Percussionist Songs – Wolff / Schulkowsky

"Rooms talk to me. I send out a sound, the space answers. The first message I picked up from the old barn in Umbria was "yes."

Christian Wolff and I had been thinking, speaking about, even planning a CD with his solo percussion pieces since the premiere of the Dances in 1998. From that time I've been looking, waiting, hoping for the room that would say "yes." Here we are. 

Christian Wolff does not compose percussion music. His percussion pieces are about as far away from the usual percussion techniques as I have travelled. If pressed to describe his music, I start by stating that I have never heard anything like it. It is virtuosic - though not about virtuosity. It's appearance - often - deceptively simple - always concisely constructed. Christian Wolff invites us on a magical journey through his world. A world where music we never imagined before exists. This is one of the spaces John Cage was talking about when he asked us to "let sounds be sounds". So they are. And there is so much music to be discovered there." - Robin Schulkowsky. 

"Writing for percussion I've found is, more than for any other instrument, an experimental business. The music as I write it is, far more than usual, material out of which the player makes a music that is as much her own as the composer's, a kind of trusting conversation whose exchange and flow is what I like and whose sound may in this way be just itself as well." - Christian Wolff.


Christian Wolff / composition, melodica

Robin Schulkowsky / percussion 


Recorded at Poggiolo fram, Pozzuolo, Umbria, Italy on April 22-24 2003 by Adrian von Ripka. Cover by Tristram Wolff

Available as 320k MP3 or 16bit FLAC.  


1. Solo 1 From Merce - 3:05
2. Percussionist No 6 - 3:24

(Percussionist Songs - 20:00 total)

3. Part I
4. Part II
5. Part III
6. Part IV
7. Part V
8. Part VI
9. Part VII

10.  Vergnügungen - 1:57

(Percussionist Dances - 23:00 total)

11. Part I
12. Part II
13. Part III

14. Dear Robyn - 0:34
15. Peace March - 4:11

Christian Wolff

Christian Wolff emerged in the 1950s on the New York experimental music scene and became a prominent champion of the aesthetics of musical indeterminism. His works, which became increasingly explicit in their political content as his career progressed, stress choice, artistic co-operation and interdependence, and an accommodating attitude toward the potential relationships between music, sound and silence. Wolff studied classics and comparative literature at Harvard University. Though active as a pianist and electric guitarist throughout his career, he was largely self-taught as a composer, and from the beginning his works relied more on careful aesthetic design than compositional “craft” in the traditional sense. Although his works of the 1950s already conveyed a decidedly “democratic” subtext, with their reliance on freedom and reaction (“parliamentary participation”), they did so through traditional notation and sometimes invoked, however obscurely, traditional forms. The flexibility of their realisations owed to Cage’s influence, while their sparse surfaces recalled Webern, and in some cases resonated with La Monte Young’s early works. His compositions from the late 1950s and 1960s placed increased effort on real-time cooperation between performers, who worked somewhat freely, within certain set parameters (set durations with unspecified pitches, for example), but were required to alter their performative decisions consequent to each other’s actions. Later works turned inwards to more specifically musical topics, perhaps due in part to Wolff’s somewhat self-effacing assessment of the composer’s role. As he observed in a 1991 interview: “Most political music, paradoxically enough, is for the converted; it’s an instrument of cohesion for a group that already knows what it wants.” – Jeremy Grimshaw, Allmusic