America / by Anne Lanzilotti

In anticipation of the release of Scott Wollschleger's debut album, Soft Aberration, I will be sharing my program notes for each of the works. This week's notes are on the solo cello piece, America, written for and played by John Popham. (Update: the viola edition is now available on PSNY.)

I happened to see Glenn Ligon’s Double America 2 (2014) at The Broad in Los Angeles when I was working on this piece. I remember waiting while a group of college students took selfies in front of it so that I could take a video with my phone to send to Scott. Ligon’s work, for neon and paint, is the word AMERICA in large capital letters inverted under itself. The lower AMERICA in the sculpture flickers slightly, unstable—a phenomenon that we are so used to it seems unintentional. And yet, is this Double America a reflection of itself? Ligon’s work is informed by his experience as an African American in the United States—his piece seeks to expose the idea of multiplicity in America, and in the self.

While these two works are seemingly unrelated, the idea of trying to essentialize experience made me view my interpretation of Wollschleger’s America differently.

Is America a set of clear identities struggling against each other?

Is America a complex texture that exposes multiplicity?

Is America endless lines of strip malls that blur into a texture of gray in a car trip across the country? A series of flickering gas station signs?

Is America an unraveling hopefulness that is only revealed for a moment?

Perhaps once we identify something we oversimplify it. Wollschleger’s America resists as it rotates through glitchy, fragile material.


Soft Aberration is available on New Focus Recordings October 20th!

Read the previous post in this series on "Bring Something Incomprehensible into This World."

Read the next post in this series on "White Wall."