Bassoon with a view
Dana Jessen
Paula Matthusen
Sam Pluta
Peter V Swendsen
Kyle Bruckman
Dana Jessen
Catalog Number: 
new music

Oberlin, OH

Release Date: 
Jan 20, 2017
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

Carve is an audacious opening gambit from bassoonist Dana Jessen, a debut album that blurs the lines between composition, interpretation and improvisation. Punctuated by short acoustic improvisations that foreground the breath and physicality of the instrument, the album presents four new works by American composers Paula Matthusen, Peter V. Swendsen, Sam Pluta, and Kyle Bruckmann. In each, a mix of fixed and reactive electronics create environments for the bassoon to navigate and explore. Sometimes fixed, sometimes open, the structures of the pieces build spaces.

Matthusen’s of an implacable subtraction grew out of a series of improvisations during a collaborative residency with Jessen at the Centro Mexicano para la Música y las Artes Sonaras (CMMAS). The title is drawn from Julio Cortázar’s landmark work, Hopscotch, and engages with the idea of defining various points of focus. Fireflies in Winter by Swendsen is written for bassoon, field recordings, and live electronics. The field recordings come from a wide range of seasons and locations, including Seattle, Oberlin, Prague, and Bodø, Norway. Points Against Fields (tombeau de Bernard Parmegiani) is a collaborative piece co-composed by Pluta and Jessen. The piece is dedicated to the composer Parmegiani, who died at the end of 2013. Bruckmann’s Cadenza and Degradations for bassoon and fixed electronic tracks integrate sounds from his own improvisations on the oboe and bass oboe, implying that his voice is there.

Praised for her diverse talents, bassoonist Dana Jessen is highly active as a soloist, chamber musician, improviser and new music specialist. She is the co-founder of the Bay Area reed quintet, Splinter Reeds, and has performed with prominent ensembles including the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Ensemble Dal Niente, Calefax Reed Quintet, Callithumpian Consort, Anthony Braxton’s Tri-Centric Orchestra and the Amsterdam Contemporary Ensemble, among others. As the founder of the Rushes Ensemble, Dana spearheaded the consortium commission of Rushes, an hour-long composition for seven bassoons by composer and Bang on a Can co-founder, Michael Gordon.



"A ... factor that gives the release a notably holistic sense is Jessen’s own voice. Hers is an expressive presence with a warm tone and a refined vibrato, both of which preserve a humanistic heart in the midst of technological embellishment. It’s a finely calibrated balance, achieved as well by the composers’ sensitively crafted environments in which Jessen’s voice can resonate. And in the end, it’s Jessen’s appealing musical personality that animates this outstanding collection of work." [FULL ARTICLE]
Daniel Barbiero

“Bassoonist Dana Jessen is losing herself, finding herself, losing herself. The four longest pieces … are wastelands drenched in a precipitation of glitches, deathly sunsets over panoramic countryside, field recordings that shift suddenly through zones of geography and time. I hear the bassoon trying to comprehend its transient surroundings, using improvisation as an echolocative tool by bouncing melodic flourishes against trees and sky and urban traffic, or trialling different emotional modes to find a hue that fits her landscape. … She alternates between careful, methodical utterances – long high tones that quiver and sing, extended into the noise like fingers testing the texture of her surroundings – and blasts of overcharged impulse, allowing herself to be guided by both deliberative logic and her primal sense of direction. I’m transfixed by the elegance with which she sways between these modes of mind, unravelling foresight and concentration into passages of profound grace, before swiping all rationality away to stumble forward, brazen and vulnerable, with her eyes completely shut.” [FULL ARTICLE]
Jack Chuter 

"On her debut album Carve, bassoonist Dana Jessen challenges listeners to discard any preconceived notions they may have about the instrument, and allow themselves to be swept away into a magical world of colorful acoustic and electronic soundscapes." [FULL ARTICLE]
—Mike Telin


"Bassoon virtuoso Dana Jessen, who also logged time in Amsterdam, now teaches at Oberlin College, leads the winds quintet Splinter Reeds, and recently dropped a stunning solo album called Carve (Innova). Between electronics-saturated pieces by Pluta, Paula Matthusen, Peter V. Swendsen, and her cohort in Splinter Reeds Kyle Bruckmann, Jessen interweaves short improvisations that demonstrate particular techniques—like playing without a reed or using a reed only—and seamlessly connect composed material. It’s still early, but Carve is one of the strongest records I’ve heard in the New Year." [FULL ARTICLE] - Peter Margasak


“For those who appreciate unusual applications of familiar instruments—such as the accordion techniques of Pauline Oliveros or the solo soprano saxophone experiments of Sam Newsome— there is that element of surprising improvisation in Jessen's work. Far from being a novelty recording, Carve is an eye-opening experience in the ways of an underutilized instrument. Jessen's virtuosity, and selection for this program, make this an intriguing listening experience.” [FULL ARTICLE] - Karl Ackermann



"Dana Jessen plays bassoon and teams it with electronic musings on this collection of ideas. The reeds sigh softly on “Carve (postlude)” while shrieking like vocals on “Carve (only reed). “ deep sounds and sighs penetrate n “Cadenza and Degradations” while hints of 7s Tomita produce electronic pulses on”Fireflies in Winter” that will make you grab for the swatter. Her bassoon goes percussive on “Points Against Fields” while she swirls like a trapeze artist on “Carve (with teeth).” Look Ma, no hands!" [FULL ARTICLE] - George Harris


"The use of electronics reminds me a great deal of the experimental music from the 1960s and 70s. I hear bursts of sounds like Stockhausen and voicelike effects sounding like Berio.The compositions are interesting as is the contrast between the bassoon and the electronics. The improvisations on the bassoon are really interesting and I wish they had been longer, especially the one with only the reed. Jessen’s use of the different aspects of the horn are creative. A really interesting CD, especially for people who like contemporary classical music.” [FULL ARTICLE] - Bernie Koenig