Wet Ink presents an evening of intriguing new music for large ensemble by Mahir Cetiz, Katherine Young and David Franszon alongside recent chamber pieces by Sam Pluta and Alex Mincek, performed by the Wet Ink Large Ensemble – a unique collection of NYC’s most ferocious new music interpreters — at Roulette on Monday, June 8
Could you please describe the program Wet Ink is presenting at Roulette?
The Wet Ink Large Ensemble is our platform to showcase ambitious, large-scale works by exciting composers from around the world. Our program on June 8th features 3 works for large ensemble by NYC and Chicago-based composers David Franzson, Mahir Cetiz, and Katherine Young, alongside 2 chamber pieces by Wet Ink composers Alex Mincek and Sam Pluta. All of these artists share a penchant for musical exploration, and this program will reveal myriad ways that the composers have delved into the essence of sound, from extreme amplification of complex micro-textures (Young & Franzson), to inventive and masterful orchestration (Cetiz & Mincek), and the harnessing of acoustic phenomena, manifested as an abstract visual representation of sound (Pluta).
David Franzson’s on Matter and Materiality is a concerto for cello and ensemble, or, in a sense, a piece for solo cellist with the ensemble amplifying the sounds and actions of the soloist, the relationship between them as if they are a part of the same body. The solo cello is tuned extremely low and dramatically amplified, an incredible sound to behold. Wet Ink will be joined by the unflappable virtuoso Mariel Roberts in the World Premiere of the revised version of the piece.
Katherine Young’s like a halo, only involving dust and water, not ice also takes minute, multiphonic sounds as a starting point, but this time in prepared/amplified violin and amplified voice. The ensemble orchestrates rich textures based on the “halo” sound of the severely detuned and amplified violin.
Sam Pluta’s Sixty Cycles is a work based on the harmonic series of 60 cycle hum (the frequency of electric current in the US). Telephone pickups are placed on two televisions and connected to a mixer and microphones, creating a controlled feedback loop of visuals and 60 Hz harmonics. This soundscape, along with microtonal violin & cello drones, creates an accompaniment for ferocious sopranino saxophone acrobatics, which will be realized in performance by the incredible Ryan Muncy, for whom the piece was written.
Mahir Cetiz’s mise-en-abyme and Alex Mincek’s Pendulum IV are tour de force works which will showcase the ensemble precision and unique sound of Wet Ink across large ensemble and chamber settings. Mincek’s piece, newly revised, has not been performed by Wet Ink since 2009. We are thrilled to present it with the heavy-hitting lineup of Erin Lesser (contrabass flute), Ryan Muncy (tenor sax), Josh Modney (violin), and Mariel Roberts (cello).
Big thanks to Roulette for presenting this concert, and to the BMI Foundation, who have underwritten this performance of Katherine Young’s piece with a Jeffery Cotton Award, a new program which supports reprise performances of contemporary works.
The history of Wet Ink Ensemble runs the gamut of experimental art music from Brooklyn DIY and the ‘downtown scene’ tradition to ‘uptown’. Could you tell us about the unique history of the ensemble?
Wet Ink started as a small group of musicians seeking to work through various conflicts regarding categorization. When we first came together, we all identified as interpreters, improvisers and composers, with connections to multiple ‘scenes’ and were searching to create something like an all-inclusive artistic environment, that didn’t require one to choose sides, so to speak. And for the most part, that has never really changed. But in the early days (1998-2004) we were mainly presenters. We produced unique split-bill concerts that focused on coupling fairly polemical bands/groups. During this time there was no fixed “Wet Ink Ensemble”, rather, we functioned more like curators, presenting many different groups, in tandem with ever-changing versions of our own group. However, around 2005 we really started to gel into a more fixed, cohesive ensemble, and as a result, began to focus more on playing full concerts solely as one group. So, from 2005-2010 we were really exploring our ensemble identity. And from 2010-present we have basically been refining our group practice.
What distinguishes the instrumentation of the “large ensemble” from the core instrumentation of Wet Ink?
The Ensemble and the Large Ensemble are Wet Ink’s two main performing groups. The Ensemble is a septet, a core group of composers/performers/improvisers who serve as co-directors of the organization. The Large Ensemble is comprised of a flexible roster of NYC-based soloists, all of whom are passionately committed and internationally renowned interpreters of contemporary music.
As mentioned above, since 2005 we’ve been exploring and solidifying our ensemble identity. The formation of our septet configuration around 2010 was a defining moment – the culmination of a working method where the individual artists are valued over any pre-determined instrumentation. It had become clear to us after years of performing together and workshopping compositions together that our most rewarding artistic experiences were the product of close collaboration with specific people over long time periods. We had finally arrived at a point where a performance practice for Wet Ink music had been developed. The current economic model of contemporary music makes it very difficult for musicians to hone in on a performance practice, so we all felt a sense of gratitude for our artistic situation and the multitude of exciting possibilities that lay ahead. We’ve been running with it since then, increasing our touring activities and releasing albums (our solo album Relay, plus as “sidemen” on albums by Katharina Rosenberger and Kate Soper), and the septet remains the heart of Wet Ink. The Wet Ink Ensemble is:
Erin Lesser, flutes
Alex Mincek, sax/composition
Kate Soper, voice/composition
Eric Wubbels, piano/composition
Ian Antonio, percussion
Josh Modney, violin
Sam Pluta, electronics/composition
While the Wet Ink Ensemble is focused on long-term collaboration (both within the group and with exciting artists like Rick Burkhardt, Erin Gee, Katharina Rosenberger, and others), the Large Ensemble remains a broader project, championing the work of adventurous musicians from around the world. The Large Ensemble has taken on ambitious portrait concerts of major figures like Peter Ablinger and Mathias Spahlinger, and has tackled challenging work by younger artists including Bryn Harrison, Simon-Steen Andersen, and many others.
“Each work explores a rich variety of sonic and dramatic possibilities, unbound by convention, while also demonstrating meticulous craftsmanship, free of pretense.”
The above quotation describes Wet Ink’s program, but perhaps also accurately reflects much of the ensemble’s past curation and programming. What is Wet Ink’s ‘mission’?
We basically have four overlapping goals: 1) To seek out extraordinary artists and give their work a platform; 2) To make compelling music together, solely as a group (for us, by us…); 3) To undertake these endeavors with the highest level of commitment, which in turn offers 4) the public the opportunity to experience informed and devoted interpretations of today’s most novel and adventurous music.