strings

White Wall by Anne Lanzilotti

This is the final post in a series featuring the program notes for Scott Wollschleger's debut album, Soft Aberration out next week on New Focus Recordings!

“I think there’s a kind of emptied quality to the string quartet, and those pieces I wrote at that time.” Scott trails off slightly, then continues, “I think the white noise signified that sort of complete emptiness that’s at the very end of something. But to have that be the actual starting spot was the idea.” We’re sitting in my living room on what is probably the windiest day in winter this season. The old windows in my apartment aren’t sealed well, and the entire recorded interview is accompanied by a pervasive cold wind. Every time Scott pauses as he’s thinking about the white noise sounds, it seems as though the wind picks up, as though it can tell that we’re talking about it. Wollschleger continued:

[White Wall] definitely represented a break in my own work, or in myself, or in my approach to art, where I wanted to see how you could start from nothing, and pull from within itself something. . . . If you were to drain music from itself, what would be left over?

The beginning of the piece is almost a sound installation. We hear the “breathing” of the four instruments as they are activated by white noise. The breathing turns into humming, slowly unearthing a melody. As this “song” emerges from the white noise, it begins to dance around the fluttering creatures that surround it. Wollschleger elaborated:

Again, this notion of unfolding from within itself was the goal—utopian chimera, Adorno’s dream. But I think ending it with a dance was my way of saying this isn’t going to happen. . . . That’s why I think I had to add that second movement.

Yet, the playful dance of the second movement also disintegrates. This pervasive feeling of being drained cannot be shaken. Wollschleger added:

I always think of the white noise as the bleached out remains of a human. Which I think is kind of beautiful idea: when nothing is left, that’s all that’s left, that white noise. . . . And after history, and after Brahms, and after all our feelings, what would there be? The white noise points to that language which might be left for us.

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

Read the previous post in this series on "America."

Obsidian Sound Sculptures at The Noguchi Museum by Anne Lanzilotti

I got another chance to play with these incredible obsidian sounding stones by Isamu Noguchi! Although they are normally not displayed publicly, The Noguchi Museum staff has been very generously allowing me to improvise on them and record the sounds to workshop a new piece I'm writing for the stones, strings and voice. The premiere of my piece will be part of a concert at The Noguchi Museum on Sunday, February 5, 2017 at 3pm. The concert is free with museum admission. Here are a couple videos from last month when I was experimenting with different ways of playing the stones:

IMG-1668.JPG

UPDATE: Here is the archival footage of the premiere of birth, death filmed on location at The Noguchi Museum.

This work was written in honor of the exhibition of Isamu Noguchi’s two sculptures Birth (1934) and Death (1934) being displayed together in the same gallery for the first time. The two obsidian sound sculptures used in birth, deathUntitled (1978) & Sounding Stone (1981)—were created by Noguchi to be played as instruments. The string players should tune 1/6th tone flat to match the pitch of the stones, and in general all pitches should be tuned to the overtones of the stones. birth, death may be performed on other stone, metal, or glass objects with the fundamental of E and/or G for the first movement, and C-sharp for the second movement. The work is dedicated to Anne Grilk King.

Premiered February 5, 2017 at The Noguchi Museum, Long Island City, New York. Many thanks to The Noguchi Museum’s incredible staff for facilitating rehearsals and access to these unique sculptures.

Download the score.