— New Release —

Presence of Absence | Oscar Bettison
Ensemble Klang, Matangi Quartet with Michaela Riener

September 10, 2021

Oscar Bettison’s (1975) five-movement Presence of Absence reflects on Western Civilisation as builder and destroyer of cities. A soprano and ten musicians weave together contemporary and ancient texts to evoke the cultures’ ruins: observations through the gauze of what remains. The interspersal of excerpts about these physical spaces of absence – Roman ruins, oceans, and interstellar space – roots the work both in our moment and in the remove of time.

Liner notes and extra context: ensembleklang.com/oscar-bettisons-presence-of-absence/

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O Death | Oscar Bettison
Ensemble Klang

April 6, 2010

Oscar Bettison (1975) works within and outside the confines of concert music, frequently combining traditional with invented and re-imagined instruments. O Death mixes saxophones, trombone, banjo and piano with jaw’s harps, harmonicas, recorders, melodica, flower pots and prepared wrenches. This seven-movement requiem masque assembles a broad range of traditions, including blues and other American folk music, exploring the theme of death and transcendence. O Death presents a dream of life from the perspective of the timeless dead and a premonition of death from the vantage of the clock-bound living.

Liner notes and extra context: ensembleklang.com/music-at-the-crossroads/

CD Pick of the Week: "an unconventional lyricism and a menacing beauty" (WNYC radio, Soundcheck, 16 April 2010)

"an ever-developing swirl of swarming, syncopated horns" "feverish interplay" "the keening penultimate movement telegraphing terror in its descending scales before the inevitable lulling finale, nailed shut by a thudding drum." (Baltimore City Paper, 21 April 2010)

5-stars: "a theatrical atmosphere, building in intensity. From a lazy funereal blues via dissonant, relentlessly pulsating blocks of energy it arrives at an uneasy close." (NRC Handelsblad, 21 May 2010)

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Fall: Edition Musikfabrik, Vol. 16
Ensemble Musikfabrik / Emilio Pomarico

Wergo WER 6869 2
July 5, 2019

The compositions on this CD are about crashing, decaying and failing. The individual downfalls have very different qualities and consequences: Brian Ferneyhough’s La Chute d'Icare is an allegorical fall: the divine punishment for the exuberant Icarus, who drowns in the sea instead of flying to the sun. Stephan Winkler's composition Von der Gewissensnot der Insekten, by contrast, refers to a fall with a more profane cause: excessive alcohol consumption and an open window lead to a fatal event. Eventually, the background of Oscar Bettison's piece Livre des Sauvages is a fall in a figurative sense, caused by the free fall of a supposedly scientific sensation. The booklet poster shows Gerhard Richter's Abstraktes Bild from 1983, which artistically comments on the thematic bundling of the program from the highlights of the series 'Musikfabrik im WDR'. Richter has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Ensemble Musikfabrik since 2009.

The Times Records of the Year 2019

Though couched in a complex style and flaunting intellectual subtexts (its cover reproducing a Gerhard Richter abstract), these works — the others being Stephan Winkler’s Von der Gewissensnot der Insekten and Oscar Bettison’s Livre des Sauvages — have direct impact and are filled with interesting sounds. (Sunday Times, 14th July 2019)

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sweet light crude

New Amsterdam
November 16, 2010

The disc begins with Oscar Bettison’s furious “B&E (with aggravated assault)” – a mixed-meter revolution – followed by Stefan Weisman’s understated, enigmatic and passive “I Would Prefer Not To.” Passivity turns to obsession in David T. Little’s dark and crooked love song to oil, “sweet light crude,” which gives way to a glimmer of hope in Missy Mazzoli’s “In Spite of All This,” the quiet before the storm. That storm comes in Pat Muchmore’s apocalyptic, Nine Inch Nails-infused “Brennschuss”, which roars upon the listener with Pynchon-esque imagery, with guest vocals from Morean of the German black metal band Dark Fortress. When the storm clears, we’re left with a dust bowl, and the sounds of the howling wind, setting the scene for Caleb Burhans’ “Requiem for a General Motors in Janesville, WI,” which brings the album to its cathartic conclusion.

sweet light crude has been praised for its seamless fusion of rock and classical chamber music idioms as well as its unconcealed political messages; New Music Box finds it “devoid of the awkwardness one hears much too often in these attempts at cross-genre pollination”, Arcane Candy remarks that it “could easily keep a whole nation full of chamber rock lovers well lubricated for a whole year,” and The Silent Ballet finds it to “inhabit a world in which all genres are on an equal playing field.”

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