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Wet Ink Ensemble

April 29, 2014

Wet Ink’s 2012-13 Season was an exciting year of artistic growth for the ensemble.  In addition to our yearly concert season in New York City, we recorded two full-length albums (Kate Soper’s Voices from the Killing Jar and Wet Ink’s RELAY), concluded a two-year residency at Duke University, and engaged in ongoing collaborations as composers and performers with the excellent new music ensembles Yarn|Wire and Mivos Quartet.

Wet Ink has two main performing groups: Wet Ink Ensemble and Wet Ink Large Ensemble.  Wet Ink Ensemble is a septet configuration, comprised of a core group of composer-performers: Erin Lesser (flutes), Joshua Modney (violin), Ian Antonio (percussion), Kate Soper (vocals), Alex Mincek (saxophones), Eric Wubbels (piano), and Sam Pluta (electronics). The members of the Ensemble collaborate in a band-like fashion – writing, improvising and preparing pieces together over long stretches of time.

Wet Ink Ensemble - Final Image

The Wet Ink Large Ensemble is a group of New York City musicians dedicated to pushing boundaries who come together several times each year to play the world’s most exciting and innovative music.  The group has given the US and World premieres of works by composers including Beat Furrer, Peter Ablinger, Richard Barrett, George Lewis, Bernhard Lang, Matthew Hough, Mathias Spahlinger, and many more. Recordings of the Large Ensemble can be heard on the Carrier, hat[now]ART, Tzadik, and Quiet Design record labels.

For Wet Ink’s 14th NYC concert season, we focused on Wet Ink’s own composer members in two large-scale ‘double-portrait’ performances.  The first of these performances in December 2012 featured Wet Ink Ensemble performing works by Sam Pluta and Kate Soper, and doubled as the CD release event for our latest album, RELAY on Carrier Records.  The show began with the world premiere of Sam Pluta’s Broken Symmetries (or the Masses of Gauge Bosons), a massive work for amplified/distorted violin solo, ensemble, and improvised software-controlled feedback.  Sam’s subtle control of distortion on the violin produces amazing results, creating an audible difference tone underneath Just Tuned double-stops (on acoustic violin, these are only detectable as a psycho-acoustic phenomenon).

Wet Ink’s December show also featured the world premiere of Kate Soper’s Voices from the Killing Jar, a dramatic 45-minute, eight-movement work written over the course of several years in close collaboration with Wet Ink Ensemble.  Of the work, Kate Soper writes:

“A killing jar is a tool used by entomologists to kill butterflies and other insects without damaging their bodies: a hermitically sealable glass container, lined with poison, in which the specimen will quickly suffocate. Voices from the Killing Jar depicts a series of female protagonists who are caught in their own kinds of killing jars – hopeless situations, inescapable fates, impossible fantasies, and other unlucky circumstances – each living in a world constructed from among the countless possible sonic environments of the Wet Ink Ensemble.”

This work, like many written by the Wet Ink composers, was created over the course of countless rehearsals, workshops, and discussions with the members of the Wet Ink Ensemble, and was crafted specifically for the sound and performance aesthetic of our individual players.  However, in VKJ Kate has taken this idea to an extreme, asking that each player also perform on secondary instruments – Violin/Trumpet, Voice/Piano/Clarinet, Piano/Recorder, Saxophone/Clarinet, Percussion/Voice, Flute/Contrabass Flute/Voice, Electronics/Operatic Baritone Solo.  The result is a work so custom-made that perhaps no other ensemble could ever perform it, a testament to collaboration as the backbone of Wet Ink’s artistic practice.

After the performance, Wet Ink Ensemble spent two days in the studio (at Oktaven Audio) recording VKJ for release on Carrier Records.   We’re thrilled to be releasing the album at a special event in December 2013, please stay tuned for details!

Wet Ink’s next big season event was on February 8, 2013, featuring works by Wet Ink composers Eric Wubbels and Alex Mincek and performances by Wet Ink Ensemble, the Wet Ink Large Ensemble, Mivos Quartet, and Yarn|Wire.  Those who live in NYC might remember that February 8th was the biggest blizzard all year, and we had doubts that the show would be able to go on at all.  But it did, and we were touched by the support of the many die-hard new music fans who turned out for the concert.

The February concert represented another side of Wet Ink – performing with the extended network of soloists who make up the Wet Ink Large Ensemble and with the adventurous quartets Yarn|Wire and Mivos.  The Eric Wubbels half of the program included: Katachi, a set of etudes/variations exploring acoustic fusion, written for Wet Ink Ensemble and recorded on RELAY; “the children of fire come looking for fire”, a large-scale work for amplified violin and piano; and Tautology and Translation, for clarinet, percussion, piano, and cello.  Alex Mincek’s works on the program included String Quartet No. 3: “lift-tilt-filter-split”, a piece which has become a staple of Mivos Quartet’s repertoire and will be released on Mivos’ solo album Reappearances in November 2013; Pendulum VI: “Trigger”, written for Yarn|Wire (also recorded on their album, Tone Builders); and Pendulum VII: “Self Portrait” performed by the Wet Ink Large Ensemble.

Collaborations with like-minded groups like Yarn|Wire and Mivos stem from Wet Ink’s early years as a presenting organization, and are part of the kind of new music community-building that Wet Ink hopes to engage in looking ahead.  Wet Ink’s 2013-14 season is kicking off in September with our Collaborations Series, featuring splits with Evan Parker Electroacoustic Ensemble, Mivos Quartet, and Yarn|Wire at Roulette and St. Peters Church, Chelsea.  The Wet Ink composers are also looking forward to some big projects next season with Mivos Quartet, including new large-scale works for string quartet and electronics by Eric Wubbels (CMA Commission), Sam Pluta (Lucerne Festival Commission, Switzerland), and a new work for string quartet and soprano by Kate Soper, which will launch at Smith College in early 2014.

Wet Ink’s last season was a big one for recording as well as performance.  In addition to recording Kate Soper’s Voices from the Killing Jar, we released our second solo album, RELAY, which was recorded during a residency at EMPAC (Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center) in Troy, NY. This album consists of works by George Lewis, Sam Pluta, Rick Burkhardt, Kate Soper, Eric Wubbels, and Alex Mincek. These works were performed and toured for two years prior to being recorded, resulting in an intense and precise record that we are very proud of.  To hear more, please visit our Media page on wetink.org or visit carrierrecords.com.

Last year we also wrapped a two-year residency at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.  Over the course of six intense weekend sessions, Wet Ink had the opportunity to give concerts and workshops, and work closely with the graduate composers and faculty at Duke.  It was a fantastic opportunity to work at Duke over an extended period – Wet Ink developed a rapport with the students and really got to know their work, which would not have been possible under time-constrained circumstances.  We learned a lot and are grateful to the folks at Duke for the opportunity!

In addition to Wet Ink’s self-produced concert season, we were fortunate to be a part of some other great productions last year.  The Wet Ink Large Ensemble played a full program on the MATA Interval series, and performed a concert of works for sinfonietta by Columbia Composers.  We also curated performances on a smaller scale, including a Northeast tour of works for violin and piano, performed by Eric Wubbels and Joshua Modney.

Now we are thrilled to be kicking off Wet Ink’s 15th Anniversary Season in NYC this September, and look forward to many exciting projects in the future.  Many thanks to NewMusicUSA and the Cary New Music Performance Fund for their invaluable support!