The cover and the booklet that come with this CD contain art that is a remarkably fitting metaphor for the music contained herein. The almost monochromatic images with sometimes barely visible lines defining a space which requires serious concentration to discern effectively at times is very much like the music we hear on the disc.
Scott Wollschleger (1980- ) is an American composer who studied with Nils Vigeland at the Manhattan School of Music. His work has been compared to that of Morton Feldman and, more generally, to the other members of the so-called New York School. Vigeland has been active throughout his career performing and recording definitive versions of some of the best of Morton Feldman, John Cage, Earle Brown, and Christian Wolff. It would appear that these voices and stylistic leanings are very much favored at the Manhattan School of Music. A previous disc reviewed here with music by head of the composition department Reiko Futing, evokes a similar sound world.
This disc of chamber music contains five works on eight tracks ranging from 1’43” to 14’27” and all require almost as much concentration on the part of the listener as the extended techniques and performance requirements demand of the performers. The dynamic range is from (generous) silences to forte.
The first track is by the seriously entertaining and odd piano trio called Longleash. They demonstrate their expertise and concentration as well as their love for this musical genre in their performance of Brontal Symmetry (2015). Unlike the other pieces here, Brontal Symmetry makes use of ostinati and there is a consistent sound field punctuated with silences. It is an unusual but ultimately engaging piece. Longleash consists of Pala Garcia, violin; John Popham, cello; and Renate Rohlfing, piano.
It is followed by the titular and sparse Soft Aberration (2013) for viola and piano played by Anne Lanzilotti, viola and Karl Larson, piano. Though approximately the same length as the opening work the silences nearly suspend the perception of time and create a sense of sounds suspended in space in a sort of sculptural way.
Bring Something Incomprehensible into this World (2015) is for trumpet and soprano. The three parts of this work are spread across the disc (tracks 3, 5, and 8) creating an even more spare sense. It is interesting to play the three movements manually without the interruption of the intended track sequence to get a sense of the piece. Again we have silences predominating with extended techniques demanded of the performers. Andy Kozar plays trumpet and the soprano is Corrine Byrne. The first movement at 6’39” is the longest followed by the second at 3’25” and the last at 1’43”.
America (2013) is a solo cello piece here played by John Popham (of Longleash). It is a pointillistic mix of silence and extended instrumental techniques which makes reference to an art work by Glenn Ligon.
White Wall (2013) is for string quartet and is played by the Mivos Quartet consisting of Olivia De Prato, violin; Josh Modney, violin; Victor Lowrie, viola; and Mariel Roberts, cello. This is an amalgam of unfolding processes which seem to be indiosyncratic to the composer. It is very intimate music in that sense. The piece is in two substantial movements.
The album concludes with the brief last part of Bring Something Incomprehensible Into This World. Suffice it to say that there are attempts here to tie in philosophical as well as visual metaphors. Wollschleger is apparently enamored of the writings of Deleuze, Nietzsche, and Brecht. Her lies another tie in to the New York School with their love of visual metaphors and philosophy. This is not an easy listen but it is a serious effort deserving of some attention. The listener can decide whether the artists have indeed brought something comprehensible into this world…or not.