[Album] Scarlet Rising Moon, with John Adler
I’m proud to announce a new album that’s been in the works for a few years. My project with John Adler culminates in a complete recording after a long road! This is a unique project for a lot of reasons, so I wanted to write a bit about the history and my thoughts on it here.
In 2015, I went out to Colorado to spend some time with John Adler in the University of Northern Colorado’s recording studio. The mission was to record my work, Sonata for Trumpet and Launchpad, which John had commissioned and toured nationally in the year prior. Over three days with engineer Greg Heimbecker, we tracked the sonata, and while we were at it and inspired, the rest of my works for trumpet, plus a bunch of off-the-cuff free improvs. The resulting album, Scarlet Rising Moon, is 80 minutes of trumpet-fronted electronic music.
John was one of the first advocates of my work as I finished school back in the spring of 2010. He visited Grand Valley State to tour his album Confronting Inertia and give a master class to the GVSU trumpet studio. I was a 4th year student just coming around to the fact that I wasn’t interested in a career in orchestral music. I was enlisted to play something for John’s masterclass by the studio teacher. Etudes and excerpts were the standard fare for GVSU trumpets, but I brought an untitled work in progress (later to be titled Rikai) to play instead. The piece featured soft-synths, automated effects, breakbeats, stuff that outright alienated most of the studio, who were used to masterclasses including Pictures at an Exhibition and Beethoven fanfares. John was stoked on it though. I didn’t realize I was playing for someone who had an ear toward contemporary music and plenty of experience with hybrid-electronic music already – and was a composer himself. We kept in touch, and when Rikai was done, John adopted it into his recital repertory.
After touring Rikai, John commissioned a new work, and our collaboration set a course toward the eventual 2015 recording sessions. The work John commissioned, Sonata for Trumpet and Launchpad, is the centerpiece of the album, but it’s not presented as a “sonata” here. The three-movement work reflects the context of trumpet as a solo voice I came to understand in school, but diverges in most other ways. The piano accompaniment typical of the form is swapped for a series of three Ableton Live sets with equal parts fixed notation, procedurally-evolving improv vamps, and manual effects processing with transport controls operated by the soloist. John’s stylistically diverse toolkit called for a work with ample space for improvising, and afforded me a chance to write some straight up power licks. Ableton’s scene control and variable transport capabilities let him advance through the piece at his own pace.
The runtime to perform the sonata surpasses 35 minutes and is sort of an endurance beast to blow down in full. Post-production also gave me the sense that the three movements had come into more autonomy than intended, so they’re broken up here, titled individually and stripped of their sectional subservience. The middle movement also has some stipulations and will not be on the digital streaming platforms*. The work in post also saw some significant revisions in the arrangement to include more of what I was musically interested in in 2016 and ‘17 – field recordings, 160bpm breaks, melodic feedback manipulation.
The project spent some time in post, where it was mastered by Options’ Seth Engel, then in administrative limbo (e.g. a spell of depression-induced artistic self-loathing) for a while, but it will be coming out on slashsound on November 8. After that, John and I are touring through Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah to perform the record together. Still hoping to lock a date in New York for 2020 – stay tuned :)
I do feel vulnerable sharing this music. Some of it was composed as early as 2008 (the title track is 11 years old!) so the project spans almost a decade of my life – most of my existence as a self-identified composer. So much has changed. In many ways I feel like a completely different person from when I sketched those first notes of Scarlet Rising Moon onto staff paper in the basement practice room of the Murray dorms on the south side of campus. As I listen back in 2019, it’s a vivid reminder that I am a work in progress as an artist and human and these imperative moments in history are a certain proof of my existence over time. In spite of the aesthetic span though, all is made retroactively continuous by John’s incredible playing. It’s possible to take it for granted as a composer, but when a another human can understand your will behind the notes, that type of communication on an abstract plane is moving.
So CDs are pricy to make and, let’s be real, obsolete in 2019. We opted for a run of flash drives as our accompanying physical object – something that reflects the modular and evolving nature of this project. They’re 16GB, branded with the slashsound label logo, contains the full album, an epic bonus track, and sheet music with Ableton sets for two pieces (Rikai, Kinetic Flora) so you can play the music too. We’ll have them through all our dates out west and available online at the label store.
Scarlet Rising Moon contains a little bit of me from every phase of my adult artistic life, the ups and downs, hope and despair, confidence and confusion. It means a lot to us both. I hope you’ll lend a listen.
releases November 8, 2019
John Adler, trumpet
Adam Cuthbert, electronic instruments
Produced by John Adler & Adam Cuthbert
Recording & Mixing Engineer: Greg Heimbecker at University of Northern Colorado (Greeley, CO)
Mastering Engineer: Seth Engel at Pallet Sound (Chicago, IL)
copyeditor, “sonata”: Gregory C Brown (New York, NY)
Compositions: Adam Cuthbert [tracks 1,2,3,4,5,9,10], John Adler & Adam Cuthbert [tracks 6,7,8]
Album Artwork: Adam Cuthbert & Daniel Rhode
All tracks published by 2future music (ASCAP)
01. Automatic Shifter [10:39]
02. Kinetic Flora [13:20]
03. Scarlet Rising Moon I. [4:30]
04. Scarlet Rising Moon II. [3:49]
05. Scarlet Rising Moon III. [7:27]
06. Still Life No. 1 [3:48]
07. Still Life No. 2 [4:29]
08. 2345 BQ DNR [8:32]
09. Rikai [8:46]
10. [*BONUS*TRACK*] [13:40]
*it’s the bonus track