Because Patterns/Deep State
Aron Kallay and Vicki Ray, prepared piano
Scott Worthington, bass
Aron Kallay and Vicki Ray recorded at Scott Fraser Recording Studio
Recording engineer: Scott Fraser
Scott Worthington recorded at Cal Poly Pomona Studio B
Recording engineer: Isaac Schankler
Mixing: Isaac Schankler
Sakura Tsai, violin
Recorded at the Evelyn & Mo Ostin Music Center at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music
Recorded by Vanessa Parr
Edited and Mixed by Ben Phelps and Isaac Schankler
Nadia Shpachenko, piano
Recording engineer: Barry Werger
Recorded at Cal Poly Pomona Recital Hall
Mixing: Isaac Schankler
All tracks composed by Isaac Schankler
Tracks 1 and 3 produced by Isaac Schankler
Track 2 produced by Ben Phelps and Isaac Schankler
Mastered by George Horn and Anne-Marie Suenram
Liner Notes by Meg Wilhoite
Design by Meerenai Shim
Copyright 2019 Isaac Schankler and Aerocade Music.
by Isaac Schankler
Isaac Schankler’s Because Patterns positions the listener within three distinct sonic environments. Each work demonstrates a deft integration of acoustic performance and electronic construction, the substance of the music abiding in the relationship between performer and program.
1. Because Patterns/Deep State (24:04) - featuring Aron Kallay, Vicki Ray, and Scott Worthington
2. Mobile I (10:31) - featuring Sakura Tsai
3. Future Feelings (8:36) - featuring Nadia Shpachenko
TOTAL PLAYING TIME 42:11
NOTES by Meg Wilhoite
In their aptly-named album Because Patterns, composer Isaac Schankler explores three approaches to creating and manipulating musical patterns, carrying out a full integration of electronic sonic environment, mathematical compositional procedure, and acoustic performance. The overall effect of the title track, “Because Patterns/Deep State,” is that of finespun electronic swells punctuated by the percussive sounds of the piano, performed by the Ray-Kallay Duo, who commissioned the piece. Incorporating a mathematical model called a cellular automaton, the musical patterns begin with a single seed and shift organically according to the rule assigned to it. As the title suggests, there is an element of Deep Listening in this piece—performed by double bassist Scott Worthington—as from minute 17:30 to 20:30 we settle into a sotto voce electronic hum that is present-only, with no sense of past or future. Subtly, quietly the piano returns, a distant echo from earlier in the piece, nestled deep within the electronic texture.
The electronics and violin in “Mobile I” are interlaced by means of spectral analysis, as the electronic sounds are a reaction to violinist Sakura Tsai’s fragmented statements. The former keen and hum around the latter, creating the sense of a large, open structure in which the violinist is centrally situated. The final minutes of the piece shift to a more active texture, the electronics and violinist merging in polyrhythmic arpeggios. The final track, “Future Feelings,” performed by Nadia Shpachenko, features alternately swirling and languid piano figures overlaid with hissing static and Morse code-like blips panning between the ears. Later on in the piece, the electronics also provide occasional low, reverberant hums. While the piano hints at past styles of lush vibrations, the electronics pull the listener into the noise-filled, pulsating present.
INTERVIEW WITH ISAAC SCHANKLER by Meg Wilhoite
Meg: Is Because Patterns a nod to Feldman’s Why Patterns?
Isaac: It's a nod to the title more than the piece or Feldman's music. I always thought “Why Patterns?” was a strange kind of question, because really patterns justify themselves. We can't help but make sense of the world through patterns, through making connections between disparate things. That's one thing people and machines have in common too, and much of our lives is now mediated by patterns created by algorithms, for better or worse. So for a long time I’ve been interested in what happens when there’s too much or not enough information to truly discern a pattern. What happens when a person or machine starts seeing patterns that aren’t really there? So a lot of the piece Because Patterns/Deep State consists of gestures or motives that are moving either too quickly or too slowly to really get a handle on. So you have to make a decision about what's really important, and maybe in the end it's not the patterns? Maybe it's something else.
Meg: What program(s) do you use to make the electronic tracks? I'm particularly interested in the "ongoing spectral analysis" you mention for Mobile I.
Isaac: I use a variety of things, but mostly Max/MSP for anything involving live electronics. The "ongoing spectral analysis" in Mobile I is basically a glorified pitch tracker that also detects harmonics, but what I liked about it for that piece is that it was a little unpredictable. It wasn't perfect, so sometimes you'd get the correct pitch, but other times you'd get another pitch that was related. So there were these microdeviations that you could use to create textures. If the pitch tracker worked perfectly the piece wouldn't be nearly as interesting. This is something I worry about actually, if the pitch tracker gets updated the piece might become obsolete. It’s also a tricky thing for the violinist to react to the electronics and remain on track, and I love the way Sakura Tsai plays it on the album, how it manages to feel improvisational and polished at the same time.
Meg: At what part of the compositional process do creating the electronics and writing the instrumental parts first meet? Do you generally start with one or the other, or do you develop the two strands concurrently?
Isaac: I wish it was more tidy, but often it's a kind of back and forth where the electronics will affect the instrumental material and vice versa, so sometimes the process takes a lot longer than I would like. Because Patterns was originally an acoustic prepared piano piece with plinky music box-like material that was composed with the help of some algorithms (specifically cellular automata). It was written for the Ray-Kallay Duo, and it demands a lot of precision and tight coordination from them. Deep State, which was written for Scott Worthington, is almost the opposite. It was originally a somewhat improvisatory piece with low bass drones being frozen and extended by electronics, and Scott provided a ton of valuable input that really shaped the piece. But while those pieces worked great live, they seemed strangely incomplete on a recording. We expect recorded music to saturate the frequency spectrum. Also the pieces seemed to be in dialogue with each other, working out some of the same kinds of ideas but at very different time scales. So I thought it would be fun to mash the pieces together, which made the mixing process vastly more complicated than I anticipated! I added a lot more electronic sounds after the fact, including sampled pianos that would frequently double the recorded pianos, bringing out different aspects of the sound like mechanical key noise, pedal resonance, things like that. For a while I had a lot of inner turmoil about whether or not I was allowed to do this, to ruin the real piano sound with "artificial" samples.
Meg: I'd love to hear more about your compositional process. For instance, in terms of the piano part, “Future Feelings” has a very Romantic vibe in places, particularly in terms of the figuration—how does music of the past inform your process?
Isaac: That piece in particular is deliberately nostalgic, not just for Romantic era music but also for the time in my life when I was most engaged with that kind of music, i.e. an angsty teenager. At that time I wrote that piece my kid had just been born and it was really surreal to watch him react to music, to essentially discover music, and it brought up a lot of thoughts and feelings about the music that first really moved me. I was also thinking a lot about noise and the soothing effect noise has on babies, and I really wanted to make a quiet, soothing version of noise music. The first part of the piece is based around that, and the Romantic-inflected music gradually emerges from that texture. Nadia Shpachenko, who commissioned and premiered the piece, specializes in this kind of repertoire, and she really makes this part sound incredibly gorgeous. But I'm also suspicious of nostalgia, so there's a moment where that material cracks open, because in the end you can't really go back to that era. I guess it's fueled by a kind of hope and optimism that my kid, and by extension all people younger than me, will go beyond me in ways I can't even imagine. I want to see them break the patterns of the past.
Meg: Earlier you mentioned allowing yourself as a composer to double the pianos in the first track: Over the years as a composer, has there been anything you wish you could go back in time and tell your younger self?
Isaac: Oh geez, so many things! But I think most of all I wish I could tell my younger self to take the advice of my teachers and mentors with a grain of salt, and that it’s okay, even good, to go against their advice sometimes. I realize this is a slightly dangerous thing to say as a teacher myself. But I’ve found that a lot of composers, especially highly successful ones, have never really interrogated their own aesthetics and processes, and assume that they are universal ones. They then try and pass these biases on to students, instead of teaching students to listen to and develop their own instincts. I’m still trying to unlearn a lot of anxieties and hangups I internalized a long time ago, and it’s something that I hope the next generation of composers doesn’t have to deal with.
ABOUT ISAAC SCHANKLER
Isaac Schankler is a composer, accordionist, and electronic musician living in Los Angeles. Their music has been described as “powerful” (Sequenza21), “delightful” (I Care If You Listen), “ingenious” (The Artificialist), “masterfully composed” (Boston Musical Intelligencer), and “the antidote to sentimentality” (LA Times).
Schankler’s recent performances and commissions include works for the Nouveau Classical Project, the Ray-Kallay Duo, Friction Quartet, gnarwhallaby, the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet, Lorelei Ensemble, Juventas New Music Ensemble, flutist Meerenai Shim, and bass-baritone Nicholas Isherwood. Recent honors include awards and grants from Meet the Composer, the National Opera Association, the American Composers Forum, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and the American Prize. Schankler is a past winner of the USC Sadye J. Moss Composition Prize and the ASCAP/Lotte Lehmann Foundation Art Song Competition.
As a composer for video games, Schankler has written music for critically acclaimed and award-winning independent games, including Ladykiller in a Bind, Analogue: A Hate Story, Hate Plus, Redshirt, and Depression Quest.
As a writer and researcher, Schankler has written numerous articles for NewMusicBox, the multimedia publication of New Music USA, and in 2013 was a winner of the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for excellence in music journalism. Their writing has also appeared in the International Journal of Arts and Technology, Computer Music Journal, and the proceedings of various international conferences.
Schankler is the artistic director of the concert series People Inside Electronics, and holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition from the University of Southern California, as well as Master of Music and Bachelor of Music degrees in composition from the University of Michigan. Schankler is currently Assistant Professor of Music at Cal Poly Pomona, where they teach composition, music technology, and music theory.
ABOUT THE PERFORMERS
Described as a “modern renaissance man,” (Over the Mountain Journal) Grammy® nominated pianist Aron Kallay‘s playing has been called “exquisite…every sound sounded considered, alive, worthy of our wonder” (LA Times). “Perhaps Los Angeles’ most versatile keyboardist,” (LaOpus) Aron has been praised as possessing “that special blend of intellect, emotion, and overt physicality that makes even the thorniest scores simply leap from the page into the listeners laps.” (KPFK) Aron’s performances often integrate technology, video, and alternate tunings; Fanfare magazine described him as “a multiple threat: a great pianist, brainy tech wizard, and visionary promoter of a new musical practice.”
Aron has performed throughout the United States and abroad and is a fixture on the Los Angeles new-music scene. He was the co-founder and board president of People Inside Electronics (PIE), a concert series dedicated to classical electroacoustic music, a featured artist of MicroFest, Los Angeles’ annual festival of microtonal music, and the co-directer of the underground new-music concert series Tuesdays@MONK Space. He is also the co-director of MicroFest Records, whose first release, John Cage: The Ten Thousand Things, was nominated for a Grammy® award for Best Chamber Music Performance. Aron has recorded on MicroFest, Cold Blue, Delos, Aerocade Music, and Populist records. In addition to his solo work, Aron is currently a member of the Pierrot + percussion ensemble Brightwork newmusic, the Varied Trio, and the Ray-Kallay Duo. He is on the faculty of Pomona College.
Described as “phenomenal and fearless” Vicki Ray is a pianist, improviser and composer. She has commissioned and premiered countless new works by today’s leading composers. Ray is a founding member of Piano Spheres and head of keyboard studies at the California Institute of the Arts where she was named the first recipient of the Hal Blaine Chair in Musical Performance. She has appeared on numerous international festivals and is a regular member of the faculty at the Bang On a Can Summer Festival at MASS MoCA. Ray has been featured on the Los Angeles Philharmonic Green Umbrella Series as soloist and collaborative artist. Her widely varied performing and recording career covers the gamut of new and old music: from Boulez to Reich, Wadada Leo Smith to Beethoven. Notable recordings include the first Canadian disc of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire with the Blue Rider Ensemble, the premiere recordings of Steve Reich’s You Are (Variations) and the Daniel Variations with the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the first recording of John Cage’s Europeras 3 and 4. Her recording of Cage’s The Ten Thousand Things on Microfest Records received a 2013 Grammy nomination. Recent recordings include the premiere recording of Andrew Norman’s Sonnets with Eighth Blackbird’s Nick Photinos on the New Amsterdam label and YAR – a duo recording on the Orenda label with slide guitarist Scot Ray. Her recent recording of Daniel Lentz’s River of 1000 Streams – was named by Alex Ross in the New Yorker as one of the top 20 recordings of 2017.
Violinist and educator Sakura Tsai enjoys a multifaceted career having performed nationally and internationally as a soloist, chamber, and orchestral musician.
A native of Southern California, Dr. Tsai earned degrees (B.M., M.M., and D.M.A.) in Violin Performance from the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music where she was honored the prestigious Order of Areté and became a member of Pi Kappa Lambda. Her mentors and teachers included Midori Goto, Kathleen Winkler, Hagai Shaham and Alice Schoenfeld. Additional fields of study while pursuing the Doctor of Musical Arts degree included Music Theory and Analysis, Violin Pedagogy with Endre Granat, and Kinesiology.
A dedicated educator, Dr. Tsai is Artist Teacher of Violin at University of Redlands. She is also on faculty at California School of the Arts-San Gabriel Valley, California State Summer School for the Arts, Junior Chamber Music (Inland Empire), and most recently, Montecito International Music Festival. Dr. Tsai makes frequent appearances as an adjudicator and serves as clinician in schools around Southern California where she mentors aspiring young musicians. In 2018, Dr. Tsai was selected to be the guest conductor of the San Bernardino County High School Honor Orchestra. She coaches instrumentalists in the Walnut Valley Unified School District at both Diamond Bar and Walnut High Schools while being actively involved with the Diamond Bar High School Performing Arts Academy Advanced Music Program. In addition, Dr. Tsai has a robust private studio and has previously held faculty positions at Marymount California University and Idyllwild Arts Academy.
As a performer, Dr. Tsai is a member of the Redlands Symphony Orchestra and the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra. She performs in several regional orchestras and has spent summers at the Lucerne Festival (Switzerland) and Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival (Germany) academies, and Music Masters Course Japan (Japan). Dr. Tsai maintains an active career as a chamber musician winning honors at international competitions such as the International Young Artists Peninsula Music Festival and the Coleman Chamber Ensemble Competition. As violinist with chamber ensembles Definiens, DuselForty58, and the What’s Next? Ensemble, Dr. Tsai has championed works of numerous living composers. An avid performer of contemporary music, extensive collaboration with young composers with these ensembles included residencies and performance projects at institutions such as Idyllwild Arts Academy, California State University, Northridge and Long Beach, University of California, Riverside, and University of Southern California. Dr. Tsai’s solo and ensemble performances have been featured live on world-wide television and radio broadcasts such as classical KUSC, KRTU-FM, Norddeutscher Rundfunk (Germany), and Japan Broadcasting Corporation – NHK (Japan).
Multiple GRAMMY® nominated pianist Nadia Shpachenko enjoys bringing into the world things that are outside the box – powerful pieces that often possess unusual sonic qualities or instrumentation. Described by critics as a “truly inspiring and brilliant pianist… spellbinding in sensitivity and mastery of technique,” Nadia performed recitals at Concertgebouw, Carnegie Hall, Disney Hall, on the Piano Spheres and Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Green Umbrella and Chamber Music Series, and with numerous orchestras in Europe and the Americas.
An enthusiastic promoter of contemporary music, Nadia has given world and national premieres of more than 60 works by Elliott Carter, George Crumb, Daniel Felsenfeld, Tom Flaherty, Annie Gosfield, Yuri Ishchenko, Vera Ivanova, Leon Kirchner, Amy Beth Kirsten, Hannah Lash, James Matheson, Missy Mazzoli, Harold Meltzer, Isaac Schankler, Adam Schoenberg, Lewis Spratlan, Gernot Wolfgang, Peter Yates, Jack Van Zandt, and others.
Nadia’s 2014 Reference Recordings CD Woman at the New Piano: American Music of 2013 was nominated for 58th GRAMMY® Awards in 3 categories. Described as “a most invigorating and distinctive release” (Fanfare Magazine), Nadia’s 2018 RR release Quotations and Homages features premieres of solo and collaborative works for 6 pianists (performed with Ray-Kallay Duo, HOCKET and Genevieve Feiwen Lee) inspired by a variety of earlier composers and pieces. Described as “an impressive collection of new works by outstanding contemporary composers, performed by first-rate musicians” (Sequenza21), Nadia’s 2019 RR album The Poetry of Places features premieres of solo and collaborative works (performed with LA Phil pianist Joanne Pearce Martin and LAPQ percussionists Nick Terry and Cory Hills) inspired by diverse buildings.
Nadia Shpachenko is Professor of Music at Cal Poly Pomona University, where she leads the Piano Performance program and was awarded the 2017 Provost’s Award for Excellence in Scholarly and Creative Activities. Nadia completed her DMA and MM degrees at the University of Southern California, where she was awarded the title of Outstanding Graduate. Her principal teachers included John Perry, Victor Rosenbaum, and Victor Derevianko. Nadia Shpachenko is a Steinway Artist and a Schoenhut Toy Piano Artist.
Scott Worthington is a double bassist and composer based in Los Angeles. Active as a chamber, recording, orchestral, and solo artist, his work as a performer has been called “masterful and transfixing” by NewMusicBox. He has released three albums to critical acclaim as a performer-composer, including his 2015 album Prism, named one of The New Yorker’s top ten classical albums of the year. His 2018 release, Orbit, appears on the French label IIKKI. His music, described as “quietly gripping” by The Log Journal and “as bewitching as it is original” by Alex Ross, has been commissioned by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, Loadbang, and numerous soloists.
Engaged in multiple arenas of contemporary music, Worthington’s other activities span concert production, electronic music, and audio engineering. In 2014 he co-founded wasteLAnd, a concert series praised by the L.A. Times as “our musical pioneers,” serving as executive director through its first five seasons. As an electronic musician, Worthington has performed and coded performance materials for music by composers ranging from Lucier to Stockhausen. In addition to his own albums, he has engineered and produced recordings for Populist Records, Orenda Records, Innova Recordings, and a forthcoming release on Bridge Records.
Since 2017, Worthington has been the principal bass of the Redlands Symphony and the Artist Teacher of Bass at the University of Redlands. He studied at the Eastman School of Music with James VanDemark and the University of California San Diego with Mark Dresser. While in San Diego, he also studied the Alexander Technique with Eileen Trobermann. He performs on a copy of a Lorenzo Carcassi bass built for him by Barrie Kolstein. www.scottworthington.com