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«Seven Storey Mountain VI»

Innovative American trumpeter Nate Wooley says that his sixth installation in his «Seven Storey Mountain VI» series (the title of this series is borrowed from the 1948 autobiography of Trappist monk Thomas Merton) was born out of anger. «I was fucking angry watching the government attempt to wrest control of women’s bodies and angry watching Black people be incarcerated and killed with impunity. This anger manifested as the desire to sing loud, but not just with my voice. I didn’t trust my strength alone. Instead, I put my trust in the voices of the women around me. They have a different kind of power that I can’t explain».

This anger was channelled into a chilling interpretation of the anti-sexist and most relevant song of American folk singer Peggy Seeger (half-sister of Pete Seeger and wife of British songwriter Ewan MacColl ), «Reclaim the Night» (from «Different Therefore Equal», Folkways, 1979), printed on the cover. «Seven Storey Mountain VI» ends with the phrase «you can’t scare me» from this song, inspired by Bobbie McGee’s «Union Maid» (from «Bread and Raises – Songs for Working Women», Smithsonian Records, 1933).

But this highly-complex and profoundly poetic composition, that begins and concludes with a choir of 21-women led by vocalist Megan Schubert, not only addresses the current reactionary attempts to oppress women’s rights (and Wooley donates portions of the royalties to the American National Coalition Against Domestic Violence). It is a fascinating work with strong spiritual overtones, or as Wooley calls it «self-as-spirit». Just check the organ and pedal steel playing of Isabelle O’Connell, Emily Manzo and Susan Alcorn, and it was performed at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Manhattan a day before it was recorded. It also captures faithfully our unsettling and bewildering times with its tortured, spiky guitar lines of Julien Desprez and Ava Mendoza, the stormy drumming of Chris Corsano, Ben Hall and Ryan Sawyer and the manipulated pre-recorded tapes of poet John Berryman’s «77 Dream Songs», drummer Will Guthries’ «Breaking Bones» (from «Sticks, Stones & Breaking Bones», Antboy Music, 2012).

Wooley employed a compositional-improvisational system called Mutual Aid Music that does not aim to reproduce a score coming from himself, the composer, but relies on individual and group decision-making as ways of taking musicians out of their preconceived technical or aesthetic languages to create communal music. This approach embraces the possibility of failure. «Virtuosity is the possibility of collapse. This music demands that the players put themselves in a position of sounding foolish, uncool, bad. It is the willingness to take this risk that raises us, as artists, above mere reproduction», Wooley adds.

«Seven Storey Mountain VI» coda with the angelic choir singing of the phrase «you can’t scare me» is, obviously, cathartic but also meant to be a call for action. «It is an example of how we take part as humans in the cycle of trying, failing, recognizing, evaluating, regrouping and trying again; an exercise in the transcendent human process of failure», says Wooley.

Wooley adds that he hopes that the listener will take the last words of this magnificent composition into their daily life. You bound to take more lessons from it – about compassion, commitment to social change, the power of community and about music that forces you to act and stand up for your rights.

Eyal Hareuveni

Nate Wooley (tp, amp), Samara Lubelski (vio), C. Spencer Yeh (vio), Chris Corsano (dr), Ben Hall (dr), Ryan Sawyer (dr), Susan Alcorn (pedal steel g), Julien Desprez (g), Ava Mendoza (g), Isabelle O’Connell (keys), Emily Manzo (keys), Yoon Sun Choi (v), Mellissa Hughes (v),  Megan Schubert (v) 

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