Odd Couples


I’ve dust­ed off my once-efful­gent career as an in-demand inter­na­tion­al soloist [cita­tion need­ed] to take part in Gor­don Williamson’s Odd Cou­ples.

I had­n’t even seen any of the music yet, and I was already grin­ning at some of Gor­don’s inge­nious deci­sions. The duo I played brought togeth­er the small­est and the biggest organs you can get: a har­mon­i­ca and a church organ. (Although not quite: this was actu­al­ly record­ed in one of the cou­ple Iber­ian con­struc­tion style organs you can find in Ger­many, evok­ing in me a weird­ly-place vague sense of pride. So you could’ve cer­tain­ly had big­ger — but South Euro­peans do it better.)

My odd part­ner was the won­der­ful Michael Čulo. We record­ed on Decem­ber 2, 2021 at the Neustädter Stadtkirche, where he is Kan­tor. The video, as with the rest of the project, is Sascha Hah­n’s. You can check out the result here:

Odd Cou­ples is a cat­a­log of 24 duos com­posed by my dear teacher Gor­don Williamson through­out 2021 and 2022. Each one of the minia­tures explore a unique com­bi­na­tion of instru­ments, rang­ing from the uncom­mon (such as tuba and elec­tric gui­tar) to the hilar­i­ous, like organ plus har­mon­i­ca (me!) or flex­a­tone and trom­bone. The pieces have been record­ed in var­i­ous cities in Europe and North Amer­i­ca, and its prac­ti­cal­i­ties were a cre­ative response to the chal­lenges of the pan­dem­ic: What will inter­na­tion­al col­lab­o­ra­tion look like? What about its very oppo­site: what can music look like in today’s domes­tic and shared spaces? How have we filmed con­cert music in that first, casu­al­ly reac­tive stretch of ear­ly lock­downs, and where can we take that kind of practice?

This music was pre­sent­ed in con­cert last March 6th, at the Spren­gel Muse­um, in Han­nover. Half of the duos were per­formed live, while the oth­er half — com­prised of some of the most unwieldy duos, mine” includ­ed — were pro­ject­ed on the walls of the muse­um (to which I also con­tributed through my man­ning of two Rasp­ber­ry Pis). The pro­gram was com­plet­ed by works for vari­able instru­men­ta­tion from Stock­hausen, Andriessen and Ten­ney. After an ini­tial ensem­ble per­for­mance, the pub­lic was invit­ed to wan­der freely through­out the exhi­bi­tion space and meet the musi­cians dis­persed through sev­er­al simul­ta­ne­ous sta­tions through­out the museum.

Odd Cou­ples will live on as an online, inter­ac­tive com­po­si­tion: one can find their way through the var­i­ous duos in any order they choose. Each of the 24 duos are avail­able on the pro­jec­t’s page; you can then fol­low one of the three sug­ges­tions of which video to see next at the bot­tom, for some­thing of a curat­ed approach, or go back, and find your own unique path through the duos.