Scott Wollschleger – Dark Days
New Focus Recordings FCR287 (newfocusrecordings.com/catalogue)
Secret Machine 6
Music Without Metaphor
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“Spells of hushed, cryptic beauty… free-floating grace.” So wrote Alex Ross in The New Yorker about the music of Brooklyn-based Scott Wollschleger (b.1980). The ten pieces on this CD, dating from 2007 to 2020, share with the stylistically very different piano works of Erik Satie austere economies of means, eschewing virtuosic displays and overt emotionalism, yet achieving remarkably individual and expressive results.
The opening Dark Days, prophetically composed in January 2017 during Trump’s inauguration, appropriately rumbles and grumbles in the piano’s lowest register. Shifting to the treble, the diaphanous Tiny Oblivion reflects what Wollschleger calls “black humour acceptance [of] the fact that our ultimate fate is to die and then eventually to turn into particles that will forever break down into smaller particles…”
Music without Metaphor, Blue Inscription and Lyric Fragment are slow, sombre, haltingly paced, directionless peregrinations. In Brontal Nos.2, 6 and 11, single notes intermittently drip or spray; occasionally, chords splash. (Brontal: a coined word Wollschleger employs for “discovery within the unfamiliar.”) Finally, Secret Machine Nos.4 and 6 are surprisingly cheerful, their shimmering trills and rippling arpeggios marking the CD’s gradual emergence from the “dark days.”
In his detailed booklet notes, pianist Karl Larson describes Wollschleger’s synaesthetic pairing of different harmonies with specific visual colours; non-synaesthetic listeners must content themselves with the aural colours of Wollschleger’s tenebrous keyboard palette.
Wollschleger’s enigmatic compositions are ideal accompaniments for sipping wine on a late wintry evening, but you shouldn’t wait for winter to hear them!