Silence in music was not the cessation of sound, or even a gesture: it was a different sound, one with more density than those sounds made by instruments.—Michael Pisaro
If my social-media communities are any indication, Wandelweiser is finally arriving here in New York City. Formed in 1992 by composers Antoine Beuger and Burkhard Schlothauer, this loosely knit composers' collective initially took root in Switzerland and Germany, but has long had members and allies in all parts of the world. Other prominent members include Jürg Frey, Radu Malfatti, Eva-Maria Houben, Michael Pisaro, Manfred Werder and Craig Shepard.
As Pisaro, the first American Wandelweiser composer, noted in his essential 2009 essay on the group's history—which is required reading for neophytes and enthusiasts alike—the group's output was close to invisible in this country for most of its early years. Lively Twitter and Facebook exchanges some weeks ago saw folks in Chicago, upstate New York and Massachusetts staking claims as significant early beachheads, to which you'd have to add Pisaro's CalArts home base.
That Wandelweiser has become more visible here lately has to do with three things. One, discs on the group's record label, Edition Wandelweiser, are readily available through the distribution service run by Jon Abbey of Erstwhile Records. (Pisaro's own label, Gravity Wave, is also well-distributed by Erstwhile.) Two, included among a string of attention-grabbing new recordings by the excellent pianist R. Andrew Lee on the Irritable Hedgehog label are discs of music by Frey and Houben. And three, more and more young performers are attracted to the fresh, new ideas, options and sounds that Wandelweiser proposes, and more young composers are feeling its influence as well.
I'll leave further discussion to future installments of Wandelwatching, my new weekly blog series not meant to be an instructive primer, but rather as a channel through which to share news about upcoming Wandelweiser-related concerts—relatively rare occurrences, a 2011 Gravity Wave festival at the Stone and a presently inactive NYC concert series notwithstanding. I'm keenest to cite New York City shows because, well, hey. But I'll gladly share word of important events elsewhere, and have a few in mind for upcoming posts.
What prompted this initial post is the arrival of Music for Contemplation, a new six-concert series that starts on March 1—yes, tomorrow night—in Williamsburg. Assembled by the aforementioned Craig Shepard along with Tyler Wilcox, Dan Joseph and Erik Carlson, the series is not explicitly or exclusively devoted to Wandelweiser music. But pieces by composers from the collective are featured on most of the concerts, including tomorrow night's inaugural event, which features a piece Eva-Maria Houben composed just for the occasion:
At the premier concert, Tyler Wilcox (bass clarinet) and Christopher Johnson (organ) perform long quiet drones of Eva-Maria Houben's tranquility, written especially for the series.
Tickets $15 at the door. Season pass for all six concerts $75.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
8:05pm – 9:05pm
Church of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary (map)
Check back here for more concert news as I receive it. And if you're a composer, performer or impresario with a Wandelweiser-related event in the offing, I hope you'll email me your details directly—you'll find the address on my "About" page.