Daniel Wohl, composer, with the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Iktus Percussion, Mantra Percussion, Mivos Quartet, Olga Bell, Caroline Shaw
Amidst a generation of composers in contemporary classical music who are striving for pop accessiblity and incorporating electronics into their work, Daniel Wohl stands out. While most composers think in terms of the ubiguitous looped beats of hip hop and dance music, Wohl looks to another field of electronic music making, one that has a low popular profile but is pervasive: ambient and drone music.
His 2013 debut recording on New Amsterdam, Corps Exquis, was a compelling blend of malleable, complex sounds in slow shifting patterns,like a sonic Calder mobile. As a recording it was unifinished, the piece has a visual component that was an essential part, and the live experience of the music was remarkable and unique—deeply abstract art with a mesmerizing, immediate appeal.
His latest release, Holographic (available January 29), is a more complete listening experience. The piece still has deep roots in the aesthetics of electronic ambient and drone music, but there are more concrete rhythms, more instances of instruments pressing forward from the warm, multi-hued textures. Wohl does a lot of sampling and processing of acoustic instruments, and his results sound like field recordings with pitch and timbre, which adds to how rich the record sounds.
I admire this composing. It’s one thing to make music structured by harmonic rhythm, it’s another thing to think in terms of timbre and proportion, and for it all to come out sounding so intuitive when the form and structure have to be exact (or else it’s boring). This is the first entry on my 2016 best new music list.
Though this is satisfying purely as a listening experience, there is a visual component. If you head to the world premiere performances at the Baryshnikov Arts Center[1. Holographic is a group commission from the BAC, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music series, MASS MoCA, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art] this Thursday and Friday, January 21-22, you’ll see the music accompanied by a synchronized audio-visual component made by artist Daniel Schwartz.
January 19 only: If you are in or around New York City, you can hear the music and Wohl himself on the Afternoon New Music show on WKCR, 3 p.m., 89.9 on your FM dial.**