic text (sung), a small-town newspaper “In Memoriam” (in sprechstimme), and a mathematical formula using “imaginary numbers” (abstractly intoned). Words and syllables are isolated and reassembled, often creating new dramatic-poetic images; e.g., since and gray will yield sin and grace.

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Invocations of the Aetherwind (1982)
This set of four piano miniatures (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) is permeated by a fifth element – the aether, or spirit - represented by a sonority which, true to its alchemical role, is not actually played. Rather, it resonates sympathetically, “invoked” with the use of a wedge-preparation to several of the piano keys. This aether sonority is in fact Alexander Scriabin’s overtone-derived Prometheus chord. It timbrally enriches the texture and permeates every place which otherwise would have been silent.

Mute Hand Muse micro-opera “for a waking dreamer” (2015)
Diagnosis: “She has lost her bearings”. This brief theatrical work is scored for soprano, alto/bass flutes, and piano. Its libretto is a 1992 dream-poem by the composer. The setting is (perhaps) a mental institution and the (possible) in-patient is clearly schizophrenic. What is not clear, however, is the character-identity of the flutist and pianist – doctor, therapist, another patient? … or figments of the schizophrenic’s imagination? As in the earlier micro-opera MeMarie, the soprano often alternates between singing and sprechstimme.

Kyrie(Mantra)II (1984)
This flute/prepared-piano duo is a re-composition of Cameron-Wolfe’s 1972 Kyrie(Mantra) flute trio. (A transcription of Kyrie(Mantra) II for flute and guitar also exists – Kyrie(Mantra)IV - prepared in 2016 by Ukrainian guitarist Sergii Gorkusha.) Its theme is a Gregorian chant, which the composer learned from his Sufi teacher Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan. The theme is kaleidoscopically fragmented and perpetually varied, utilizing multiphonics, microtones, vocalization, and extended timbral vocabularies – including an elaborate preparation of the piano.

Prima Materia an etude (2001)
While recently searching for another score, Cameron-Wolfe discovered this short piano solo, clearly notated in his own hand, but he had (and still has) no memory of ever having composed it! The score bears the dedication for Carmen and Gayle. This etude’s technical challenges are in the areas of rhythmic complexity, while managing a wide contrapuntal texture, subtle gradations of pedaling, and frequent changes of dynamics. The title, Prima Materia, refers to the essential material required for the alchemical magnum opus – the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone.

Lilith (2011, first version)
This violin/piano duo, originally composed in the spirit of Karol Szymanowski for an “old school” violinist, is a portrait of Adam’s first wife – beautiful, strong, and enigmatic. She refused to be subservient to Adam and abandoned the Garden of Eden – after which God created Eve, from one of Adam’s ribs. The conclusion of this version suggests Adam’s solitude and bewilderment. (A second version, composed in 2016, ends differently, its final flourish representing Lilith’s liberation from the confines of the Garden.)

A Sound-Shroud for Bill Knott micro-opera (2015)
This ultra-brief theatrical work – for actor and Butoh dancer (optional) – with bassoon, trombone, and contrabass - is inspired by and dedicated to the memory of American poet Bill Knott (1940-2014). “I was introduced to his writing in the late 1960s by multidisciplinary artist Franz Kamin, and Knott’s poetry quite literally awakened in me the desire to become a composer.” - RCW [Note: As the score suggests, inclusion of the Butoh dancer would likely extend the performance by 2-5 minutes, in virtual silence at the beginning and end.]

A Song Built from Fire II (2014)
A simple Catalan folk melody is subtly woven into this exceedingly virtuosic piano work, enhanced by several vocal interpolations. Its text fragment – invoking an Atlantean serpent-deity – is from the writings of Jacint Verdaguer (1845-1902), regarded as one of the greatest poets of Catalan literature. The 1984 original version (without voice at beginning and end) was designated as “for singing pianist” and was commissioned/premiered by New York City pianist Sylvia Kahan. Additional thematic material was drawn from the “Fire” movement of the Aetherwind solo.

Digital download comes with an 18 page color booklet containing all of the notes, and texts/translations.

in memory of my dear departed friend, teacher, and mentor John Eaton, who encouraged me to abandon my Doctorate and “just live the life a musician”, on my own terms (no easy task, in retrospect.....)

Richard Cameron-Wolfe
All works of the composer, as well as a brief biography, are available at the website of the American Composers Alliance, via cameron-wolfe

Recorded at Dreamflower Studio, Bronxville NY Engineer: Jeremy Tressler
Mixing & Mastering: Jeremy Tressler
Sound-Shroud text: “Death” by Bill Knott, from The Naomi Poems, 1968
permission gratefully received from Robert Fanning, Executor of the Knott estate
Lilith, A Song Built from Fire II, MeMarie, Aetherwind recorded March 2015
piano: Yamaha - via Yamaha Artist services, NY
Sound-Shroud, Mute Hand Muse, Kyrie(Mantra)II, Inventory, Prima Materia recorded March 2016
piano: Steinway - via Steinway Hall, NY
Design: Marc Wolf (
Cover photo: “Hanging On - Pumphouse” © Jeremy Tressler
Booklet back cover photo of Richard Cameron-Wolfe: “ca.1970” © Richard Pflum
Tray photo: from collection “Hands” © Lenny Foster
Photo of Gayle Blankenburg: stock photo, Claremont Colleges

I’m deeply grateful to all those involved in the creation of this CD, particularly my former students Jeremy Tressler and Marc Wolf, as well as all of the dedicated performers – particularly pianist Gayle Blankenburg, my beloved sister. [Thanks, Kevin K., for “going to sleep”.] The encouragement of Carmen, Monroe, and so many dear friends has been inspiring and empowering.

Gayle Blankenburg

Gayle Blankenburg has performed extensively to great critical acclaim as a solo pianist, chamber musician, and vocal accompanist. She was a roster artist with Southwest Chamber Music from 1996-2003 and is currently a member of the Los Angeles-based ensembles "inauthentica," "the feHmEnbuRg trio," "the mEnbuRg duo," and "pierrotplus+." She has recorded over a dozen commercially-available CDs, including song cycles with famed sopranos Phyllis Bryn-Julson and Lucy Shelton, and a solo piano recording of Carlos Chavez's Invention I on a Grammy-winning Southwest Chamber Music CD.

The Los Angeles Times has said of her playing, "Blankenburg played with elegant power and poise... Her crisp touch and light pedaling produced crystalline, pensive, haunting sequences... This is a gratefully idiomatic piece for a pianist with both power and a palette, requirements Blankenburg met easily."

Ms. Blankenburg was a student of the distinguished pianists Menahem Pressler (of the Beaux Arts Trio) and Abbey Simon.

Elisabeth Halliday

Specializing in Modern and Contemporary Classical Music, Elisabeth has premiered the works of dozens of American composers. She is a member of the contemporary opera company Rhymes With Opera which commissions new operas and performs in New York City and Baltimore. Elisabeth is also a member of the duo Emerging Voices, with classical saxophonist Zach Herchen, which commissions and records new music for their unique instrumental combination. Elisabeth has sung with Chelsea Opera, Village Light Opera, Ashcan Orchestra, Experiments in Opera, NYsoundCircuit, West End String Quartet, Terry Quinn Productions, Rhymes With Orchestra and more.

Rachel Rudich

The New York Times has written "Miss Rudich plays very beautifully, producing a smooth, silken tone, phrasing with spirited elegance, and operating with a crucial sense of linear continuity that characterizes a polished artist." She has premiered works by Pierre Boulez, Elliott Carter, George Crumb, Mario Davidovsky, Robert Dick, David Felder, Karl Kohn, Eric Moe, Mel Powell, and Harvey Sollberger. Miss Rudich has appeared with The New Music Consort, The Group for Contemporary Music, Speculum Musicae, Parnassus, The Composers Conference Chamber Players, The Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, and The Fromm Players. She has appeared at the June in Buffalo Festival, the Composers Conference and Chamber Music Center at Wellesley College, the Lake Placid Institute, the Guggenheim Works and Process Series, the Ojai Festival, the Fromm Contemporary Music Series at Harvard University and The Dartington International Summer School in England. Miss Rudich currently performs as a solo recitalist throughout the United States.

Known for her performances of compositions in the contemporary repertoire, especially those for flute and electronics, Miss Rudich has also received recognition for her intermedia performances as flutist and dancer. Her awards include First Prize in the Kreauter Musical Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chamber Music, the Artists International Award which led to her New York debut at Carnegie Recital Hall, and appointment to the roster of Affiliate Artists.

Miranda Cuckson

Violinist Miranda Cuckson has combined a deep background in the classical repertoire with an adventurous and probing spirit to become an acclaimed, in-demand performer of music new and old. She performs worldwide as soloist and chamber musician, at venues including the Berlin Philharmonie, Carnegie Hall, Teatro Colón, Suntory Hall, Library of Congress, 92nd Street Y, Guggenheim Museum, Monday Evening Concerts in LA, and the Marlboro, Bard, Lincoln Center, West Cork, Bridgehampton, Music Mountain, Portland and Bodensee festivals.

She made her Carnegie Hall debut playing Piston’s concerto with the American Symphony Orchestra. Her recent performances include premiering a violin concerto written for her by Georg Friedrich Haas, in Tokyo, Stuttgart and Porto, the New York premiere of Michael Hersch’s concerto, and recent recitals at the Metropolitan Museum, Miller Theatre, Strathmore and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music.

Her discography includes, most recently, violin music of Wolpe, Carter and Ferneyhough (Urlicht), and Bartók, Schnittke and Lutoslawski (ECM Records). The New York Times named her recording of Nono’s La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura a Best Classical Recording of 2012. Her eleven lauded albums also feature the Korngold and Ponce concertos and music by Finney, Shapey, Martino, Sessions, Eckardt, Hersch, Xenakis, Glass, Mumford, Fujikura and more.

She is director of the non-profit Nunc, a member of collectives AMOC and counter)induction, and a performer and advisory council member at National Sawdust. She studied at The Juilliard School, where she received her doctorate and the Presser Award, and she teaches at Mannes College.


Sara Schoenbeck

Sara Schoenbeck is a bassoonist who dedicates herself to expanding the sound and role of the bassoon in the worlds of classical, contemporary notated and improvised music. The Wire magazine places her in the "tiny club of bassoon pioneers" at work in contemporary music today and the New York Times has called her performances "galvanizing" and "riveting, mixing textural experiments with a big, confident sound.”

Originally from California, Sara spent her time on the west coast freelancing in various orchestral bassoon sections such as Santa Barbara Symphony, California Symphony, Redlands, Mancini Orchestra, the Dakah Hip Hop Orchestra and touring as a member of creative music ensembles Gravitas Quartet with Wayne Horvitz, Ron Miles and Peggy Lee, Anthony Braxton’s 12+1(tet) and Vinny Golia’s Large Ensemble. Sara also recorded for various sound and film projects including the Matrix 2 and 3, Dahmer and Spanglish.

Sara now calls Brooklyn home and performs regularly with Petr Kotek’s SEM ensemble, the composers group WetInk, Wordless Music Orchestra, Anthony Braxton’s Tri-Centric Orchestra, Gravitas, Harris Eisenstadt’s Golden State Quartet, Eve Risser's White Desert Orchestra, Nels Cline Lovers Ensemble, Adam Rudoplph's Go Organic Orchestra and the Michael Leonhart Band as well as performing with many creative and inspiring musicians in the New York scene and beyond including Roscoe Mitchell, the legendary musicians Butch Morris and Yusef Lateef, Wadada Leo Smith, Robin Holcomb, Matt Mittchell, Pamela Z, Taylor Ho Bynum, Joe Morris, Miya Masaoke, Ingrid Laubrock, Marty Ehrlich, Ben Goldberg, Stew and Mark Dresser to name a few. She has performed at major venues and festivals throughout North America and Europe, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, the Kitchen, Iridium, Disney Hall, the Kennedy Center, SXSW, New Orleans Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, Berlin Jazz Festival, Free Music Festival in Antwerp Belgium, Biennale Musica in Venice Italy, Montreal Jazz Festival, Ottawa Jazz Festival, the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, The Angel City Jazz Festival in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Jazz Festival.

​Sara received her BFA from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and MFA from the California Institute of the Arts where she has given master classes on improvisation for bassoonists and classically trained musicians. Sara has been adjunct faculty at California Institute of the Arts, Citrus College and Pasadena Conservatory and given master classes at Cornish College, University of Denver and Western Washington University. She is currently on faculty at Brooklyn Conservatory of Music and Packer Collegiate Institute.

Kevin Kline

Kevin Delaney Kline (born October 24, 1947) is an American film and stage actor and singer. He has won an Academy Award and three Tony Awards and is a 2003 American Theatre Hall of Fame inductee.[1]

Kline began his career on stage in 1972 with The Acting Company. He has gone on to win three Tony Awards for his work on Broadway, winning Best Featured Actor in a Musical for the 1978 original production of On the Twentieth Century, Best Actor in a Musical for the 1981 revival of The Pirates of Penzance, and Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for the 2017 revival of Present Laughter.[2]

He made his film debut opposite Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice (1982). For his role in the 1988 comedy hit A Fish Called Wanda, he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. In 2003, he starred as Falstaff in the Broadway production of Henry IV, for which he won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play.

He has been nominated for 2 Emmy Awards, two BAFTA Awards and five Golden Globe Awards. His other films include The Big Chill (1983), Silverado (1985), Cry Freedom (1987), A Fish Called Wanda (1988), Dave (1993), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), The Ice Storm (1997), In & Out (1997), The Road to El Dorado (2000), De-Lovely (2004), The Conspirator (2010), My Old Lady (2014), and Beauty and the Beast (2017).[3] Since 2011, Kline has had a recurring role on the animated comedy series Bob's Burgers.

Jen Baker

Jen Baker, trombonist/composer, has pioneered a widely diverse performing career based in redefining the role of trombone in contemporary music. She leads her own projects as a soloist and frequently collaborates with others internationally. Hailed for her "formidable sensitivity” (New York Times), she has “performed with brilliant mastery and virtuosity” (San Francisco Classical Voice) in a number of festivals including the International Trombone Festival (Illinois and NYC) and American Trombone Workshop (Washington D.C.), High Zero international festival of improvised music (Baltimore), ISIM Conference - International Society of Improvised Music (Denver and NYC), Adelaide Festival (Australia), Ostrava Days (Czech Republic), Ottawa ChamberFest (Canada), Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Scotland), Festival of Friendly Countries (Mexico), and in New York City: Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, the Whitney/Met Breuer, Guggenheim, Park Avenue Armory - including the final performance with Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Met Museum, Lincoln Center, and arenas throughout the U.S. She has been commissioned by The Fourth Wall, Loadbang, and Asphalt Orchestra; these works, along with her solo compositions have been performed nationwide.

Baker is featured on the soundtrack to Werner Herzog's Oscar-nominated Encounters at the End of the World, appeared on Good Morning America, and is on numerous recordings playing with Nate Wooley, Damon Smith, The Mountain Goats, Asphalt Orchestra, Flexible Orchestra, on record labels including New World, Innova, New Amsterdam, Cantaloupe, and her own label, Dilapidated Barns. She has toured with new music ensembles SEM, Tilt Brass, the mobile ensemble Asphalt Orchestra (founding member), with experimental theatre company Bananabag and Bodice (Beowulf), and various world music pop stars such as Arijit Singh (Bollywood).

Her next solo project is site-specific: “Silo Songs” involves recording in a massive concrete grain silo with new multiphonics pieces in the naturally reverberant, dome-topped silo - right in Jonesville! She currently teaches trombone and composition at Sarah Lawrence College and also Brooklyn Conservatory, through which she goes to after school programs in various neighborhoods in Brooklyn for trombone classes (New York City does not fund public school music education, so this program is a vital way of bringing music to kids who wouldn't have it otherwise.). Baker has written a book for trombone players and composers to learn how to master multiphonics, where one sings and plays simultaneously through the trombone. She has given workshops internationally on this technique. Hooked on Multiphonics will be available in 2016. She loves improvised vegan cooking (10 years and counting!), teaching, listening to animals, and long meandering walks.

Ken Filiano

Ken Filiano (born 1952) is an American jazz and orchestral bassist[1][2] based in Brooklyn, New York.[3]

Since the 1970s, Filiano has played or recorded with Anthony Braxton, Fred Ho, Nels Cline, Bill Dixon, Fay Victor, and others.[4][5][6] Filiano is on the teaching roster at the New School in New York.[7] He teaches master classes in bass and improvisation and has a private studio in Brooklyn.

Richard Cameron-Wolfe

Composer-pianist Richard Cameron-Wolfe was born in Cleveland, Ohio, USA and received his music training at Oberlin College and Indiana University. His principal piano teachers were Joseph Battista and Menahem Pressler; his composition teachers included Bernard Heiden, Iannis Xenakis, Juan Orrego-Salas, and John Eaton.

After brief teaching engagements at Indiana University, Radford College (Virginia), and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Cameron-Wolfe moved to New York City, where he performed and composed for several major ballet and modern dance companies, including the Joffrey Ballet and the Jose Limon Company. In 1978 he began a 24-year Professorship at Purchase College, State University of New York, teaching music theory and history, composition, and music resources for choreographers. He resigned in 2002 - while he could still walk and think - relocating to the mountains of northern New Mexico in order to dedicate his life to composing.

As a composer, one of his particular interests is micro-opera, a very short theatrical work of 5 to 15 minutes duration, developed through the collaboration of composer, writer (preferably a poet), a scenic/costume designer (preferably a visual artist), and a videographer. The work is intended to be staged in small spaces and could be broadcast on television or the web.