On Friday, May 1, 2020, the Wet Ink Ensemble released Glossolalia/Lines on Black on Carrier Records. The release features two extended works by Ensemble composers Sam Pluta and Alex Mincek: Mincek's Glossolalia and Pluta's Lines on Black. Performer/members of the Wet Ink Ensemble include Erin Lesser, flutes; Josh Modney, violin; Kate Soper, voice; Alex Mincek, saxophone; Eric Wubbels, piano; Ian Antonio, percussion; and Sam Pluta, electronics.
Glossolalia, commonly described as "speaking in tongues," is a term originating from the Greek "glossa," meaning language, and "lalia," meaning "speak." Glossolalia is often characterized by accelerated speech output, with modified accents, comprised of unrecognizable vocal fragments. In Alex Mincek's Glossolalia, the concept of language is broadened to include modes of musical expression beyond linguistics - harmonic language, melodic language, rhythmic language, gestural language, instrumental language, etc - each subjected to the same types of modification (phonological, morphological, syntactic) found in linguistic glossolalia. Mincek describes the piece as "a work intended to help us perceive our own mechanisms of perception, perhaps allowing us a better view of how we view. Nonsense appears in a variety of contexts, including mystical and spiritual traditions in which various forms of gibberish are associated with expanding perception. Spells and incantations composed of nonsensical words suggest access to experiences outside our normal lives."
Sam Pluta's Lines on Black was written as a love letter to the composer/performer/improvisers of the Wet Ink Ensemble. Pluta says, "Each movement of the piece engages the musicianship and personality of individual members or small subsets of the ensemble, resulting in a music whose subject is as much the musicians playing it as it is the larger dialogic arc of the sonic structure. At the same time, the work is a large-scale fusion of all aspects of my compositional practice - rigorously notated scores, electro-acoustic improvisation, and fixed media composition - into a single 40 minute work."
Lines on Black opens with a highly detailed "Duo" between flutist Erin Lesser and violinist Josh Modney. The notation employed allows these two virtuosi to bring all of their new music chops to the work, while also allowing them a certain level of freedom. The result is, while fully notated, a sonic world analogous to that often found in duo improvisation. Following this are two truly improvised movements, a piano solo by Eric Wubbels, who brings his unique harmonic/gestural language to the work, and then an improvised voice and electronics duo that shows soprano Kate Soper as someone as comfortable performing in an open setting as she is in her own highly structured works. In "Saxophone with Piano/Percussion Duo" and "Cycle," a fully notated score for piano and percussion lays the groundwork for an increasingly active duo improvisation between Alex Mincek and Pluta, the culmination of which is an electronics solo over the top of an active ensemble texture. In "On/Off," the music suddenly switches direction, locking into a rigid seven minute hocket, highlighting the virtuosic precision of percussionist Ian Antonio, Josh Modney, and Erin Lesser. "Canyon" is a fixed media movement, composed using sounds created from an analog synthesizer, with ensemble gestures emerging from the texture. Finally, the work ends with a virtuosic percussion solo performed by Antonio with Modney simultaneously improvising an intricate violin solo on top.
The Wet Ink Ensemble is a collective of composers, performers and improvisers dedicated to adventurous music-making. Named "The Best Classical Music Ensemble of 2018" by The New York Times, Wet Ink's work is rooted in an ethos of innovation through collaboration, extending from the music and the unique performance practice developed in the "band" atmosphere of Wet Ink's core octet of composer-performers, to projects with a broad range of renowned creators, from Evan Parker to George Lewis to Peter Ablinger, and committed performances of music by young and underrepresented composers, from today's most promising emerging voices to the next generation of artists.
Hailed for "sublimely exploratory" (The Chicago Reader) and "dense, wild, yet artfully controlled" (The New York Times) performances and "uncompromisingly original music by its members, and unflagging belief in the power of collaboration" (The New Yorker), Wet Ink has been presenting concerts of new music at the highest level in New York City and around the world for over 20 years. Wet Ink's programming celebrates the nexus of composition, improvisation and interpretation, from early collaborations with Christian Wolff and ZS to pioneering portrait concerts of Peter Ablinger, Mathias Spahlinger, Anthony Braxton, and the AACM composers, work with renowned creative musicians such as Ingrid Laubrock, Peter Evans, Darius Jones, and Katherine Young, and long-term collaborative projects with Wet Ink's four acclaimed composer-members (Alex Mincek, Sam Pluta, Kate Soper, and Eric Wubbels).
Wet Ink has been in residence at institutions including Duke University, EMPAC (Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center), Columbia University, the Royal Academy of Music (UK), and The Walden School, among many others, and has been featured on numerous recordings. Highlights include Katharina Rosenberger's TEXTUREN, which was awarded a German Record Critics Prize, and solo records by Alex Mincek (Torrent), Kate Soper (IPSA DIXIT), Sam Pluta (Broken Symmetries), Eric Wubbels (Duos with Piano, Book 1), and Josh Modney (Engage), all of which were celebrated on various "Best of" lists by The New York Times, The New Yorker, Bandcamp Daily, Sequenza 21, and The Nation. Wet Ink has released four acclaimed solo albums (Wet Ink Ensemble; Relay; Wet Ink: 20, which features the Wet Ink Large Ensemble; and Glossolalia/Lines on Black).
Wet Ink is co-directed by an octet of world class composers, improvisers, and interpreters that collaborate in band-like fashion, writing, improvising, preparing, and touring pieces together over long stretches of time. These directors are Erin Lesser (flutes), Alex Mincek (saxophone), Ian Antonio (percussion), Eric Wubbels (piano), Josh Modney (violin), Mariel Roberts (cello), Kate Soper (voice), and Sam Pluta (electronics). The Wet Ink Large Ensemble is a group of extraordinary New York City musicians that come together to play the world's most exciting and innovative music. Learn more at www.wetink.org.
Glossolalia/Lines on Black Track List
Alex Mincek - Glossolalia
1. Scat and Scatter
2. Thread 1
3. Thread 2
7. Isonomy B
Sam Pluta - Lines on Black
9. Piano Solo
10. Voice and Electronics
11. Flute and Voice
12. Saxophone With Piano Percussion Duo
16. Solo with Violin
Wet Ink Ensemble
Erin Lesser, flutes
Josh Modney, violin
Kate Soper, voice
Alex Mincek, saxophone
Eric Wubbels, piano
Ian Antonio, percussion
Sam Pluta, electronics
Recorded by Sam Pluta and Ted Moore at the Logan Center, Univ of Chicago
Mixed by Sam Pluta at the CHIME Studio, Univ of Chicago
Mastered by Pierre Alexandre Tremblay at the HISS Studios, Univ of Huddersfield
Produced by Sam Pluta