Conrad Winslow's Debut Album 'Perfect Nothing Catalog' Out 11/17
The Perfect Nothing Catalog, the debut album by Alaska-raised and Brooklyn-based composer Conrad Winslow, comes out November 17 on Innova Recordings. With the dizzying half-hour title work as its centerpiece, it features three instrumental electroacoustic pieces commissioned and recorded by Cadillac Moon Ensemble (flute, violin, cello, and percussion), then transformed by producers Aaron Roche and Winslow. Rounding out the disc is Benediction, a guitar and piano duo for Roche and Winslow.
To mark the release, Cadillac Moon Ensemble, Roche, and the composer will play music from the album, including two world premieres (performing versions) on Thursday, Nov. 16 (7:30 pm) at the 1 Rivington space on NYC's Lower East Side. Admission is $20, or $25 with a copy of the CD; tickets are available through Eventbrite.
Winslow is rapidly gaining notice as one of the most original and accomplished composers to emerge on the Brooklyn scene. He has been commissioned by Alarm Will Sound, Carnegie Hall, the American Composers Orchestra, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the New York Youth Symphony, New York City Ballet's Choreographic Institute, the Juilliard Orchestra, the New Juilliard Ensemble, and others. His work combines a Borgesian sense of play with a striking ear for color and a sure sense of pacing.
As a guitarist, Roche has performed with Sufjan Stevens, ANOHNI, R. Stevie Moore, Lower Dens, and Flock of Dimes, among others. As a producer, he brings his unique voice - straddling the worlds of notated music and folk music - to illuminate hidden facets of Winslow's compositions with electronic production elements and sound design.
Formed in 2007, Cadillac Moon Ensemble (Karen Kim, violin; Roberta Michel, flutes; Aminda Asher, cello; and Sean Statser, percussion) has commissioned and premiered more than 80 works for its unique instrumentation, cultivating close relationships and ongoing collaborations with many of New York City's most talented emerging composers.
A B O U T T H E A L B U M:
Composed in 2014, The Perfect Nothing Catalog's title work comprises 50 miniatures, each lasting less than a minute. Each is "cataloged" by its compositional approach: "tunes" are single melodic lines that modulate and harmonize themselves, "materials" are musical textures that do not develop, "devices" are rhythmic contraptions that contain additive/subtractive procedures, or are beat-oriented, "controls" explore variations on a single parameter, and "coda" layers the music from the other movements in new ways.
Formally, TPNC was inspired by Caryl Churchill's 2012 postmodern play Love & Information, in which a large thematic arc is drawn by tiny scenes with no repeating characters. It is also inspired by artist Frank Traynor's award-winning installation and shop of the same name, which interrogates the power of creation and restricted control in the making of things. Traynor has created original artwork for the album package, evoking the precise yet ragged tone of the title piece.
Winslow originally wrote The Perfect Nothing Catalog as an acoustic score, and Cadillac Moon Ensemble has performed it that way several times. "But I always imagined it almost like an abstract radio play," says Winslow. So he recorded the piece acoustically and enlisted Roche to "riff on these aural objects, processing them in myriad ways." Among other inventions, Roche has introduced striking spatial distortions of the audio field, lending a through-the-looking-glass quality, while concrète sounds such as footsteps hint at a hidden narrative.
Winslow describes the other ensemble work on the album, Abiding Shapes (2012), as "a pageant about simple wave forms - sawtooth, sine, and square waves." Instead of using actual synthesized sound waves, he notates tiny dynamic ramps, triangles, sines, and squares in terms of loud-to-silent, soft-loud-soft, etc. These are embroidered into larger shapes to illustrate architectural design at every level of the work.
Two other solo works fill out the record: Ellipsis Rules (2014) is "a bedtime vibraphone and electronics resonance etude," commissioned by Sean Statser of Cadillac Moon Ensemble, that situates itself between the two ensemble works. Notes the composer, "This piece introduces a space of stillness balanced against the intricate design in the ensemble works."
The album closes with Benediction (2016), a guitar and piano chaconne written for Roche. It cycles through 28 chords and sets of variations, showcasing Aaron's probing and creative approach to electric and acoustic guitar sound design. The piano part is played by Winslow.
A B O U T C O N R A D W I N S L O W:
Conrad Winslow is a composer whose musical forms are bold, legible and emotionally direct. His music combines precipitous edges with subtle shifts of syntax. He draws influence from architects and playwrights to structure pieces like places to inhabit. Raised in Homer, Alaska, he first learned to make a world from scratch by watching his parents build a log cabin home in the woods.
His work "remains tautly controlled and coherent, but bursts with variety both harmonic and gestural" (Music in American Life: An Encyclopedia...) and has been called "compelling" (The New York Times) and described as a "scenic, boisterous and bumpy ride" (Albany Times-Union).
Winslow's instrumental music has been commissioned by Alarm Will Sound, Carnegie Hall, the American Composers Orchestra, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the New York Youth Symphony, the Aspen Music Festival, New York City Ballet's Choreographic Institute, the Juilliard Orchestra, the New Juilliard Ensemble, the NYU Symphony, Bala Brass, and Gaudete Brass (who recorded The Record of a Lost Tribe for Cedille Records), among many others. His songs have been presented by The New York Festival of Song and The Coterie (co-founded by librettist Royce Vavrek and Tony-nominated soprano Lauren Worsham).
Awards and support have come from ASCAP (ASCAPlus, multiple Morton Gould awards), The Aspen Music Festival & School, The Jerome Fund, New York Youth Symphony, Yale Glee Club, The Juilliard School (2010 Juilliard Orchestra Competition, New Juilliard Ensemble commission), and New Music USA (CAP Grants). Current projects include composing new work for soprano Justine Aronson & ensemble Echo Chamber, pianist Robert Fleitz, and directing Wild Shore New Music in Southcentral Alaska.
He holds a Master's Degree in Composition from the Juilliard School, where he studied with John Corigliano, an M.M. degree in film scoring from NYU, where he studied with Justin Dello Joio, and an Honors A.B. degree in Music from Rollins College, where he studied with Daniel Crozier.