No Insects Were Harmed

In the recording of Clara Iannotta's "Dead Wasps in the Jam-Jar (ii)"

Clara Iannotta’s “Dead Wasps in the Jam-Jar (ii)” (2016) intrigues with its title’s promise of quotidian decay and, perhaps, with a bit of telegraphed moralizing about the price paid for sweetness. The suspense builds even before you hit play, thanks to its list of components: “for string orchestra, objects, and sine waves.” Now technically, virtually all music contains sine waves, since those are a major component of sound, but clearly the sine waves heard here are of the electronically generated variety. As for the objects, the brush held by the composer in the accompanying photo provides a hint at the untraditional instruments. What unfolds as “Dead Wasps in the Jam-Jar (ii)” proceeds is a study in controlled energies. In programmatic terms, the wasps seem to meet their fate as the four-minute mark arrives, a sharp swirling hitting hard, and more loudly than anything that proceeded it. Then warping torques and sudden jitters evidence struggle before the piece settles into an extended if anxious stillness. That final period, from about six minutes until the end, at eleven and a half minutes, is where concentrated listening is especially rewarded, thanks to Iannotta’s expert mix of textures, of held strings and fluttering percussion.

Track originally posted at More from Iannotta, who is from Italy and is based in both Berlin, Germany, and Boston, Massachusetts, at She is currently working on compositions for Duo 2KW and Arditti Quartet, among other ensembles.

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