i>Christian Wolff's is a spare, prosaic music, with little interest in straining after sonic novelty. Recalling the memorable title of philosopher David Rothenberg's book on improvisation, we can hear in Wolff a "sudden music" of emergent simultaneities, where both intuitive and fortuitous moments are bathed in an eternity of timelessness.
But what does this kind of music offer us right now?
To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, it offers us freedom-if we can keep it.
Since 1987 I have been making duos for percussion with another instrument. The first was a memorial piece for Morton Feldman, For Morty, in 1987, with piano. Then in 1990 Rosas, commissioned for the pianist Marianne Schroeder and the percussionist Robyn Schulkowsky. A few years later I met Robyn and began a working association with her that has now been ongoing for eighteen years. Apart from a series of solo pieces, there have been duos, with viola (for Robyn and Kim Kashkashian), Violist and Percussionist (1996); with trumpet (for Reinhold Friedrich), Pulse (1998); with cello (Rohan de Saram), One Coat of Paint (2004) - the title of a John Ashbery poem; and most recently (2012) For a Medley (a duo of percussionists, with Joey Baron). There is in addition a recent shorter duo with melodica, written for myself to play with her, Duo 7 (2007).
The thread is percussion and the remarkable and distinctive playing and musicality of Schulkowsky, but also the other musicians, all of whom have extensive association with her and are of course of special distinction themselves. The whole set, which now extends over 25 years, reflects my compositional trajectory over that time, and provides a series of exceptional, indeed, for me, ideal performances.
"Born in 1934, Christian Wolff is the last surviving member of the group of composers that also included Morton Feldman and Earle Brown, which gathered around John Cage in New York in the 1950s. Wolff's own music has remained faithful to that Cageian experimental tradition ever since, and the eight works for pairs of instrumentalists here show how, in the right hands, the varying degrees of freedom his works allow their interpreters can produce astonishingly beautiful results." --The Guardian
"A new release of performances of Christian Wolff s music is always a cause for celebration. Like John Cage and Morton Feldman (with whom he is often grouped as part of the New York School), Wolff has had an enormous impact on contemporary improvisation and composition, charting out methods for building structure from open-form compositional strategies.... The highlight of the set is 'One Coat of Paint,' a 27-minute tour-de-force named after a John Ashbery poem performed by Schulkowsky and cellist Rohan de Saram. Here, the give-and-take between cello and percussion is telepathic, with phrases constantly shifting between the two voices.... Kudos to New World for their continued support of composers like Wolff." --Point of Departure
"...I remain a deep admirer of Wolff's work. I actually find him mysterious, and am pleasantly befuddled as to why music so homespun and austere can move me so... there are gems here." --Fanfare Magazine