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Set: Song II 06:33
Set: Song IV 05:07


Bassoonist Dana Jessen and composer Taylor Brook team up for a collaborative album length electro-acoustic work, Set, that combines through composed (Songs) and improvised sections. Much attention in the the composed sections is devoted to an exploration of a range of extended techniques on the bassoon that Jessen has cultivated. The improvised sections are framed by guidelines and rules that Brook provided and computer improvisation that accompanies the instrumental soloist. In these ways, the boundaries between composer and performer is blurred.

The opening Song begins with a series of clarion calls in the bassoon that are answered by a chorus of bassoons in the electronics supporting the soloist with blocks of sound. Brook and Jessen explore the myriad colors the bassoon has at its disposal on any given note, reveling in the transformation of sustained pitches. Steady drone textures provide context for Jessen’s expressive playing and the rich overtones embedded in the bassoon’s sound. The second half of the movement features more nuanced figuration in the solo part over a wider sonic palette in the electronics, including active, non-pitched breath sounds, before closing with a poignant passage for solo bassoon alone.

In the improvised first interlude we hear responsive material in the computer part reacting to Jessen’s more punctuated material. Jessen develops a pointed repeated note idea for the movements opening minutes before long tones are shadowed by ghostly pitches in the electronics that form a harmonic halo around the solo line. The interlude elides smoothly into the timbral trills in the opening of the second piece (third track). A two note descending motive anchors exploration into some wonderfully rich multiphonic sonorities. Brook and Jessen allow these complex timbres to breathe and evolve, inviting the listener to focus their attention on different component pitches that emerge. Variable delays in the electronics reinforce the expansive context.

The second interlude establishes walls of sound through extended trills and forceful multiphonics. Brook’s electronics mirror Jessen’s lines with a harmonizer, tracking their contour and lending the texture a futuristic sheen. The interlude finishes with a passage where Jessen’s voice emerges from behind the bassoon, blurring yet another boundary. Similar walls of sound created by extended trills shape the third song, merged with morse code-like irregular tongued notes that are echoed in the electronics. Much of Jessen’s material in this improvisation is more linear and soloistic, featuring pitch bends and swooping passagework.

The final Song creates an unsettling, dystopian sound world, as Jessen plays quick, chromatic repeated figures that are answered by quick fire delay processing. The occasional quarter tone passage in the live part gives the sense that the delayed signal is subject to the Doppler effect, bending the pitch as the signal moves further “away.” After this activated passage, the piece seems like it will close with sustained unisons over a drone, but just before it ends, Jessen slides up one half step for a slightly brighter final sonority.

Set is a focused, contemplative piece that explores expressive contrasts within a relatively restrictive set of musical materials. The symbiotic process of collaborative composition and responsive improvisation makes for a piece that feels very much as if it is a unique outgrowth of the relationship between these two artists and the specific moment of the recording.

– Dan Lippel


released July 28, 2023

Recorded April 5, 2022 in Clonick Hall, Oberlin, OH

Recorded by Andrew Tripp

Mixed by Taylor Brook

Mastered by Murat Çolak at GERYON

Design by Ryan Sprowl




New Focus Recordings New York, New York

New Focus Recordings is an artist led collective label featuring releases in contemporary music of many stripes, as well as new approaches to older repertoire. The label was founded by guitarist Daniel Lippel (who is the current director), composer engineer Ryan Streber, and composer Peter Gilbert in 2003-4, and features releases from many of new music's most active performers and composers. ... more

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