Composer-violist Jessica Pavone was thinking about how music has the power to cause you to feel a range of emotions—depression, excitement, nostalgia—as she wrote the works that comprise Lull. She’s inspired by processes that center intuition and instinct, learning from sound healers and alternative healing practices to bolster her philosophical interests in the power of sound to illuminate hidden emotions. She channels all these ideas into compositions by focusing on the way music feels when it’s played and heard instead of what’s “right” and “wrong.” In writing music this way, she’s able to explore how sonic vibrations affect the body, weaving her many experiences as an instrumentalist into works that transcend time.
Lull directly reflects Pavone’s interests by centering flexibility rather than perfection—the music is meant to sit right in the body, not force the artists to cram their hands in positions that simply don’t work. Her score for Lull focuses on open pitches that players oscillate between at their own rate, taking advantage of the natural resonance of instruments. Lull also represents an expansion of Pavone’s practice—this is her first octet, which she was inspired to begin after writing a string quartet in 2017. After writing the quartet, she dreamed of writing a long-ranging, drone-focused solo work; eventually, that turned into Lull, a four-movement octet with two acclaimed soloists, Yeah Yeah Yeahs percussionist Brian Chase and trumpeter Nate Wooley.
Pavone implements her signature score style on Lull, in which she directs players to move between phrases at specific time points, floating between loosely dictated notes until they reach the designated clock marker telling them to switch to the next phrase. It’s indeterminate music—a structured improvisation that rejects the showiness of jazz improvisation and the rigidity of classical music in favor of gently structured spontaneity. She draws from her experiences both as a classical and jazz musician, working with artists like guitarist Mary Halvorson and saxophonist Anthony Braxton, to form her genre-transcendent music.
Pavone also wanted writing Lull to be a collaborative process. When she approached Chase and Wooley, she asked them both, “what’s your favorite note to play?” and worked from there, crafting music that felt good to each of them. They’d sent files back and forth, sharing snippets of music they love. Pavone was then able to form movements that catered to each soloist’s desires; in rehearsals, she let the soloists dictate how they wanted to move or change the notes she’d written, giving them a voice in the process, too.
Each piece on Lull embraces themes of comfort, with titles like “Indolent,” or little or no pain, “Holt,” or wood, “Ingot,” or metal, and “Midmost,” or middle. The album’s title, Lull, took her the longest amount of time to choose, but in the end became a clear symbol to represent the music she’d written: This music is meant to be like a lullaby, and listening feels like a dream. Pavone isn’t writing show music, she’s writing a soothing balm to lose yourself in, one second at a time.
Jessica Pavone - composer/viola
Brian Chase - percussion solo
Nate Wooley - Bb trumpet solo
Aimée Niemann and Charlotte Munn-Wood - violin
Abby Swidler - viola
Christopher Hoffman and Meaghan Burke - cello
Shayna Dulberger and Nicholas Jozwiak - double bass
Recorded by René Pierre Allain at Scholes Street Studio in Brooklyn, NY on October 25, 2020
Mixed and mastered by Brian Chase
Artwork and layout: Brian Chase
Publishing: JessicaPavone BMI