American, Massachusetts-based composer and pianist Eric Wubbels is the artistic director of the contemporary music Wet Ink Ensemble, and is known for performing works of Anthony Braxton with the Wet Ink Ensemble and conducting the complex orchestral music of Ingrid Laubrock. Wubbels has worked with violinist Josh Modney and cellist Mariel Roberts for nearly 15 years, in the Wet Ink Ensemble and with his new trio that recorded the contemporary chamber suite if and only if. Wubbels composed the eight-movement suite for Modney and Roberts between 2018 and 2019, relying on the trust and extensive experience of playing together, a period of joint exploration and consolidation of new approaches to tuning, harmony, and ensemble virtuosity.
The suite was recorded at Firehouse 12 in New Haven in December 2000. Wubbels has written this work in an extended tonality that hybridizes a resonance-based just-intonation derived from string instruments with the distortion-oriented temperament of the piano, often creating collisions between the just-intonation tuning of the strings and the piano’s distortion-oriented temperament. This mysterious suite employs different tuning systems, develops with expressive urgency and gradually intensifies, building its momentum from moments of bleak transparency reminiscent of Medieval music to dense, saturated string drones, frenetic rhythmic unison, and ecstatic, kaleidoscopic polyphony.
This demanding suite, with its mathematical precision and technical sophistication, offers challenging and exploratory approaches to tonality. It highlights the collective work of this virtuosic trio that benefits from its musical and personal history together. The Bandcamp page of Wubbels offers a PDF score of if and only if with the composer’s notes and instructions.
Josh Modney (violin), Mariel Roberts (cello), Eric Wubbels (piano)