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April 23: Composer Scott Wollschleger and Pianist Karl Larson Release 'Dark Days' on New Focus Recordings

February 22, 2021 | By Katy Salomon
Account Director, Morahan Arts and Media

PR Contact: 
Katy Salomon | Morahan Arts and Media
katy@morahanartsandmedia.com | 863.660.2214

Composer Scott Wollschleger
Releases Dark Days

Synesthetic Works for Solo Piano 
Performed by Karl Larson 

Out April 23, 2021 on New Focus Recordings
Physical Review Copies Available Upon Request

Pre-Order Dark Days

 “a formidable, individual presence” – The Rest Is Noise, Alex Ross 

www.scottwollschleger.com | www.karllarsonpiano.com 

New York, NY (February 22, 2021) — On Friday, April 23, 2021, composer Scott Wollschleger and pianist Karl Larson release Dark Days, an album featuring 10 of Wollschleger’s deeply personal works for solo piano, on New Focus Recordings. These introspective pieces, performed here by his close friend and frequent collaborator, give listeners a glimpse into the intimate depths of Wollschleger’s working process and the utilization of his rare synesthesia through the tactile use of the piano. Described by Pitchfork as “marvelous” and “powerful,” Karl Larson is a specialist in the music of our time and is uniquely suited to perform these works thanks to a deep understanding of Wollschleger’s musical language. Composed between 2007-2020, the program order on Dark Days traces the evolution of Wollschleger’s compositional style and is intended as an experiential journey. 

Larson’s liner notes delve into the technical specificities of Wollschleger’s work as well as the long standing and prolific relationship between composer and performer. Larson will perform the Dark Days program in a live streamed concert at Brooklyn’s Roulette on Thursday, May 6, 2021 at 8:00pm ET. 

Wollschleger says, “Karl Larson is one of my closest collaborators. His artistry and commitment to my work has been an immense contribution to my musical development. Karl, with his delicate and devastatingly gorgeous sense of voicing, is able to shape my often dissonant music into something shimmering, provocative, and beautiful. He has become an expert interpreter of my work and this new album is a significant milestone in our collaboration.”

Larson writes in the album’s notes, “In his music, Scott treats these elements like well-worn tools, each expertly implemented in the service of realizing works more reliant on compositional intuition than conventional structures or processes. I have always been struck by Scott’s unique harmonic language; the contour and rhythm of these works draw the listener in and underline the warm, resonant qualities of the piano. The movement between harmonic areas in Scott’s music tends to feel simultaneously spontaneous and inevitable, and while a traditional analysis rarely reveals much, the music is undeniably driven by a distinct, deliberate approach to harmony. From a young age, Scott has experienced synesthesia, a neurological phenomenon causing (in Scott’s case) a tangible relationship between harmony and visual color. As he writes, he employs this condition as a compositional tool, often favoring sonorities that provoke a synesthetic response and result in the soft, consonant dissonance that is so characteristic of his music.”

While the bulk of the composing and recording process took place well before the COVID-19 pandemic, the album’s title feels suitable for our era, and some of the music does indeed deal with themes of existential dread and destruction. The title track, Dark Days, was composed during Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 and reflects a sense of urgency so many of us associated with the event. Tiny Oblivion (often paired with Dark Days in live performance) also interacts with darker themes. In his program note for the piece, Wollschleger describes the work title as “something of a black humor acceptance and reference to the fact that our ultimate fate is to die and then eventually turn into particles that will forever break down into smaller particles, spreading out over unfathomable vast distances in an ever expanding and cooling universe.”

"However,” poses Larson, “the entirety of the album reflects something softer and warmer. For me, the collective whole of Dark Days expresses sensitivity, intimacy, and peace. The image Dark Days conjures in my mind’s eye is not one of hopelessness, but that specific, contradictory warmth we feel during the darkest days of the year, glowing embers in the fireplace, the muted silence of falling snow.”

About Scott Wollschleger
Scott Wollschleger’s
 music has been highly praised for its arresting timbres and conceptual originality. Wollschleger (b. 1980) “has become a formidable, individual presence” (The Rest Is Noise, Alex Ross) in the contemporary musical landscape. His distinct musical language explores themes of art in dystopia, the conceptualization of silence, synesthesia, and creative repetition in form and has been described as “apocalyptic,” “distinctive and magnetic,” possessing a “hushed, cryptic beauty,” (The New Yorker) and as “evocative” and “kaleidoscopic” (The New York Times).

Wollschleger’s concert works can be heard across the US and the world, most recently featured at the Turner Contemporary in Margate, England, Bowerbird in Philadelphia, the NOW! Festival in Graz Austria and the Bang on a Can Virtual Marathon 2020. His critically acclaimed piano concerto, Meditation on Dust, was recently performed by pianist Karl Larson at the Bang on a Can Festival at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. His apocalyptic monodrama, We Have Taken and Eaten, was featured on NPR’s Arts & Letters.

Upcoming and recent projects include commissions from The String Orchestra of Brooklyn, andplay, Bearthoven, William Lang, Anne Lanzilotti, William Yager, Du.0, loadbang and Third Angle Music. His debut album, Soft Aberration, was released on New Focus Recordings in 2017 and was named a Notable Recording of 2017 in The New Yorker. His most recent album, American Dream, written for Bearthoven, was released on Cantaloupe Music in 2019. 

Wollschleger’s work is published by Project Schott New York. Learn more at www.scottwollschleger.com

About Karl Larson
Karl Larson is a Brooklyn-based pianist and specialist in the music of our time. A devoted supporter of contemporary composers and their craft, Larson has built a career grounded in commissioning and long-term collaborations. He frequently performs in a variety of chamber music settings, most notably with his trio, Bearthoven, a piano / bass / percussion ensemble focussed on cultivating a diverse new repertoire for their instrumentation. As a soloist, Larson is known for championing the works of his peers and the recent canon alike, often gravitating towards long-form, reflective works of the 20th and 21st centuries. Through his work with Bearthoven, collaborations with a wide variety of chamber musicians, and his solo projects, Larson has helped to generate a large body of new work, resulting in world premiere performances of pieces by notable composers including David Lang, Sarah Hennies, Chris Cerrone, and Michael Gordon. 

A sought after collaborator, Larson has performed with many leaders in the field, including the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Ensemble Signal, the American Composers Orchestra, Maya Bennardo (violin), Ashley Bathgate (cello), and Ken Thomson (clarinets/saxophones). Larson’s recent performances include notable appearances at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, EMPAC, the Guggenheim Museum, MoMA, MASS MoCA, and the Teatro General San Martín in Buenos Aires, Argentina. 

Karl received a Doctor of Musical Arts in Contemporary Music and a Master of Music in Piano Performance from Bowling Green State University, where he studied with Dr. Laura Melton. Larson completed his undergraduate degree at Luther College in Decorah Iowa as a pupil of Dr. John Strauss. His recordings can be heard on Cantaloupe Music, New Amsterdam Records, New World Records, New Focus Recordings, and GALTTA Media. Learn more at www.karllarsonpiano.com.  

Dark Days Track List
1. Scott Wollschleger – Dark Days (2017) [1:40]
2. Scott Wollschleger – Tiny Oblivion (2016) [6:29]
3. Scott Wollschleger – Music without Metaphor (2013) [7:20]
4. Scott Wollschleger – Blue Inscription (2010) [5:45]
5. Scott Wollschleger – Lyric Fragment (2019) [4:01]
6. Scott Wollschleger – Brontal No. 2 “Holiday” (2008) [7:43]
7. Scott Wollschleger – Brontal No. 6 (2013) [5:30]
8. Scott Wollschleger – Brontal No. 11 “I-80” (2020) [3:42]
9. Scott Wollschleger – Secret Machine No. 4 (2007) [2:13]
10. Scott Wollschleger – Secret Machine No. 6 (2012) [4:32]
     Karl Larson, piano

Recorded at Oktaven Audio, Yonkers and Mount Vernon, New York by Ryan Streber
Editing, mixing, and mastering: Ryan Streber and Scott Wollschleger
Produced by Scott Wollschleger and Karl Larson
Executive Producer: Scott Wollschleger
Painting on cover: River of Silence by Theresa Musatto. Used with permission from the artist.
Album design by Traci Larson
Photo of Karl Larson and Scott Wollschleger by Greg Manis

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