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Wax and Wire
The cross-continental new music powerhouse, Latitude 49 returns for their sophomore release, Wax and Wire with flair and passion. A dynamic collection of new and recent works specifically written and arranged for the band, Wax and Wire takes the listener through an engaging genre-bending experience launching from the visceral to the sublime. The album begins with the psychedelic pulsations of Gabriella Smith’s Number Nine, an homage to the musique concrète work, Revolution 9 famously released on the Beatles’ seminal record known as the "White Album”. Smith’s careful use of timbre and musical themes taken from the famous sound collage permeate throughout this work, while warming up the ears and minds of album listeners. Following up is Viet Cuong’s charismatic show piece and title track of the album, Wax and Wire. Cuong takes the album experience to a newfound light-hearted and energetic mood, showcasing Latitude's wind players in a blaze of microtonal scales, accompanied by tasteful percussive effects and lyrical melodies from the strings and piano that ensure the ensemble’s technical prowess.
The third track of this release takes us to the sweet warmth of Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Thread and Fray, a trio for viola, bass clarinet, and marimba. As the only subset on this release, Thread and Fray offers us a palate cleanser through close knit imitation and counterpoint between the members of the trio.
As listeners journey to the second half of Wax and Wire, they are met with Annika Socolofsky’s atmospheric A Sense of Who, an arrangement she created for Latitude 49 in 2016. A Sense of Who explores the idea of finding one’s self within a community, incorporating Socolofksy's sensitive balance of folk inspired music, with glorious washes of sound in a cleansing electroacoustic blend. This work makes special use of composer and folk musician, Evan Chambers’ voice through a series of samples Socolofsky recorded with him, showing off his entrancing American folk song style of singing.
Turning back into the visceral realm, the penultimate work is presented here by Latitude 49’s own percussionist Chris Sies in his slow burning, these (were) used to harm. Through a blend of noise and death metal inspired material, Sies weaves a tapestry of sounds bridging the gap between DIY power electronics and modern chamber music. these (were) used to harm makes use of live electronics, and effects inspired by specific songs that have been used as means of torture, as described in Alex Ross’s July 2016 New Yorker article “When Music is Violence”. The ensemble makes its way through this 20-minute epic, to reach the other side with a sense of clarity and healing. It is in this moment, we reach the final work of the album - You Are Free, an additional work of Sarah Kirkland Snider's, only this time, she brings our experience inward with the tender interactions between the full sextet’s voices. The calm drones of the piano and marimba rest as a bedrock for the gentle undulations of the winds to dance across - all components provide a solid foundation for the cello/violin duo to sing longer melodies atop. You Are Free ends this album on a clear and delicate note, after an exciting, yet demanding collection of modern works presented this ambitious sextet.
ALBUM ORDER AND PROGRAM NOTES
1. Number Nine (Gabriella Smith, 2013)
2. Wax and Wire (Viet Cuong, 2014, 2016)
3. Thread and Fray (Sarah Kirkland Snider, 2006)
4. a sense of who (Annika Socolofsky, 2015, 2016)
5. these (were) used to harm (Chris Sies, 2017)
6. You Are Free (Sarah Kirkland Snider, 2015)
Timothy Steeves, Violin
Max Geissler, Cello
Andy Hall, Saxophones
Andy Hudson, Clarinets
Jani Parsons, Piano
Chris Sies, Percussion and Electronics
Track 4 features the voice of Evan Chambers, recorded by Annika Socolofsky in Ann Arbor, Michigan
Number Nine (Gabriella Smith, 2013)
Gabriella Smith shaped her Number Nine after the Beatles’ Revolution 9, their collage-like, musique-concréte-inspired, aural depiction of a revolution, positioned at the climactic point of the White album. What begins with the instrumental version of the repeating phrase, “number nine”, “number nine”, “number nine” etc. grows ominously into a hallucinogenic and ferocious loop that dissipates into static dissonance. The core of the work features a percussion improvisation that reaches a violent rupture that dissipates only to build again into a distorted chorale of jubilant fragments.
Wax and Wire (Viet Cuong, 2014, 2016)
About a year ago, I was introduced to the figurative wire sculptures of Michael Gard. Though his sculptures are made of metal wire, many of them are depictions of dancers in gentle poses that impart a delicate quality to the innately harsh material. Gard describes his artistic process:“Each figure begins as a block of clay and a spool of wire. The clay is sculpted. This sculpture is reproduced in wax. Individual lengths of wire are woven and knotted stitch-by-stitch around the wax form. Finally the wax is melted away, leaving a rigid figure, both light and strong.” [www.michaelgard.com]
The wax sculpture provides a firm foundation, but disappears from the final work, becoming at first soft and then formless. The wire, at first bent to the will of the wax, preserves the structure, but in a way that gives bounce to the remarkably intricate skeleton. Wax and Wire is a translation of Gard’s process, using musical “smears” as an aural representation of such duality. The smears are constructed of chromatic scales in the piano that are successively destabilized by quarter-tone embellishments in the woodwinds, and then by glissandi in the violin. By the end, these smears melt away, revealing a transformation of a rigid idea presented earlier in the piece.This sextet version of Wax and Wire was adapted for Latitude 49 from its original quartet version. Heartfelt thanks to the members of Latitude 49 for bringing this new version to life!
Thread and Fray (Sarah Kirkland Snider, 2006)
Thread and Fray, a trio for bass clarinet, marimba, and viola, was written in 2006 for the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble. The piece weaves a unison melody through an increasingly fragmented musical landscape, occasionally splintering into subsidiary streams of thought. When I wrote Thread and Fray, I was listening to a lot of music by Louis Andriessen, an influence you can hear in the choice of instrumentation, the use of close canonic writing, and in certain aspects of the phrasing. The melodic material comes from a horizontal exploration of stacked major and minor sixth intervals, a harmonic world I’ve been preoccupied with since “discovering” it for myself in a string quartet I wrote in 2002.
a sense of who (Annika Socolofsky, 2015, 2016)
“I find that people who come from small places have a very
strong sense of who they are.” – Nic Gareiss, Irish dancer
I have never come from a small place. I’ve spent my life jumping around from Edinburgh, to Chicago, to Pittsburgh—city
after city after city. But in 2012, for the first time in my life, I moved to a smaller place. In Ann Arbor, Michigan my fiddle
and I were swallowed, heads-first, into the traditional Irish music scene. Showing up to familiar faces and tunes and
conversation at Conor O’Neill’s on Main St. every Sunday night provided a sense of community I’d never before
experienced. Over the last few years, there’s been this microscopic point inside of me that has started to grow. That point
is that sense of belonging, that sense of friendship, that sense of love, that sense of community, that sense of grounding,
that inkling of a sense of who... It’s been growing. And that is everything.
The fixed media for this piece consists of original vocal material performed by composer-folk singer-fiddler Evan
Chambers. The recording has been processed and includes voice, mountain dulcimer, and electric guitar samples in
addition to recordings of the Huron River, which runs through Ann Arbor. This piece was adapted for Latitude 49.
these (were) used to harm (Chris Sies, 2017)
These (were) used to harm is a work for mixed sextet and live electronics that lasts about 18 minutes and draws from inspirations of growing up touring with heavy metal bands and the composers’ recent interests in noise and ambient music. The title comes from the idea of songs being used for harm or as a means of torture. The sounds used in this work are processed arrangements of songs and themes that have been used for violence as referenced in the 2016 New Yorker Article “When Music is Violence” written by Alex Ross. It begins with a processional of sorts, with musicians draping the audience in the shimmering sounds of brushed rebar. There are moments of eruption and release, as well as hope and perplexity.
You Are Free (Sarah Kirkland Snider, 2015)
In 2015, with a project called “Music In Their Words,” Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble commissioned nine composers to create works that featured the speaking voice of a 20th Century composer whose music had had a significant impact on their own. I chose Arvo Pärt. The field recording of Pärt’s voice that I chose to sample comes from a video interview he gave to Icelandic experimental pop star Björk in the late ‘90s. During their conversation, he says “You can kill people with sound. And if you can kill, then maybe there is also the sound that is opposite of killing. And the distance between these two points is very big. And you are free ― you can choose. In art everything is possible, but everything is not necessary.” As I listened to their conversation, I imagined a simple F major triad undulating in marimba, piano, and clarinet. From there, thinking about the meaning of both freedom and necessity in art, I tried to do something I don’t often do: let the piece unfold, free of agenda or judgment. The first performance direction is “somewhere between plaintive, tender, and anxious.”
You Are Free can be performed with or without the field recording.