Tag: cello

Erik Friedlander: Stories Without Words

“It’s not your skill level, it’s how much you communicate,” cellist Erik Friedlander advises early in our conversation. “It’s how much you express that the audience really wants to hear. They come to hear you be real.”

Friedlander, however, is clearly not a musician lacking for chops. The years of training and gigging he did to establish himself in New York City’s music scene—largely on the downtown/avant-garde jazz side, though his active performance career has taken him all over the genre map—left him with a reputation as a go-to freelancer. And while he’s since honed his focus down more tightly to his own composer/performer work, it’s this underlying sonic curiosity and his ability to aurally convey deep emotional experience that colors the ongoing evolution of his work, both in solo and group contexts.

This week, Friedlander released a recording of Illuminations, his ten-part suite for solo cello, originally a commission by the Jewish Museum in New York City tied to an exhibit of ancient books they were hosting. Friedlander notes the echo of Bach in the piece’s construction and the obvious impact of the historic texts that inspired him. Yet while the filter of that history overlays its message, its musical language is modern.

Friedlander explains that he took away a particular image from this display of illuminated manuscripts which inspired his later thinking. “You just felt like you were in the presence of some incredible work, some incredible time being spent to carefully detail every letter,” he recalls. “I was interested in the content, but I was more interested in the labor—the exquisite time and effort that was taken into creating these beautiful books. I just imagined the life that was given to doing this job.”

Erik Friedlander: Office

Erik Friedlander’s home studio.

Erik Friedlander: Office

Friedlander’s Luis and Clark carbon fiber cello

His working process varies from project to project, though inspiration for much of his recent catalog can be tied to such personal life experiences or visual elements. A prime example, perhaps, is his album Block Ice & Propane (2007), which he performs live as “Taking Trips To America” with the accompaniment of projected images taken by his parents (his father is the admired American photographer Lee Friedlander) during their annual summer camping trips.

No matter the impetus or the eventual scoring method, at some point Friedlander says he always ends up at the cello while working out ideas “because that’s where I’m most comfortable.” And while adventurous when it comes to finding new sounds and ways to play his instrument, there’s also a complimentary caution to adding techniques. Friedlander says he was always self-conscious about using pedals in performance, for example, because they didn’t fit as fluidly into his work as he needed them to until recently. The development of his remarkable pizzicato technique went through a similar period of appraisal, which he speaks about in the video at the top of this post.

But his experiences in New York’s downtown music community helped him build a platform for the experimental ways of working he was seeking. “I finally fell into a scene where a string player could be doing world music, could be doing rock-inspired music, any kind of music, and this is what I was searching for. I was a cello player who was not entirely happy just playing the music that was given to me in orchestra or chamber groups. I mean, I liked all that stuff, but I had something different about me that needed to be explored, and this was the scene for that perfectly.”

It was a necessary addition to his more traditional training. “When you learn classically, you learn to develop a very strong inner censor who’s constantly berating you for what you’re doing wrong. I think all players, classical or otherwise, need to get a good gag on that person,” Friedlander recommends. “You’ve got to shoot higher than that; you have to shoot for expression rather than technical perfection.”

Sounds Heard: Chris Wild–Abhanden

Abhanden (Navona Records) is the debut release from Chicago-based cellist Chris Wild. Wild is a mainstay of the Chicago contemporary music scene; he has been a core member of Ensemble Dal Niente since its founding and is an active conductor and music educator. His onstage presence is intense and contemplative, so it comes as no surprise that Abhanden presents six works which, in radically different ways, explore intimate and interior worlds. The recording is expertly crafted by Wild and his co-producers, engineer Dan Nichols and composer Eliza Brown, and features excellent performances from Dal Niente’s pianist Mabel Kwan, percussionist Greg Beyer, violinist J. Austin Wulliman, and soprano Amanda deBoer Bartlett.

The album’s first work is Chinary Ung’s Spiral (1987) for cello, piano, and percussion. Ung, a Cambodia-born composer whose music draws on (and works to preserve) the musical traditions of his native country, has written a series of pieces for various instrumentations, all sharing the title Spiral. In this, the first piece of the series, Ung frequently places the cellist in the traditionally virtuosic, singing role of soloist. Wild’s approach to the material is soaring, lyrical, and bold. Pianist Mabel Kwan and percussionist Greg Beyer contribute dynamic and exciting performances; they create a rich, dark, percolating atmosphere which can spring to rhythmically ferocious life at any moment. It is hard to imagine Ung’s enchanting music finding finer advocates than these. Each moment of the piece’s heart-stopping final sequence is painstakingly shaped and colored by the trio, and the cello’s final note seems to both swallow all of time, and be swallowed by it.

The next track is Claude Vivier’s 1975 Piece pour violoncelle et piano. (Vivier was a promising French-Canadian composer whose career was cut short by his murder at age 34.) With its dramatic passages of extended recitative, the piece calls to mind great chamber works by Ravel and Debussy. Vivier, like his French predecessors, was interested in the musical cultures of Asia (in this case, Balinese gamelan music). The piece, written for a Canadian performance competition, walks the line between celebrating cellistic virtuosity and taking the formal and harmonic risks we might expect from late-20th century music. Wild and Kwan’s performance is sensitively timed and supremely patient, allowing the work’s material to sparkle as it unfolds at a glacial pace.
Chicago composer Daniel Dehaan’s If it encounters the animal, it becomes animalized begins calmly enough, in an ether of harmonics. But then an arresting groan, as if from the mouth of a living creature, emerges and startles the listener. This is the first signal that the piece, a virtuosic tour-de-force for solo cello, will indeed engage the instrument’s “animal nature.” Dehaan’s piece places the animal (the human performer) in a many-sided physical relationship with the cello and all the raw materials of which it is made. The recording and production work is particularly excellent here, capturing Wild’s full-bodied performance and successfully creating a three-dimensional sonic image of the cello itself that the listener feels she can almost touch. The closeness of the microphones leaves us delightfully uncertain whether Wild’s audible breathing is a part of the notated score or not.
If it encounters the animal… is an excellent representation of the creativity that can result from long-term collaboration between performer and composer. Each cello sound seems to have been carefully and collaboratively developed. The piece feels so multi-layered that one could easily forget it is an unaccompanied cello work. It evokes both an animal–whips, groans, breaths, rasps, slaps–and the windswept chasm in which the animal might manage to survive. This recording is yet another reason why Dehaan has become one of the most exciting young composers in the city.

Andrew Greenwald describes his music as being concerned with “issues of pixelated sound material viewed at increasing resolutions.” His Jeku II for violin and cello, performed here by Wild with J. Austin Wulliman, demands a wide technical range and interpretive daring. The duo delivers a focused and dramatic performance; there’s particular flair in the way the piece’s long silences amp up the tension before another burst of activity. Wild and Wulliman execute Greenwald’s palate of extreme sounds with a combination of playfulness and precision. Every whoosh, clatter, and scramble sparkles in contrast to the surrounding sounds. Wulliman seems to know the dimensions and density of each centimeter of his bow; in one passage, he creates an arresting series of percussive clicks with the movement of what seems like one “tooth” of the bow hair. It’s a clear-sighted performance that demonstrates why Wild and Wulliman are such successful longtime collaborators.

Marcos Balter’s elegiac memoria, for solo cello, shows off Wild’s strengths as an introspective performer. Balter has written subtle and slow-moving shifts of timbre that make the simple addition of a second pitch feel magical. As the piece spins in what feels like one never-ending note, there are haunting glimpses of harmonics that seem to ascend and descend from other dimensions. The recording quality is again excellent, embracing the three-dimensional aliveness of the cello itself.

Eliza Brown’s Ich ben der welt abhanden gekommen–a work for cello, soprano, and electronics inspired by Gustav Mahler’s setting of the same Ruckert text–was, for this listener, the most fascinating and revelatory on the disc. Brown describes her music as exploring “culturally defined elements of musical meaning and syntax,” and succeeds wonderfully here. This is art song that alternates between feeling like Mahler and feeling like Mahler played through a radio on the moon. Brown makes subtle and powerful use of electronic tracks, which move in mysterious waves as Bartlett opens the piece with wide-vibrating long tones and a melodic line of Mahlerian scope. Brown’s setting often finds the cello and soprano in intimate interaction, trading off unisons that blend seamlessly into one another. The electronics are a highly dynamic third character: sometimes tender and lush, lending superhuman strength to the cello; other times self-consciously machine-like, crackling with cold, post-apocalyptic static.
Abhanden offers the listener excellent renderings of work by three of Chicago’s most interesting voices, as well as three fascinating works by composers less often heard in the city–yet each one manages to project a sense of musical intimacy. Abhanden confirms that Wild is not only an exciting performer to watch, but also a wise programmer and collaborator. The album manages a delicate balance between being both a fascinating portrait of Wild himself and an intimate map of the collaborative community in which he works.

Interdisciplinary Musicians: Reflecting on the 2013 nief-norf Summer Festival

As I returned to the nief-norf Summer Festival (nnSF) in Greenville, South Carolina, for a third year this summer, I was asked by many friends why I chose to continue to participate in this festival, rather than others. There are certainly plenty of options in the United States for a festival of the same duration and within the same price range if your interests are centered on new music. My answer revolves around the intersection between performance, composition, and research, and the amazing people who perform those interrelated tasks.

This festival is not focused on simply workshopping classic solo and ensemble pieces for performance, nor is it focused on teaching composers how to write eloquently in chamber settings, nor is it a meeting of scholars in isolation from the rest of the music community. Rather, what nnSF Artistic Director Andrew Bliss seeks to accomplish is a merger of these three disciplines. In effect, nnSF pushes performers, composers, and researchers into the same room and locks the door. What may sound like a chaotic situation, however, is far from it; the effects are outstanding, invigorating, and inspiring.

Omar Carmenates, Andrew Bliss, Mike Truesdell, Kerry O'Brien (left to right) performing Strange and Sacred Noise by John Luther Adams.

Omar Carmenates, Andrew Bliss, Mike Truesdell, Kerry O’Brien (left to right) performing Strange and Sacred Noise by John Luther Adams.

The ten-day festival—hosted by Omar Carmenates at Furman University—revolves around a core series of concerts involving both the participants and the faculty. Originally only focusing on percussion music, the proceedings have expanded in the past two years to include a composition track, as well as cello and piano performance fellows. The first concert took place on the evening of May 28 and featured four of the faculty performing John Luther Adams’s evening-length percussion quartet Strange and Sacred Noise. Ominously hovering above the stage, projected onto the back wall, was a quotation by Jacques Attali that serves as an epigraph to Adams’s score:

Nothing essential happens in the absence of noise…in most cultures, the theme of noise lies at the origin of the religious idea…Music, then, constitutes communication with this primordial, threatening noise—prayer.

–Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music

While serving as a thoughtful prologue to the music, this quotation also effectively set the tone for the festival. Music functions as a means of communication but also, as Attali suggests, as a means to reach beyond our own sphere of understanding. Music occurs not in isolation, but through a communal effort in which potentially great things are achieved.

Andy Bliss, Kerry O’Brien, Omar Carmenates, and Mike Truesdell took to the stage and calmly delivered a precise performance of the mammoth piece. Strange and Sacred Noise is 75 minutes of carefully crafted process and was complimented by projections of each movement’s title, along with visual images and texts corresponding to each movement.

The following day, the performance fellows were tossed straight into rehearsals to prepare for the first of three chamber music concerts. Fellows are assigned and sent music before the festival begins, which allows for rehearsals to pick up at the late stages of preparation. In the three years that I’ve attended nnSF, the performance fellows are always class acts, arriving with their music prepared–their parts pasted into puzzle-box-like contraptions of poster board and tape in order to facilitate page turns–and often bringing fresh and exciting ideas for the pieces that allow for rich interpretations despite the compressed rehearsal period. The rehearsals function as an exciting dialogue between the young professionals and the faculty, and the results are always fantastic.
That evening, everyone gathered at Horizon Records in downtown Greenville for the participants’ cabaret concert. If you ever have the pleasure of visiting the beautiful city of Greenville, South Carolina, I highly recommend stopping at Horizon Records. Gene Berger’s shop houses thousands of amazing records and CDs—both new and old—and he and his staff create a welcoming atmosphere.

The cabaret concert is an opportunity for performers to bring solo pieces to share, and this year a huge range of works were performed, including pieces combining theater and percussion, the inevitable classics, and the increasingly popular Postludes for Bowed Vibraphone by Elliot Cole. Cello faculty member Ashley Walters performed Andrew McIntosh’s Another Secular Calvinist Creed, a piece that required the cello to be tuned according to just intonation and that fully exploited Walters’s steady virtuosity. We all sat mesmerized as her hands calmly leapt up and down the fingerboard and summoned eerie, captivating tones.

Cellist Ashley Walters Performing Andrew McIntosh’s Another Secular Calvinist Creed at Horizon Records

Cellist Ashley Walters performing Andrew McIntosh’s Another Secular Calvinist Creed at Horizon Records

The following two days consisted mostly of rehearsing for the first of the participants’ chamber concerts. Two of the four Call for Scores winners’ works were to be featured on this concert, and those composers (Bryan Christian and Travis Alford) gave presentations on their pieces that morning. In the evening these new works were performed alongside compositions by John Luther Adams, Steve Reich, Kate Neal, John Cage, and Mark Applebaum. The combination of the quality of the music and the momentum of such a fast preparation period led to an exciting night of music making. The audience, consisting mostly of locals from Greenville, also contained many of the scholars who would be presenting at the nief-norf Research Summit the following morning.

Alexv Rolfe performing Kate Neal's What Hath II?.

Alexv Rolfe performing Kate Neal’s What Hath II?.

I haven’t attended any research summits or conferences outside of my experience with nnSF and have often found academic musical analysis to be bewildering and unapproachable. This has been a hurdle I have been able to scale, thanks in part to attending the research summits hosted by nnSF in 2012 and 2013. Performers rarely get to engage with this sort of academic work, and it can be difficult to convince us that it’s important or interesting in the first place. Kerry O’Brien, who organized the Research Summit this year, did a good job persuading everyone, however. Early on, she made the point that it is exceedingly rare for scholars to attend a concert as audience members one night, only to take the “stage” the following day to present their most recent research to a room full of performers, composers, and fellow scholars. The performers and composers participated actively, often raising interesting questions and continuing discussions outside of the lecture hall, well into that evening’s “group hang” at a local bar in downtown Greenville. The research summit really takes the cake, in my mind, and makes nnSF such a unique and rewarding experience. Being confronted with scholarship (and the scholars themselves) really urges you to examine your own approach to the music you play or compose. It’s a healthy reminder that our music is traveling out into the world, and that people are receiving, considering, and responding to it.

Research Summit - Kevin O'Connor, David Luidens, Robby Bowen, Kerry O'Brien (left to right).

Research Summit–Kevin O’Connor, David Luidens, Robby Bowen, Kerry O’Brien (left to right).

This year, the focus of the summit was on music and technology (post-1945) and the presentations stretched out beyond chamber music to cover much broader topics. In addition to presentations by musicologists and theorists, performers and composers also gave a wide variety of papers. After dinner, the entire festival gathered to attend an evening concert featuring the keynote speaker, Scott Deal. Deal is professor of music and the director of the Donald Louis Tavel Arts and Technology Research Center at Indiana University Purdue University of Indianapolis (IUPUI), and his recital featured a full evening of fascinating works involving interactive and fixed media components that expanded the already full stage into a completely unique sound world. Often joining Deal onstage were harpist Erzsébet Gaal Rinne and laptop musician Michael Drews.

Scott Deal and Michael Drews.

Scott Deal and Michael Drews.

The following morning we began rehearsals for the Composer Fellows’ Concert, which would feature six different world premieres of pieces written by the six composition fellows attending nnSF. Percussion is often fairly daunting for composers who do not play percussion themselves or personally know a percussionist. The chance then to be surrounded by percussion music, instruments, and live percussionists for an extended period of time is an opportunity for composers to get a foothold on an otherwise steep slope. Similarly, time spent hashing out the more esoteric extended techniques of the cello proved valuable, and many of the effects made their way into the compositions.

Christopher Adler working with composition fellow Young-jin Jeon.

Christopher Adler working with composition fellow Young-jin Jeon.

Under the expert eye of Christopher Adler, the nnSF composition director, the six composition fellows experimented with various sound combinations, while seeing the performers physically engage with the instruments and having the opportunity to talk extensively about notation, sound production, and any other facets of percussion playing that piqued their curiosity. Throughout the week the composers worked with the performers assigned to their compositions, tweaking and refining notational plans and often making considerable adjustments to instrumentation on the fly. For the performers, working so closely with composers helped us to learn how to clearly communicate our own limitations and expectations and, more often, to find creative ways to accomplish what was being asked of us.

Following the Composer Fellows’ Concert, the push for the third and final evening’s concert began, but before the race commenced, piano faculty R. Andrew Lee presented Dennis Johnson’s 1959 composition November, a five-hour minimalist work for solo piano.

R. Andrew Lee performing Dennis Johnson's November.

R. Andrew Lee Performing Dennis Johnson’s November.

With couches pushed onto the stage and the audience invited to come and go as they pleased, to lay down if they wished (but to please not snore), Lee began the piece. He bathed us in a fragile sound world of expansive proportions that urged listeners to examine their relationship to harmony, pitch, and eventually to sound itself. About two hours into the performance, it began to rain, initiating an achingly beautiful soundscape: soft echoes of the raindrops filled the hall, serving as a perfect compliment to the music’s own delicate patter.

The last concert featured composer-in-residence Evan Ziporyn’s Where Was I? (for cello, percussion, and piano), works by two Call for Scores winners (Nicholas Deyoe and Lewis Nielson), and a realization of Earle Brown’s graphic work December 1952. Being confronted with considerably more difficult music, the intensity of the rehearsals heightened, although the atmosphere never became tense or discouraging. As the performance fellows took the stage for the final time, the feeling was somehow different. In ten short days, the ceaseless rehearsal schedule combined with the long discussions into the night, shared meals, and walks around Furman’s beautiful campus had created a strong sense of camaraderie between us. Instead of performing these works with strangers, I was on stage with my colleagues and new life-long friends.

Final Concert - Lewis Nielson's Tocsin

Final Concert – Lewis Nielson’s Tocsin

As we began the final piece, Lewis Nielsen’s vast Tocsin for six percussionists, I recalled another passage I had found in Attali’s Noise:

“We must learn to judge a society more by its sounds, by its art, and by its festivals…”
If we take Attali’s criteria to heart, festivals like this one—festivals that celebrate and encourage amazing art, amazing research, spurred and promulgated by amazing people—are gems to our society.


Alexv Rolfe is a percussionist currently residing in Dekalb, IL, where he is a candidate in the M.M. program at Northern Illinois University. In addition to writing and reading about music, Alexv enjoys performing in different western and non-western traditions and is also a budding amateur cook.
(All photography by Live Well Photography)

After Kronos: Next Steps for Jeffrey Zeigler

Two weeks ago, the new music world received the news that there would be a new face with the Kronos Quartet. Cellist Jeffrey Zeigler had decided to move on from the group and come back to New York City, while Kronos announced the addition of 28-year-old Sunny Jungin Yang to fill the cello position beginning in May. Just a couple days after the announcement, I was able to speak with Jeff about this important change in his career and what adventures lay ahead for him.

Jeffrey Zeigler

Jeffrey Zeigler

Rob Deemer: How did you first join up with Kronos?

Jeffrey Zeigler: Before I joined Kronos, I had been playing with the Corigliano Quartet for about six years. At a certain point I decided that I needed to change direction, so I moved back to New York to pursue a career as a freelance musician. I had lived in New York previously but had never given freelancing life a real shot. I thought it would be an exciting and dynamic life, just like the city itself. I started doing some chamber music concerts and some off-off-off-off Broadway shows, but I knew that the area that I really wanted to get involved in was the contemporary music scene. I eventually found myself in a recording session with the group, counter)induction. It turned out that the producer of the recording was Judy Sherman, whom I had worked with many times with the Corigliano Quartet. She asked me what I was doing that summer. I proudly told her that I had no plans at all since I had recently accepted a teaching position at Smith and Mt. Holyoke Colleges and my girlfriend (composer Paola Prestini, now my wife) and I were planning on taking a summer trip down to Mexico! Two days later, I got a call from David Harrington, and the rest is history.

RD: Can you shine some light into your decision to move on from the quartet?

JZ: I’ve been playing with the quartet for eight seasons now, and it’s been both amazing and fantastic. The organization, the music-making, the artists and composers we work with—it’s really been a wonderful time and I feel so fortunate to have had a front row seat to some of the most innovative and creative work that’s going on anywhere. But just as a spoiler alert, there’s no juicy story here—David, John, Hank, and I are working together extremely well up to this very minute, and we’ll continue to be friends and colleagues for life after I step down in May. I’ve made some really strong friendships here, and I feel very supported by the entire organization.

The reasons why I’ve made the decision to step down from Kronos are three-fold. One is that I’ve been itching to get involved with various solo projects and collaborations. I’m looking forward to working with several composers on my own and to get the chance to collaborate with other artists. On an extremely limited basis, I was able to branch out a little while playing with the quartet. But because of the intense touring and recording schedule I just found it impossible to find the right balance of time.
The second part is that I had never imagined a career without teaching. This is an idea that’s been embedded in my mind from the start. I was once told by one of my cello teachers that a life in chamber music goes hand-in-hand with teaching. I am very excited to able to join the faculty at Mannes College The New School For Music and I look forward to working with my new colleagues.
The third reason is my family. Although touring is an important part of any musician’s life, Kronos is on the road for almost six months a year. I have a young family and I miss my wife and young son every day when I’m out of town. I think that this will be a healthier way for me to balance my time between touring and my at-home life.

RD: So what are the new projects that you’re working on?

JZ: There are a number of collaborations that I’m very excited about. Three projects I’m working on right now include a trio with the German pianist Hauschka and the Finnish drummer Samuli Kosminen; another is a collaboration with [jazz pianist] Vijay Iyer, [bassist] Scott Colley and [drummer] Satoshi Takeishi; and finally a duo with [pianist] Alessio Bax. I’m also going be premiering a new cello concerto by the Canadian composer Scott Good. This is an especially interesting piece because it’s a concerto for cello with jazz band—it’s mostly written out but there are some improv sections as well—and I’ll be premiering it with the Vancouver-based Hard Rubber Orchestra later this year.

I have a couple of solo albums that I’m working on at the moment along with several new commissions by Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, Glenn Kotchke, Anna Clyne, Mohammed Fairouz, Richard Reed Perry, and also my interviewer, Rob Deemer! For more info and details, please check out my new website.

I would also like to point out that much of this will be difficult to bring to life unless we reach our Kickstarter fundraising goal! I’m currently involved in a two-month funding campaign through Kickstarter that we’re about 80% through with one week left. This will support the creation of the recording label of VisionIntoArt, the organization directed by my wife, Paola Prestini. The three initial recordings on this new label will include a Double Violin Requiem by Anna Clyne, Paola’s opera Oceanic Verses, and my solo album.
Being a part of this campaign recently inspired me to write a blog post on Paul Katz’s site, CelloBello. The piece looks at Alix Spiegel’s NPR story on Robert Cialdini and the Rules of Reciprocation and how they relate to our current trends in fundraising.
RD: I noticed recently that Mannes has just hired a number of high-profile musicians to their faculty in addition to yourself, including pianist Jeremy Denk, composer Missy Mazzoli, and violinist Miranda Cuckson. What’s driving these new additions and how did your working with them come about?

JZ: Richard Kessler is a real visionary—we’ve known each other for several years—and he has new ideas on how to bring the conservatory into the 21st century and beyond. Obviously the world has changed quite a bit over the past 100 years, especially for musicians, but the core curriculum for conservatories has hardly changed in that time. Richard is very aware of this dichotomy and I think he’s looking for new ways to innovate and truly prepare today’s musician for tomorrow. I admire his vision and I’m looking forward to working there with all of that uptown excitement.

RD: Any closing thoughts?

JZ: The eight years I’ve spent with Kronos have been eight wonderful years and I feel so much gratitude to my colleagues and the organization for a wonderfully creative and supportive time, especially as we take this next step into the future. I think that Sunny Yang will be a great fit for the quartet. As for myself, I’m very excited to be moving back to New York City with my family and to embark on all of these new adventures.

Sounds Heard: Mariel Roberts—Nonextraneous Sounds

If anything is clear in the first few moments of Mariel Roberts’s debut CD Nonextraneous Sounds, it’s that this will not be just a polite collection of unremarkable wallpaper works for solo cello. Actually, unless you are already prepared for what’s coming, it’s not even completely clear that a cello is what’s at the forefront of the mix.

Opening with a transfixing performance of Andy Akiho’s Three Shades, Foreshadows, Roberts touches bow to strings at various points to percussive effect (the thwack of col legno, scratching and creaking tightly across the strings, the whisper of bow drawn across bridge, etc.), but the body of the piece is filled with dense streams of pizzicato along with knocks and taps against the instrument’s body and strings. The live solo line is ensconced in three electronic parts built out of samples of acoustic cello. The resulting quartet—an effect further underlined by the way the electronic part moves around the sonic field—is as much a percussive exercise as anything. The deep, muted bell tones which open the work and obscure the source of the sound are revealed in the liner notes to be the sonic result of plucked strings with clothes pins attached to them near the base of the fingerboard. Still, for as much creativity as has been employed in conjuring the timbral world of the piece, Akiho never seems to get distracted by it or employ techniques as a mere gimmick. Only in the work’s final fading moments, with the last remaining line clicking away like a spun-out film projector, did I even remember that the palette he was drawing from was not the way one generally went about playing the cello in the first place.

Sean Friar’s Teaser plays with listener expectations along a different line. He spins the music’s emotional character on a dime, mixing charming scraps of delicate tune work with fiery bombardments of sliding double stops and lines scratched across the instrument’s strings that might send a chill through you. Daniel Wohl also makes generous use of some fairly abrasive timbres in his Saint Arc, but these sharp objects play out in the context of a great deal of “air” which he lets into the piece through the quiet brush of the moving bow and extensive harmonic usage. A pre-recorded electronic track further amplifies this scenario. Alex Mincek then keeps the brushing but drains the aggression for his Flutter. Beginning in a place that is restless rather than hostile, the work skitters lightly across quick snatches of bowed phrases and nervous col legno, slowly gaining confidence, weight, and a striking, deep-snoring calm by the piece’s final measures.

That nap is not to last, however. Particularly if the demanding techniques employed in the album’s middle works have begun to emotionally exhaust the listener, Tristan Perich’s Formulations represents as a welcome shift of gears (not that Roberts gets to take a break). That it is a Perich piece will be immediately apparent to anyone familiar with his 1-bit work. In this case, his programmed microchips emit a rapid-fire sequence of flickering notes within which Roberts matches pace. After the first ten minutes, Roberts gets a breather and when her line returns to the mix after a two-minute recovery, she enters with firm, long strokes, as if steering the flickering swirl of pitch that surrounds her, slowing its frantic pace, and guiding everyone home.