American Dream — Scott Wollschleger

Scott Wollschleger’s American Dream is a major addition to Bearthoven’s repertoire, a substantial work in the composer’s already impressive catalogue, and the focal point of this  program. The thirty minute piece is an intricate quilt of delicate textures and sound objectscomposed for piano, double bass, and percussion. Throughout the work, Wollschleger pairs his signature pianistic style with ethereal bass harmonics, pitch pipes, and a variety of innovative percussive sounds to create a captivating mosaic of sound. After a soft premiere of a portion of American Dream at LPR in April, I Care if You Listen called the work “Stunning, almost hypnotic.”

In Wollschleger’s own words: “American Dream is a reflection on fragility, hope and despair. The piece's original emotional impetus came out of what I experienced during the 2016-17 election cycle. As I developed the composition with Bearthoven the piece became more abstract and more about what I imagined were "broken songs" arranged as floating sounds in a fragmented time field. These broken song are permeated with an ominous sounding tone cluster which is perpetually transformed throughout the work. This cluster was a feeling of doom that was unavoidable while writing the piece. At the work's conclusion the cluster finds its resolution, hopefully in a sublime way. The overall arch of American Dream is expansive and drifting. The musical wandering coupled with the paradoxical mix of contrasting emotions creates a dream-like state which can perhaps be a simultaneous reflection on abstract sounds and a reflection on the larger social and political space we find ourselves in today.”

Kristina Wolfe’s Near Sky is a deeply meditative, graphically notated work for piano, double bass, percussion, and electronics (MaxMSP). Wolfe’s compositional voice is based around sound and environment. A former student of Pauline Oliveros, her music is rooted in a deep listening philosophy - it fills space with sound and invites the listener to contemplate the relationship between the space and sound they are occupying. 

In her program notes for Near Sky, Wolfe states: “I have become very interested in subtlety and with the various strange acoustic spaces caused by the weather in high moorlands. This weather can lead to peculiar senses of closeness within openness where sometimes the floor is louder than the world around your ears. I wanted to explore the sound of closeness, openness, rain, underground rivers resonating rocks and trees, falling rocks and stones, creaking, the wind in pine trees, and how the whole sense of space changes in moments of clear. I have been analyzing the sound of the rivers and wind and the resonances that come up from these constantly varying atmospheric conditions and it turns out that the driving wind will sometimes ‘sing’. I intended to make a piece that sounds like it is being played in an intermittent rain shower in a ruined cathedral.”

Happy/Angry Music — Adam Roberts

Adam Roberts’s Happy/Angry Music is a multifaceted work for piano, double bass, and percussion commissioned for Bearthoven by the Johnstone Fund for New Music. Over the course twelve minutes, Happy/Angry Music pulls the listener through a series of manic scene changes ranging from the disjointed, pseudo-rock opening to an extended bass/tam tam drone. Roberts’s piece is a gripping, genre-bending race through a kaleidoscopic landscape. 

Adam Roberts's piece was commissioned by the Johnstone Fund For New Music on behalf of Bearthoven. 

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