in search of futures past
— choose your own adventure —
This album will never be heard the same way twice. Do you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books? “If you approach the mysterious stranger, turn to page 48...If you duck into the forbidden cave to avoid him, turn to page 136,” etc. There was a thrill to the equal possibilities of adventure or capture, friendship or deception, renown or obscurity.
In Search of Futures Past: Choose Your Own Adventure is the musical equivalent — one in which your listening experience will change profoundly based on your choice at each fork in the road.
You may choose to listen chronologically, and enjoy the way each composer opens up possibilities for the next. Or you may follow one of our many playlist options, and discover that Brahms takes on a new flavor when preceded by Sam Pluta, or that Ruth Crawford Seeger's quartet from 1931 sounds just as alive as the improvisations of Charmaine Lee when heard back-to-back. Or you can choose your own adventure – close your eyes and turn to a new page – and discover that context is everything.
What awaits you is the first quartet of Johannes Brahms, a composer that Arnold Schoenberg called more cutting-edge than Wagner, and one whose voice held out against a hurricane of criticism. Then there’s Schoenberg’s own third quartet, a piece inseparable from Schubert (and Mozart and Beethoven), but that also jail-breaks the entirety of classical music composition.
And what about Ruth Crawford Seeger’s String Quartet (1931)? Here we have a composer cutting through the patriarchy to write one of the only quartets of its kind till, maybe, Elliott Carter…predating his first quartet by almost 20 years.
Listeners can tour In Search of Futures Past: Choose Your Own Adventure chronologically, but maybe you’ve leapt right to George Lewis’s ecstatic String Quartet No. 1.5, “Experiments in Living.” This quartet may sound improvisatory to new ears, but on further reflection, an architecture emerges from the mist – not unlike the sometimes bewildering experience of hearing Schoenberg’s String Quartet No. 3 for the first time.
The exuberance popping off within the Lewis finds a parallel in Sam Pluta’s binary/momentary logics: flow state/joy state, which whips the players through breakneck character changes with titles as sober as “Professor Dr. Squiggly, DMA.” As both composers prove, the most challenging music on the page can also be absurd, and hilarious, and fun.
Composer Anthony Cheung provides a genre bridge with his cheekily-titled Real Book of Fake Tunes, in which whiffs of jazz harmonies infuse spontaneous-sounding licks from flutist Claire Chase and the members of our band. And finally, our fully improvised collaboration with vocalist Charmaine Lee offers the most interstellar departure from traditional classical music, fusing other-worldly reverberations of the human voice with the kaleidoscopic palette of the string quartet.
So, clearly, there’s no “single” here. Sorry, iTunes.
There are curated paths through this album, and more to come, but this is your adventure, friend. Choose wisely…