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Information Regarding COVID-19:
Our New York City office remains closed to protect the health and safety of all of our employees. During this time, we are doing everything possible to minimize disruptions to our daily operations. All employees are working remotely from home and remain fully contactable. If you have had to cancel or postpone a performance of a work from our catalogue, or are considering live streaming performances or streaming archival material, we are prepared to assist you in facilitating changes. Please direct all questions or concerns to rental@eamdc.com.

Please note:

  • All materials from canceled or completed performances should be returned to our Verona, New Jersey library only.
  • Please do not return materials to our New York office. Unfortunately, we cannot be responsible for lost materials that are returned to our New York office while it is closed. If materials are lost, we will have to charge the full replacement value.
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Weekly Playlist: Scott Wollschleger

Scott Wollschleger has long been interested in the end of the world—or a world. The processes of ending, transformation, and becoming are enacted in many of his works, which often bear witness to the subtle transmutation of musical material through slow, meditative interactions between musician and instrument. In a recent interview with Steve Smith about his longstanding collaboration with pianist Karl Larson, Wollschleger says: 

But world is a created idea, and I get inspiration from the feeling of not holding onto this idea of the past, in a certain way. So when I say I write music for the end of the world, it’s more of a letting go of these things, that structure, the world that we hold onto from the past. I’m looking for a way to make a structure of the world that’s not determined on something from the past. 

Some of Wollschleger's works are more explicit about this new structuring, such as 2015's Bring Something Incomprehensible Into This World!whose title is excerpted from an essay by Heinrich von Kleist. But others are more mutable in their worldmaking. This week, we celebrate recent performances of Wollschleger's works that investigate such sonic possible worlds. 

1. Lost Anthems, Wollschleger's 2019 work for viola and piano, composed for violist Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti's multifaceted 20/19 commissioning project. The UK premiere performance, at the Turner Contemporary (alongside commissions by Andrew Norman and Anna Thorvaldsdottir), was filmed by Will Dutta, and is now available to stream:

2. Dark Days, a 2017 work for solo piano written during the early tenure of America's current president. This work was recently performed by pianist/composer Timo Andres, paired with Aaron Copland's Story of Our Town, for the Metropolis Ensemble's House Music Series, which feature intimate performances at home during our current dark days. 

3. American Dream (for piano, contrabass, and percussion, 2017). This work, commissioned and premiered by the trio Bearthoven, was recorded and released in 2019 on Canteloupe Music, and was more recently performed at the Avaloch Farm Music Institute. Wollschleger and the members of Bearthoven (Karl Larson, Pat Swoboda, and Matt Evans) were interviewed by Avaloch's Michael Compitello, and their discussion of this work can be seen here.

4. We Have Taken and Eaten, a 2015 monodrama for solo percussionist. This heterodox work places a percussionist—Kevin Sims—as the protagonist of an operatic work, in which, Wollschleger writes, "I tried to construct a musical language that was composed of sound materials that might have been left over in the dustbin of history." As featured on NPR's "Arts & Letters" program, We Have Taken and Eaten "attempts to create a new narrative for ourselves as we move into an uncertain future." 

Michael Hersch's "On the Threshold of Winter" Available to Stream Online

“The essence of Michael Hersch’s music,” soprano Ah Young Hong reflects, “is being alone in your thoughts. To be able to have this incredibly earth-shattering silence that is screaming at you—the internal world that we have to grapple with. That is what is so unforgiving and powerful about his work.” 

Hong’s relationship to Hersch’s music is unique: beginning in 2014, she has performed the solo role of On the Threshold of Winterin three productions, the third of which she directed, across six cities in North America, and is the only singer in the world to have performed the work to date. Of the premiere, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim wrote in the New York Times

"Mr. Hersch's music, for all its dark and fragile beauty, offer neither comfort nor catharsis. A traumatized silence clung to the Fishman Space auditorium after the last line sung by the soprano Ah Young Hong, the opera's blazing, lone star."

In 2015, Hong worked closely with Hersch, the chamber ensemble NUNC led by Miranda Cuckson, and director James Matthew Daniel, to produce this filmed performance of the opera, which is now available to stream. 

With what Anne Midgette called a “cold, uncompromising brilliance,”On the Threshold of Winter sets texts by Romanian poet Marin Sorescu, written during the last five weeks of his life while dying from liver cancer. Hersch’s libretto transforms those texts, which were dedicated by Sorescu “to those who suffer,” into a monodrama in two acts, in which Hong’s character is both in time and out of time, at turns raging against death and struggling to accept its inevitability. For Hong, Hersch’s instrumental writing functions to illustrate the structure of her character’s mind, at times with directly audible relationships between her voice and an instrument—always cut short, however, and prevented from reaching resolution. 

It is precisely this denial of resolution that Hong finds so powerful in Hersch’s work: it ultimately enjoins both her and her audience to experience this work alone. That isolation, however, produces a kind of rare empathy, emerging from what she calls the “dark world” of the monodrama into a shared connection and emotional release. She describes this as an exploration of the crevices and folds in one’s soul that normally remains that untouched, with Hersch’s music functioning as a liquid that seeps in, forcing a reconciliation with the pain and agony of death. Indeed, in the last moment of the work, she sings Sorescu’s words: “Terrible is the passage/ Into the fold/ Both for man/ And / Animal.”

In James Matthew Daniel’s 2015 production, Hong is joined on stage by other bodies: or, more precisely, almost-bodies of broken plaster, producing abject remnants of dust and blood. These life-size sculptures, by artist Christopher Cairns, both complicate and emphasize the isolation of Hong’s character on stage; she, too, will become abject in death. 

Indeed, watching this filmed performance in the time of COVID-19 adds another complicating fold to the power of Hersch’s work. At the time of its premiere, suffering, illness, and death were still topics that could still be largely avoided in everyday life. With the world thrust into a pandemic, Hersch’s work perhaps takes on a renewed sense of power in its confrontation with these abject experiences. For Hong, emerging from this work produces a renewed empathy for both herself and her community of family and friends, a renewed reconciliation with human mortality. 

Weekly Playlist: Alvin Singleton

The music of Alvin Singleton, in the words of Kyle Gann, "glows with warmth, hovers in the air, paces itself with a glacial but palpably intuitive momentum." Coming of musical age in New York in the 1960s, Singleton emerged as a singular compositional voice, befriending fellow composer Carman Moore and attending New York University and Yale. After living and working in Europe for much of the 1970s, Singleton returned to New York where he continued to compose for orchestras, chamber ensembles, choral ensembles, and solo musicians. As Gann observes, Singleton's music often plays with speed, texture, and atmosphere, contrasting angular, frenetic voices with graceful, ethereal sections that often explore the extended range of musical instruments. 

This kind of interplay is exemplified by Singleton's 1970 work for solo cello Argoru II, which forms part of Singleton's Argoru series of compositions for solo instruments. "Argoru", in the Twi language spoken in Ghana, means "to play". As Carman Moore writes,

"In Argoru II the composer constructs a world of "strange characters" for whom he seems to have created an original language which they use to scream out, cajole, shout, mumble, and chuckle. Single powerful shots alternate with long phrase ultra-soft scramblings. This is the theatre of sound."

Another standout work in the Argoru series is Argoru V/a, for bass clarinet, composed in 1978 for Harry Sparnaay and later revised in 2011. In an interview with the jazz pianist and composer Ethan Iverson, Iverson hears a resonance between this work and the soloing style of Eric Dolphy—one of the few Jazz greats that Singleton missed meeting at the Five Spot in the 1960s.

The breadth of Singleton's compositional imagination can be heard in his 1978 work for solo harpischord, Le Tombeau du Petit Prince. Dedicated to the eponymous protagonist of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's novella, this work was motivated by Singleton's desire to compose his music that "speaks equally to the humanity of all its listeners." 

We'll end this composer playlist with Singleton's 2011 work for solo piano, In My Own Skin, whose title, to Carman Moore, "lets us know clearly where the composer is comfortable." But "Within that skin," as Moore notes, "are two competing sonic worlds." One graceful, glacial, almost chorale-like; the other "wild and quicksilver, both in tempo and rhythmic variety."

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