Scott Wollschleger: Between Breath

, composer

About

Scott Wollschleger's Between Breath contains four works for different duo and solo combinations that are presented here as a multi-movement complete work. Featuring performances by Miranda Cuckson, andPlay (Hannah Levinson and Maya Bennardo), Lucy Dhegrae, Anne Rainwater, William Lang, and Nathaniel LaNasa, Wollschleger's music balances exuberance and intimacy with characteristic sensitivity to timbre and structural proportions.

Audio

Scott Wollschleger’s music is full of glitchy sounds that are evocative of the sonic tapestry that has populated our mechanical and tech saturated age. But Wollschleger infuses these sounds with a wide range of expression, humanizing them with everything from tender to humorous affects. Repetition and development are also key components of Wollschleger’s music. Between Breath is his latest compilation of chamber works, presented here as an album length suite. From the restless energy of Violain, the cathartic release of the title track, the ethereal and hypnotic text treatment in Anyway, where threads go, it all goes well, and finally to the multi-layered timbral counterpoint of Secret Machines no. 7, we hear a composer who mines micro-gestures and their variants for expressive impact that seeps into our musical consciousness.

Violain, written for and performed by the duo andPlay (Maya Bernardo, violin and Hannah Levinson, viola) opens with a dramatic series of swirling tremolo gestures, announcing the arrival of the album with ferocious exuberance. Wollschleger writes that the work was composed via a collage approach to its construction, assembling several fragments into longer ideas and then arranging them into a convincing whole. Much of the material generates from various delicate, fast bowing techniques that are extrapolated into integrated gestural and rhythmic ideas between the two instruments. After the boisterous opening of the first section, the texture settles into a patient exploration of repeated ideas, evolving and transforming ever so subtly. Echoes of the energetic opening are heard briefly — first percolating harmonics return briefly as a soft reminder, followed by a passage of fierce high-register squeals. Ultimately, the movement recedes into airy silence. In the second section, Wollschleger again establishes off-kilter ensemble machines, here imbued with gruff repeated chords, brittle pizzicati, and strident sustained tones. The vigor of the gestures accumulates into a climactic section in which the density of events and frequency of new ideas increases, before the energy disperses into diffuse tremolos.

Read More

Between Breath for trombone and piano (William Lang and Anne Rainwater respectively) begins with a musical embodiment of an internal scream through the trombone, driven forward by pointed, muted piano bass notes and punctuated by bell-like tones in the higher register of the keyboard. The piano introduces a hybrid constellation of pitch, timbre, and register, with inside the piano pizzicati coloring cells of arpeggiated notes and chord clusters. Behind this activity, Lang’s trombone growls, creating a drone that avoids stasis through its timbral graininess. Wollschleger revels in the rich overtone content of the trombone, employing an overpressure technique Lang developed that they dubbed a “Dirty Split Tone,” which sweeps through the harmonic series. Wollschleger does not neglect the higher reaches of the trombone however, excavating it for its compressed expressivity, and complementing all of these sounds with an equal enthusiasm for the sound palette inside the keyboard, including piano preparations that emphasize high partials of the overtone series.

The enigmatic text for Anywhere, where threads go, it all goes well for soprano Lucy Dhegrae and pianist Nathaniel LaNasa is a fake John Ashbery tweet that Wollschleger noticed the day after agreeing to compose the piece. Reminiscent of his work CVS for loadbang on their 2021 release Plays Well With Others, Wollschleger meditates on the limited text, turning the words around and upside down and deconstructing them as a path towards spinning out musical ideas. This Virginia Wolff approach to words lends itself to hearing them as rarefied musical objects. Watery piano chords alternate with breathy clusters on pitch pipe to accompany the voice and reinforce the disembodied contemplation of “Ashbery’s” posthumous poem via fake social media profile.

Secret Machine no. 7 for violinist Miranda Cuckson carves out an individual sound world through two adjustments to the instrument — the low G string is tuned down a minor third to E and the piece is performed with a metal mute throughout. The mute facilitates delicate fades to niente and gives the violin timbre a razor-like clarity and fragility. Skittering tremolo figures explode into a sudden loud double stop which is then followed by harmonics rocking back and forth like a gentle wave. Sometimes the material gets stuck as if a record player has skipped, tripping over itself to repeat an idea or echo the preceding gesture. Wollschleger uses these hiccups as a way to organically develop the ideas in the piece, and we are privy to the gradual evolution of a musical organism. As the piece grows, the range of the violin expands, introducing both lower and higher register material. Sliding gestures figure more prominently in the texture towards the work’s end, creating an ephemeral haze. As in many of his other works, Wollschleger builds musical machines and finds the personal resonance within their component parts, highlighting and sharing them with the listener like a secret message.

– Dan Lippel

All music composed by Scott Wollschleger

Violain; Between Breath; Anyway, where threads go, it all goes well; Secret Machine no. 7 published by Project Schott New York, (BMI)

All tracks recorded at Oktaven Audio, Yonkers, New York

Tracks 1 and 2 were recorded February 25, 2018
Track 3 was recorded February 3, 2022
Track 4 was recorded July 24, 2017
Track 5 was recorded January 26, 2024

Recording Engineer: Ryan Streber
Editing, mixing and mastering: Ryan Streber and Scott Wollschleger
Editing assistants: Charles Mueller and Edwin Huet

Piano technician: Dan Jessie
Executive producer: Scott Wollschleger

Cover and booklet design: Traci Larson-Katz
Illustrations based on Everard Digby’s De Arte Natandi (The Art of Swimming), published in 1587

Scott Wollschleger

Scott Wollschleger is a composer who grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. His music has been highly praised for its arresting timbres and conceptual originality. Wollschleger “has become a formidable, individual presence” in the contemporary musical landscape (The Rest Is Noise, Alex Ross), and his most recent piano work was praised as a “small masterpiece” (The New York Times, Seth Colter Walls). His distinct musical language explores themes of art in dystopia, the conceptualization of silence, synesthesia, and creative repetition in form; a musical blend that jazz pianist and blogger Ethan Iverson describes as “Morton Feldman meets Thelonious Monk meets H.P. Lovecraft.”

Wollschleger’s concert works can be heard in the United States and abroad. Notable commissions and premieres include those from Adam Tendler, Miranda Cuckson, Mivos String Quartet, Third Angle Music, longleash, Karl Larson, The String Orchestra of Brooklyn, Bearthoven, William Lang, Leileihua Lanzilotti, Du.0, and loadbang. His debut album, Soft Aberration, was released on New Focus Recordings and was named a 2017 Notable Recording in The New Yorker. His second album, American Dream, written for the trio Bearthoven, was released on Cantaloupe Music in 2019. His third album, Dark Days, and his work on The String Orchestra of Brooklyn’s most recent album, enfolding, were released on New Focus Recordings in 2021 and 2022.

andPlay

andPlay is committed to expanding the existing violin/viola duo repertoire by com- missioning new works and actively collaborating with living artists. The New York City-based duo of Maya Bennardo, violin, and Hannah Levinson, viola, first played to an eager crowd on Fire Island in the summer of 2012 and has since commissioned over forty works.

andPlay has collaborated closely with numerous composers, including Scott Wollschleger, Victoria Cheah, Clara Iannotta, David Bird, Bethany Younge and Sky Macklay, and consider those relationships to be an integral part of their artistic process. Their current season includes a return to in-perform events and touring, with andPlay performing in Pennsylvania, Texas, California, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and New York. andPlay will perform new premieres this season by Shawn Jaeger, James Parker, Mariel Roberts, Lester St. Louis, and Maya Bennardo.

andPlay’s debut album, playlist (2019, New Focus Recordings), features world premiere studio recordings of works by Ashkan Behzadi, David Bird, and Clara Iannotta. playlist was recorded as part of andPlay’s Artist Residency at EMPAC (Troy, NY) and was listed on Bandcamp’s “Best Contemporary Classical: October 2019.”

Recent highlights include a five-city tour in Sweden performing their Translucent Harmonies program, appearances on the Oh My Ears Festival (Phoenix) and Re:Sound Festival (Cleveland), and a recording residency at EMPAC (Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, Troy, NY). The duo has also performed at venues including the Center for New Music (San Francisco), Scandinavia House (New York), Roulette (New York), Monk Space (Los Angeles), Short North Stage (Columbus), and Aftershock Theater (Pittsburgh).

Beyond the concert stage, Maya and Hannah are passionate educators offering workshops in contemporary string techniques, chamber music coaching and composition notation for strings. They have given performances and masterclasses at Arizona State University, UC Santa Cruz, Western Connecticut State University, Otterbein University, Bowling Green State University and were Artists-in-Residence at the Snow Pond Composers Workshop (Sidney, ME).

Their audience engagement series, andPlay (in) Conversation, includes events like graphic score workshops for children, and opportunities to look inside the collaborative process as composers write new works for andPlay.

andPlay was a semi-finalist in the 2016 Concert Artists Guild Victor Emaleh Competition and was the recipient of a 2016 CMA Classical Commissioning grant with composer Ravi Kittappa, made possible by the Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program, with generous funding provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Chamber Music America Endowment Fund.

Maya and Hannah met while studying at Oberlin Conservatory and continued their educations at New York University and the Manhattan School of Music. Despite living on opposite sides of the city, the members of andPlay enjoy taking the subway to meet for rehearsals and delicious baked goods.

Anne Rainwater

California pianist Anne Rainwater is a dexterous musician known for her vibrant interpretations of works from J.S. Bach to John Zorn. Recognized for her “boldly assertive rhetoric” (San Francisco Examiner) and “bright golden honeycomb for a brain” (Roy Doughty, poet), she appears as a soloist, chamber musician and lecture artist around the country. Anne has performed in venues and festivals throughout the US and Europe, including the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., the Donau Festival in Austria, Kampnagel in Germany, and Severance Hall in Cleveland, Ohio. Diverse appearances include radio interviews on KWMR, KZYX, KALW, and KALX, chamber music performances at Mass MoCA and Bargemusic, and concerto performances at UC San Diego and Mendocino College. She has taken part in two Bach Prelude and Fugue Marathons in San Francisco, where she was praised for her “sympathetic musicianship.” Other notable appearances include (le) poisson rouge, Georgia’s Tuesday’s Music Live series, Tulane University, Princeton University, and the Paramount Theatre.

Anne has collaborated with and premiered works by composers Scott Wollschleger, Nils Vigeland, Jude Traxler, Ken Thomson, Alex Temple, Stuart Saunders Smith, Steven Lewis, Matthew Hough, Anne Hege, Danny Clay, and many others. She works regularly with percussionist/composer Jude Traxler, pianist Emily Tian, and trombonist William Lang, with whom she has a long-term commissioning project focusing on underrepresented communities in the low brass world.

Anne curates a monthly musical gathering called the Vernon Salon Series, which she founded in 2016. She has released 2 solo albums – J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations (2018) and Anywhere But Here (2020), featuring solo works by Jude Traxler. She has also recorded for Original Abstractions, Bourbon Thomas Records, Pinna Records, Carrier Records, Subliminal Sounds, and Oberlin Conservatory’s Aural Capacity series.

Anne holds degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory and the Manhattan School of Music. She is working on her first book, which explores the internal and external ecosystems that contribute to the understanding, practicing, and performing of music. When not at the piano or writing, she is running long distances, playing tennis, reading, or obsessively watching baseball. She is a 2019 recipient of an InterMusic SF Grant.

William Lang

Originally from Long Island, trombonist William Lang is an active performer, improviser, and teacher based in New York City. He can be found playing in all settings and styles, from cutting edge new premieres to classical masterpieces with orchestras, as well as Broadway shows and world famous pop artists.

He has given his signature unaccompanied recitals throughout the United States, played concertos in both America and Europe, and has also recorded with such artists as Philip Glass, David Byrne, St. Vincent, Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, and Jónsi (of Sigur Ros). Intensely passionate for chamber music, he is a founding member of the ground-breaking ensemble loadbang (an original and unique group of musicians interested in cutting edge music), as well as a member of groups such as the Lang/Rainwater Project, TILT Brass, SEM Ensemble, and the Argento Chamber Ensemble. The New York Times has called his playing “fiercely, virtuosic” and The Boston Globe has hailed him for his “superb performance” in past solo works. William teaches at the University of Oklahoma, as well as the Longy School of Music, and is a performing artist for Stephens Horns and Long Island Brass.

Lucy Dhegrae

Lucy Dhegrae has been hailed as an “adventurous mezzo-soprano” and “raconteur” (The New Yorker). Known for her “vocal versatility and an omnivorous curiosity” (The New York Times), she moves easily between a broad variety of styles, and can be found “everywhere new music is being sung” (New York Classical Review). Dhegrae is also the founder and director of the boundary-pushing Resonant Bodies Festival (2013-2021), which was praised by The New York Times as “an annual highlight [that] gives some of the world’s most adventurous vocal artists full freedom.”

Dhegrae was selected among WQXR’s “20 for 20 Artists to Watch ”as someone“ redefining what classical music can be...in thrilling ways”(WQXR), and also received the Career Advancement Award from Dawn Upshaw at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s inaugural Women in Classical Music Symposium. As Artist in Residence at National Sawdust, Dhegrae chose to present a multi-concert project entitled The Processing Series, exploring trauma’s relationship to the voice. Ultrafizz, her duo with pianist Nathaniel LaNasa, also had residencies at both Yellow Barn (Putney, VT) and Princeton University. She also premiered a new work by Paola Prestini with the New York Philharmonic and made her 92Y debut singing George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill with Talea Ensemble. She has worked closely with composers such as Eve Beglarian, Jason Eckardt, Tonia Ko, Anthony Braxton, Donnacha Dennehy, and others. Dhegrae has performed at venues including Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, and Miller Theatre, with festival appearances at Mostly Mozart, Bard Music Festival, Gesher Music Festival, and many more.

Nathaniel LaNasa

Pianist Nathaniel LaNasa lives at the intersection of song, story, and image. His recital- exhibition, Memory Prosthetic, explores the mechanics and conventions of musical notation through projections that accompany a live performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Nate recently originated the role of Mel, a graduate student pianist, in Bryce McClendon’s play, The Smallest Sound in the Smallest Space, off-Broadway.

Nate is an enthusiastic advocate for new music: he played sixty performances of Ricky Ian Gordon’s new opera for two pianos, Intimate Apparel, at Lincoln Center Theater, which was later broadcast on PBS Great Performances. He has premiered works for quarter-tone pianos by Dimitri Tymoczko at Princeton, made first recordings of chamber works by Tobias Picker for Tzadik, and performed works written for him by Molly Joyce, Shawn Jaeger, Matthew Ricketts, and Nate Wooley.

A consummate collaborator, he has been praised for his “stormy lyricism” (The New York Times) as well as his “poise and elegance” (Feast of Music). Nate and baritone Gregory Feldmann made their sold-out Carnegie Hall debut in February 2020. Nate also frequently partners with vocalist Lucy Dhegrae; they have performed together in the candlelit crypt of the Church of the Intercession, as part of the Resonant Bodies Festival, and at the American Music Festival (Albany Symphony). He’s also appeared in song partnerships at the Musée d’Orsay, Wigmore Hall, Royaumont Abbey, Brooklyn Art Song Society, and New York Festival of Song, where he curates their annual new music series, NYFOSNext. Nate’s NYC credits include Alice Tully Hall, MoMA, and (le) poisson rouge.

A graduate of The Juilliard School and a former fellow at Tanglewood, Nate continued his studies with Robert Durso. He has taught at festivals in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and France, and teaches the Taubman approach in his private studio in Manhattan.

Miranda Cuckson

Recently called “a fearless, visionary, and tremendously talented artist” (Sequenza21) and “a poetic soloist with a strong personality, yet unpretentious” (Die Presse, Vienna), Miranda Cuckson delights audiences with her playing of a great range of music and styles, from older eras to the newest creations. An internationally acclaimed soloist and collaborator, violinist and violist, she enjoys performing at venues large and small, from concert halls to casual spaces.

She has been a featured artist at the Berlin Philharmonie, Suntory Hall, Casa da Musica Porto, Teatro Colón, Cleveland Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, San Francisco’s Herbst Theater, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music, the 92nd St Y, National Sawdust, and the Ojai, Bard, Marlboro, Portland, Music Mountain, West Cork, Grafenegg, Wien Modern, Frequency, and LeGuessWho festivals. Miranda made her Carnegie Hall debut playing Piston’s Concerto No. 1 with the American Symphony Orchestra. She recently premiered Georg Friedrich Haas’ Violin Concerto No. 2 at the Vienna Musikverein and with orchestras in Japan, Portugal and Germany, and the Violin Concerto by Marcela Rodriguez with the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de México. Miranda is a member of interdisciplinary collective AMOC and director of non-profit Nunc. She has guest curated at National Sawdust and programmed concerts at the Contempo series in Chicago and Miller Theatre in New York, among others. Her numerous lauded albums include Világ, featuring the Bartok Sonata for Solo Violin with contemporary works; the Ligeti, Korngold, Ponce, and Piston concertos; music by 20th century American composers; Bartók/Schnittke/Lutoslawski sonatas; Melting the Darkness, an album of microtonal/electronic music; and Nono’s La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura, named a Recording of the Year by The New York Times. An alumna of The Juilliard School, where she earned her doctorate, she teaches at Mannes College/New School University.

http://www.mirandacuckson.com/

Related Albums