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Saturday, July 6, 2024

Aaron Wyanski - Schoenberg: Drie Klavierstucke, Op.11 (Speculative Records, 2024)

By Sammy Stein

Aaron Wyanski is a pianist, composer, and musicologist based in Maine where he is Assistant Professor of Music Composition at the University of Maine. He has been fascinated with the atonality and compositional style of Arnold Schoenberg since he was young and this album continues his exploration and homage to Schoenberg, via the medium of jazz.

‘Drei Klavierstucke’ (Three Piano Pieces) Op 11 (Speculative Records), which follows Sechs Kleine Klavierstucke ( Six small piano pieces) Op 19, and Schoenberg Suite Op.25, is just over twelve minutes in length and contains many elements of Schoenberg’s style. It also adds strummed open strings on piano, atonality, mismatched rhythms that work at cross purposes until eventually they merge, swinging rhythm patterns, contrasted with eclectic ones, and playful short interludes but it is not a copy of Schoenberg but rather a tribute to the various styles Schoenberg utilized.

Arnold Schöenberg's atonality theory and structure have been deemed one of the most influential on modern music. Respected today as one of the great musical theorists, Schoenberg enjoyed dissonance and unconventional arrangements. He picked apart classical arrangements and found hidden notes, timings, and sounds and realized that sometimes, it is the unconventional that works. Wyanski understands that too. Schoenberg’s work has influenced and empowered modern composers of classical and jazz music, from Zappa to Glass. The elements common to Schoenberg and jazz are apparent and here, Wyanski exposes and elevates them creating a novel take on the link between classical and jazz music via this concept of atonality. Schoenberg’s argument that even with the triad that is the building block of tonal harmony, every note is present in that triad, and it is the relationships between them that create dissonance or consonance – and how this is explored here is wonderful. Schoenberg created music that seemed atonal and unconnected but revealed the connections as it developed and here, Wyanski does the same with tracks such as Mabige where elements of swing are interspersed among the disjointed and surprising inclusions such as sudden blasts for the trumpet and brass, or the gentle melodic riff on the guitar. Once you get the concept of all notes being present, it is the relationship between them, intervals, and clashes, that affect our sense of tonality. Free jazz appreciators will understand. This music makes complete sense and is an exceptionally engaging listen.