Wavefield, a New York City based contemporary music ensemble founded in 2016, releases its debut recording Concrete & Void featuring works recorded in October 2020 in an outside parking garage in New Jersey, an environment which facilitated social distancing as well as collective music making. The recording is as much a byproduct of their ongoing relationships with longtime composer collaborators and an openness to a wide range of notational contexts as it is a document of the resiliency of the creative impulse during a trying year.
|02||Space Travel From Someplace Else|
Space Travel From Someplace Else
|03||A wasp, some wax, an outline of the valley over us a fall|
A wasp, some wax, an outline of the valley over us a fall
|05||Untitled 1, for Wavefield|
Untitled 1, for Wavefield
The practical barriers to rehearsing during the Covid era shaped this project – the stipulation for the new works commissioned for the session was that they needed to facilitate reading and recording in one sitting. And yet the diversity of approaches within these restrictions was illuminating and speaks to the rich practice that has evolved around non-traditionally notated ensemble music.
The recording opens with Jen Baker’s Lightsicle Sirens, a vast expanse of undulating frequencies that invites the listener to explore the resonance of this unconventional space. Baker revels in beatings and friction between closely spaced intervals. The unfolding texture becomes more active and charged with individual wind instruments emerging and receding in swells before paring down one by one, leaving a texture of sibilant sounds for the work’s close.
During the Covid lockdown, Jessie Cox created an online TV series, “Space Travel from Home,” which he describes as a “personal ritual to digest and deal with this unusual situation.” Space Travel From Someplace Else is akin to a remix of that material – each performer responds to video excerpts of Cox performing with text instructions mapped onto the piece’s overall timing. In this way, the musicians play an active role in the “remix” process, their individual voices melding together to create a percolating cauldron. The results are restless and cathartic, a collective sonic reckoning with confinement.
Victoria Cheah’s A wasp, some wax, an outline of the valley over us a fall mines the deep sensual impact of slow moving harmonies. After several minutes of full scoring for the ensemble, the texture thins down to a bare major seventh between trombone and flute, a stark pillar of uneasy dissonance. A climactic passage intensifies the acoustic density before the texture diffuses again for a weightless ending.
Greg Chudzik’s Silo was originally conceived for performance inside a grain silo, exploiting the acoustical properties of the hollowed out, metallic cylinder. Samples are played by a Max/MSP patch; the material from the electronics is from recordings of the same indeterminate music that the performers are asked to play live, creating an ambiguity between live and processed sound that captures the spirit of this beguiling piece. Gradually the register of the music ascends, as if floating up to the top of a silo.
The final work on the recording is by Wavefield conductor and co-artistic director Nicholas DeMaison. Untitled 1, for Wavefield uses a graphic score, “drawn from spectrographic renderings of sounds that are far from New York City.” Wavefield’s interpretation of these notational images is tumultuous and charged. For many of these musicians, their first in-person musical experience of the pandemic was this recording session. How appropriate it is then that they were prompted with material that was inspired by far away locations, psychically liberated from the close quarters in which they had been quarantined for so many months.
– Dan Lippel
Recorded live, October 3, 2020 Red Hawk Deck; Montclair, NJ
Described as “a great sounding group with a knack for dynamic programming” (I Care If You Listen) Wavefield Ensemble is a collectively organized group of musicians dedicated to performing music and creating new artistic work at the highest level. Hints of the ensemble can be traced to 2016; the group launched in earnest in 2018. Concrete & Void is the ensemble’s first album.http://wavefieldensemble.com
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.http://jenbakersounds.com/
Jessie Cox is a composer, drummer, and scholar, currently in pursuit of his Doctoral Degree at Columbia University. Growing up in Switzerland, and also having roots in Trinidad and Tobago, he is currently residing in NYC. He has written over 100 works for various musical ensembles including electroacoustic works, solo works, chamber and orchestral works, works for jazz ensembles and choirs, including commissions and performances by LA Philharmonic, Ensemble Modern, Heidi Duckler Dance, JACK Quartet, International Contemporary Ensemble, and more. As a performer he has played in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and the USA with musicians from all over the world. Jessie has participated at esteemed festivals all over the world and his music can be heard on Aztec Music’s Declic Jazz Label, Gold Bolus Recordings and Infrequent Seams, as well as others. His scholarly writing has been published in the journal Sound American, and Castle Of Our Skins’ blog; a publication is forthcoming in Critical Studies in Improvisation. He has also presented his work at numerous conferences and festivals. Jessie Cox graduated summa cum laude from the Berklee College of Music on esteemed scholarships in 2017.https://www.jessiecoxmusic.com/
Victoria Cheah is a composer interested in boundaries, sustained effort, and social/performance rituals. Her work has been commissioned/presented by andPlay, Yarn/Wire, Wavefield Ensemble, MATA Festival, Ensemble Dal Niente, Vertixe Sonora, Marilyn Nonken, PRISM Quartet, and more. She has attended academies including Sommerakademie Schloss Solitude, Darmstadt, Fontainebleau, VIPA, SICPP, and The Walden School. Her teachers and mentors include David Rakowski, Eric Chasalow, Yu- Hui Chang, Steven Takasugi, Chaya Czernowin, Philippe Leroux, Shafer Mahoney, Shawn Crouch, as well as her students and colleagues. Cheah holds a B.A. in music from City University of New York Hunter College & Macaulay Honors College and a Ph.D. in music composition & theory at Brandeis University. She has taught music, research, and writing related courses as an instructor at Longy School of Music, Brandeis University, as a teaching fellow at Harvard University, and currently teaches composition at the Boston Conservatory High School Composition Intensive summer program. From 2011-2015, Cheah served as the founding executive director of Sound Icon and has worked with new music organizations Manhattan Sinfonietta, Argento Chamber Ensemble, Composit, and others towards the realization of contemporary music events. She is currently production manager of Talea Ensemble, a co-director of Score Follower, and a bartender at Winnie’s.https://victoriacheah.com/
Greg Chudzik is an active performer across numerous genres on the double bass and electric bass. Currently, he can be seen performing regularly with several new music groups, including Signal Ensemble, Wet Ink Ensemble, and Talea Ensemble. Greg is also a member of several bands, including Empyrean Atlas, Bing and Ruth, and The Briars of North America. He has worked with numerous influential figures in contemporary music, including Steve Coleman, Steve Reich, Brian Ferneyhough, Pierre Boulez, George Benjamin, Helmut Lachenmann, Charles Wuorinen, Alex Mincek and Tristan Perich. Greg’s recording credits include playing on the Grammy-nominated “Barcelonaza” by Jorge Leiderman, “Pulse / Quartet” by Steve Reich on Nonesuch records, “Morphogenesis” and "Synovial Joints" by Steve Coleman on Pi Recordings, “No Home of the Mind” and "Tomorrow Was the Golden Age" by Bing and Ruth on RVNG records, the album “Americans” by Scott Johnson (Tzadik records), multiple recordings with Signal Ensemble on New Amsterdam and Mode Records, the album “Grown Unknown” by Lia Ices (Secretly Canadian records), the album "Inner Circle" by Empyrean Atlas, and the album “High Violet” by The National on 4AD records. Greg's debut album "Solo Works, Vol. 1" was released in July of 2015 and features original pieces of music written for bass guitar and electronics.http://www.gregchudzik.com
Nicholas Demaison is an American conductor and composer based in New York City. Passionately devoted to the music being made in our own time, he has led premiere performances of new works for orchestra, opera, choir and various mixed ensembles with new technologies by well over a hundred living composers, and appears on albums released by New Focus, Mode, and Con d’or Records. He is currently the Co-Director of Wavefield Ensemble and Director of Orchestral Studies at the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University.http://nicholasdemaison.com
A chorus of otherworldly whispers, harmonics, scrapes, and multiphonics usher in Jessie Cox’s aptly named Space Travel From Someplace Else. Deep primordial resonances underscore the alien-like chatter of winds, reeds, and percussion, and whooshing airy sustains are adorned with whistling overtones. Recorded in parking garage in New Jersey, Space Travel From Someplace Else is one of five tracks on Wavefield Ensemble’s debut album, Concrete & Void.
Concrete & Void features newly commissioned works designed to be rehearsed and recorded in a single session, written by Jen Baker, Jessie Cox, Victoria Cheah, Greg Chudzik, and Nicholas DeMaison. The resulting compositions explore the possibilities of graphic scores and other non-traditional music notation as tools for responding to the resonance of industrial spaces, spectrographic sound renderings, and pre-recorded video excerpts.
This first album from an ensemble launched in 2016 and made up of new music all-stars, including Julia den Boer, Hannah Levinson, Greg Chudzik, and Dan Lippel, was recorded at a socially-distanced concert at a parking garage in Montclair, NJ in October 2020. But you would never know it's a live performance, such is the gleaming perfection of the sound. Presented are five meaty works (the shortest is just over eleven minutes) from composers, including Jen Baker, Jessie Cox, Victoria Cheah, Chudzik, and Nicholas DeMaison, who all collaborated deeply with the players. Pushing through the COVID era restraints (no in-person rehearsals, etc.), the group has arrived at a series of gripping, cinematic soundscapes, with Cheah's A wasp, some wax, an outline of the valley over us a fall being especially involving. Like all the pieces, the integration of electronics and acoustic instruments is seamless and her use of suspense brings to mind Bernard Herrmann's work for sci-fi television or tracks from Nine Inch Nails Ghosts, as she draws you through a series of images in sound. After all of Cheah's tension, Chudzik's Silo washes over you like a hymnal, with his cello surrounded by harmonics and drones. Concrete & Void firmly establishes Wavefield as a group to watch, and I hope I can get to their next concert, especially if it has free parking!
— Jeremy Shatan, 6.15.2021
Wavefield is an ensemble specialised in contemporary music with the following members: Roberta Michel (flutes), Michelle Farah (oboe), Eric Umble (clarinets), Sara Schoenbeck (bassoon), John Gattis (horn), Jen Baker (trombone), Dennis Sullivan (percussion & electronics), Kathryn Andrews (harp), Daniel Lippel guitar), Nicholas DeMaison (accordion), Julia Den Boer (synthesizer), Erica Dicker (violin), Hannah Levinson (viola), Greg Chudzik (bass), Geoff Landman (saxophone). The ensemble, founded in 2016 and based in New York City, specialises in contemporary music. With 'Concrete & Void', they present their impressive debut album. Recordings took place in one session on a day in October 2020. Because of the Covid-virus, the recording took place in an outside parking garage in New Jersey. They perform compositions written for the ensemble by Jessie Cox, Jen Baker, Greg Chudzik, Victoria Cheah and Nicholas DeMaison, co-Artistic Director of the ensemble. The ensemble composed the compositions with intensive communication.
All works deal with sound, texture, and noise, indicating that this is the ensemble's primary focus. We hear five bolded compositions of limited length, all of them written in graphic scores, leading up to five different and pronounced sound entities that have things in common. All are works make the impression of massive multi-layered sound 'organisms', which fascinate me because of their complexity and diversity in sounds and noises. The opening work 'Lightsicle Sirens' is a composition by Jen Baker, starting with a deep drone. Gradually this sound texture, which unfolds as one long-extended movement, begins to differentiate itself through gestures and actions by the different players. With increasing energy, the piece moves towards a climax, followed by a deescalating finale. 'Space Travel From Someplace Else' by Jessie Cox is an intriguing work, built from responses by the performers to video material presented to them by Cox. The diverse performers produced a piece of grinding noises and a constant flow of tiny movements and patterns. Very communicative and lively work and again with a focus on sound. 'A wasp, some wax, an outline of the valley over us a fall', composed by Victoria Cheah, is a work of long extended patterns of shifting harmonies, creating one immense space experience. Likewise, 'Silo' written by ensemble member Greg Chudzik and the dramatic 'Untitled 1, for Wavefield' by Nicholas DeMaison, offer related investigations into sound. Together they deliver a clear and consistent picture of the territories this ensemble wants to explore. Truly fascinating music and performance. A compelling debut.
— Dolf Mulder, 9.07.2021