Pianist Karl Larson Performs Scott Wollschleger’s “Dark Days,” Live Streamed from Roulette in Brooklyn on May 6

Mike Lawson • News • March 31, 2021

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On Thursday, May 6, 2021 at 8:00pm ET, pianist Karl Larson makes his solo debut at Brooklyn’s Roulette in a free, live streamed concert celebrating the release of Dark Days, a new album of solo piano music by composer Scott Wollschleger out April 23 on New Focus Recordings. 

The program will echo the album’s experiential journey, a compilation of 10 of Wollschleger’s deeply personal works composed between 2007-2020, tracing the evolution of Wollschleger’s synesthetic compositional style. Larson, Wollschleger’s close friend and frequent collaborator, will give listeners a glimpse into the intimate depths of the composer’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.

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 Dark Days 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.”


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