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MP3 Damon Waitkus - Anxiety

An ambitious set of pieces combining instrumental music with field recordings from urban, natural, and domestic environments. Intense, earnest compositions which range from silence to cacophony without shying away from consonance, pulse, or tunefulness.

6 MP3 Songs
CLASSICAL: Contemporary, ROCK: Instrumental Rock

Composer/multi-instrumentalist Damon Waitkus lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area, making music that is at once aurally complex and comprehensible. Originally trained as a classical pianist and composer, he divided his time between these endeavors and various rock and folk bands before attempting to integrate the traditional and vernacular elements of his work in one place. His recordings are finely-hewn landscapes which incorporate traditionally-notated passages for “real” instruments with sounds from the urban, natural, and domestic environments. This is intuitive, experience- rather than idea-driven music which approaches discomfort–anxiety–symbolically and evocatively through the selective use of repetition and abrasive sounds, in an effort to understand it. In addition to writing and recording sound collage and chamber pieces, Damon Waitkus plays “rock chamber music” with the quartet Oogog.

Composer’s comments on the pieces:


“If I had to represent my work to date in a single piece, this would be my choice, as it incorporates several processes which I have hitherto kept discrete, namely notational composition for traditional instruments, improvisation, and tape composition using environmental sounds. Much of the piece was composed using field recordings I’ve collected over the past few years which feature everything from bees in my bathroom (a problem, yes) to pile drivers at a construction site in Providence, Rhode Island. This is a journey-piece, which begins in the quiet, patient tension of a sustained drone for wineglasses peppered with birds and hammers, passes through aggressive, Modernistic clusters for strings played by Emily Packard and Dave McNally, a spacious garden of freestanding sound-objects, a scratchy “romantic” violin sonata in mono, a schizoid piano solo, a densely contrapuntal passage for rock instruments and found percussion, to a heavy, mellifluous groove played on slide hammer dulcimer, percussion, strings, electric bass and insects. A sort of recorded panic attack.”

How, over years, the nose may hook, as presaged by occasional flares in character

“A quietly reflective, largely atonal piece for solo classical guitar performed by Jacob Kramer. I was preoccupied with the vaguely grotesque phenomenon that the nose and ears continue to grow after the rest of the body stops, and imagined that aspects of personality could develop similarly through inveterate habit, as if in silent conspiracy with the nose and ears. I am interested, here, in the border between piquant personality and (self-)caricature, in both its comic and melancholic implications. A little “tapped” interjection which interrupts the lyrical theme towards the beginning of the piece, “over years” (or about 5 minutes), gradually asserts itself and comes to dominate the naive grace and balance of the opening idea.”


“This is a musical approximation of the sculptural technique, rendered by Meave Cox and Jonathan Russell. I hoped to play up the timbral similarity of the oboe and soprano sax by treating the two sounds as elements of one voice but offsetting them by degrees to create an impression of relief. I owe a debt to Harpo Marx’ routine behind the mirror.”

You are vulnerable

“A short, melancholic meditation on childhood for prepared steel-string guitar and a chorus of flutes.”

Transit 1 & 2

“Transit 2’ was composed for a combination of field recordings and various acoustic and spontaneous instruments. Dominant sounds include samples of fences, gates and metal grates, slide whistle, piano, and a mess of rubber bands. The first third of the piece presents a relatively quick succession of ponderous events, some of which reiterate thematic material from the shorter, companion piece Transit 1. These may suggest the early stages of a journey, in which events from recent life decompress and become objects to be dealt with. In the latter two thirds, by contrast, I hoped to recreate the experience of passage, of having left but not having yet arrived, with all of this moment’s contingent anxiety and excitement, through the unhurried evolution of the sonic texture.”

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