Click here to return to the main site.

Classical Music Review

Cover Image


Mutual Aid Music


Composer: Nate Wooley
Label: Pleasure of the Text Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 16 April 2021

Pleasure of the Text Records release a double-CD of eight ensemble concertos by trumpeter and composer Nate Wooley, performed by Saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, Violinist Joshua Modney, Cellist Mariel Roberts, Pianists Sylvie Courvoisier and Cory Smythe, Percussionists Matt Moran and Russell Greenberg, and Wooley on Trumpet...

Nate Wooley's compositional style won't be to everyone's taste. For the sheer blurring of lines between classical music and jazz I found this an interesting diversion, but nothing I'd want to experience for an extended period of time.

His compositional system asks musicians to question what they add to the ensemble as human beings first and musicians second. Rather than the traditional aim of faithfully reproducing a score, the musicians are prompted to make decisions that purposely force the music away from facsimile and toward a spontaneity that may feel awkward and uncomfortable. They support each other in the search for something new and interesting.

This is sort of successful. It obviously works for the artists, but the listener is not going to get anywhere near the same level of satisfaction. This is mainly down to the fact that each piece's merits is subjective and only the performer really knows what on earth is going on.

Talking about the project, Wooley says: "Mutual Aid Music is as much a conceptual risk for me as the composer as it is a performative one for the musicians on this disc. The music here is a step – not an end – on a continuing search for a way of conceiving music that lives outside the dialectic bubble of improvisation/composition. In the best moments of improvisation, the complexity of individual musical spontaneity is beyond what I could ever conceive of reproducing on paper. Contemporary notated composition creates complexity on the page, but doesn’t take into account the personal history of the player. So, the question is how to find a way that contains the best of both worlds by embracing both and neither at the same time? I felt that my best hope was the radical spontaneity and empathy of human beings rather than musical tradition, history, and theory."

Some might argue that Wooley can't and shouldn't take credit as the composer when it's truly a collaborative effort.

Those that enjoy improvisational pieces will enjoy this. Those that like a good tune to get behind should probably give this one a miss.


Nick Smithson