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Tyler Wilcox: Works for Two Chapels

Karl Ackermann By

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Brooklyn-based composer and multi-instrumentalist Tyler Wilcox authored the two extended pieces on Works for Two Chapels, playing only on the second. The Baltimore native works in a minimalistic style and has an affinity for performing in houses of worship, where the natural acoustics become a partner in his largely improvised compositions. On this recording, Wilcox utilizes two distinct spaces for the corresponding performances.

"Octet (For Four Trombones and String Quartet)" follows a pattern across twenty minutes. For all the diversity of instruments here, "Octet" is a drone piece that is often a single sustained note, and occasionally, a few added notes. It creates the imprint of an unhurried melody but it is simply an illusion produced by the slight variations and a drawn-out approach. "Octet" lets the musical phases fade away into silence at irregular intervals—music for thirty-seconds, followed by silence for the next forty-seconds, for example. Wilcox—primarily a saxophonist—plays the pipe organ on the solo work "9.11.13." Again minimal, and again, principally a drone, Wilcox plays consistently through twenty-three minutes and with variations that dodge infinite endurance. It is easier to appreciate the beauty of this piece; the playing is more weighty but animated as well.

The two chapels of the album title are the Church of the Annunciation in Brooklyn where "Octet" was recorded in 2013 and the Chapel of the Holy Innocents at Bard College for "9.11.13," in 2017. Both pieces bear similarities to other works. "Octet" may draw some obvious comparisons to John Cage's all-silent "4'33." Not as apparent perhaps, is the resemblance of "9.11.13" and Àine O'Dwyer's Music for Church Cleaners Vol. I and II (Mie, 2015). Àine O'Dwyer—a harpist, by trade—played pipe organ for her excellent solo album recorded at St. Mark's Church in Islington, London. Like O'Dwyer, Wilcox incorporates the surrounding sounds of his environment, whether that be a knock at the door or an impromptu thud from the church pews. Works for Two Chapels is a mesmerizing experiment, without genre but with plenty of distinctive character.

Track Listing: Octet (For Four Trombones and String Quartet); 9.11.13.

Personnel: Mark Broshinsky, William Long, James Rogers, Sebastien Vera: trombones (1); Rachel Golub, Mario Gotoh: violin; Victor Lowrie: viola; John Popham: cello(1); Tyler Wilcox: pipe organ (2).

Title: Works for Two Chapels | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Caduc Recordings

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