Improbable Encounters

Improbable Encounters

Welcome to Klein world
Joseph Klein
Helen Bledsoe
Christopher Deane
James Rogers
Felix Olschofka
Thomas Bloch
Andreas van Zoelen
Elizabeth McNutt
Joseph Mirandilla
Joseph Klein
Eric Nestler
Nova Ensemble
William Bootz
Douglas Reed
Matthew Elgart
Peter Yates
Wes Moore
Jeremiah Stones.
Catalog Number: 
new classical

Denton, TX

Release Date: 
Jan 28, 2014
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

Improbable Encounters is a 2-disc collection of varied works by composer Joseph Klein, spanning a period of nearly 30 years and covering genres as diverse as solo, orchestral, intermedia, theater, text-based, and electroacoustic works.  Klein’s music reflects an ongoing interest in processes drawn from such sources as fractal geometry, chaos, and systems theory, often inspired by natural phenomena. His works frequently incorporate theatrical elements, whether as a component of the extra-musical references or as an organic outgrowth of the musical narrative itself. Literature is another important influence on Klein’s work, with recent compositions based on the writings of Franz Kafka, Elias Canetti, Alice Fulton, W.S. Merwin, Milan Kundera, and John Ashbery, among others. Klein is on the faculty of the University of North Texas, where he has served as chair of the Composition Division since 1999.

Among the solo works included on Disc 1 (CD) of Improbable Encounters is a collection of nine pieces based on surreal character studies by the Bulgarian-born writer Elias Canetti (1905-1994), composed for a wide variety of (often unusual) instruments.  Featured performers include three of Klein’s faculty colleagues at UNT (Elizabeth McNutt, piccolo; Christopher Deane, percussion; Felix Olschofka, violin), as well as other distinguished performers from around the world: German-based flutist Helen Bledsoe (on works for bass flute and ocarina); French glass harmonica specialist Thomas Bloch; Dutch bass saxophonist Andreas van Zoelen; Chinese-based guitarist Joseph Mirandilla; and James Rodgers, contrabassoonist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.  Closing the CD is a concerto for soprano saxophone and chamber orchestra, Pathways: Interior Shadows, featuring UNT saxophonist Eric Nestler and the Nova Ensemble, conducted by the composer.  

Disc 2 (DVD) features five works that include theatrical, intermedia, and spatialized sonic elements utilizing 5.1 surround sound.  Goblin Market, composed with the assistance of a grant from the NEA for the intrepid trombonist William Bootz, is a tour de force that requires the performer to negotiate the entire range of the tenor and alto trombones (including notes that don’t even technically exist on those instruments), as well as “prepared euphonium”—an instrument modified with rubber tubes and noise-making devices, and festooned in flashing Christmas tree lights.  Among the theatrical demands of the work, Bootz plays his instruments scurrying around the stage, squatting in a corner, and even lying on the floor.  Accompanying Bootz is the equally-game Douglas Reed, performing exclusively inside a piano with a collection of paraphernalia, including balloons, chains, plectra, bows, mallets, and a variety of music boxes.  

Written for the Los Angeles-based guitar duo of Matthew Elgart and Peter Yates, IcarUS At thE caBARet VolLtairE may be characterized as a self-reflexive caricature of the inherently theatrical nature of musical performance itself.  The combination of exaggerated physical gestures, extended performance techniques, and absurd spoken passages, contrasted with the guitarists’ deadpan delivery, result in a work of unabashed drollery.  The Elgart-Yates Duo has performed the work to acclaim over fifty times throughout the United States and Europe since its premiere in 1985, including the 1988 Gaudeamus MusicWeek in Amsterdam, where the work received an Honorable Mention for the Gaudeamus Prize competition.

Two text-based works with multi-channel computer music, Three Poems from Felt and Cornell Set, feature the work of distinguished American poet Alice Fulton and four of her former students from the Creative Writing Program at Cornell University.  Rounding out the DVD is Leviathan, based on a poem by W.S. Merwin and featuring vocalist Wes Moore and bass trombonist  Jeremiah Stones.  The intermedia components of this work include multi-channel computer music, live processing of the voice and trombone, video projections, and theatrical lighting.  


"Joseph Klein gives us the accumulated creativity of 30 years worth of works in his near-retrospective Improbable Encounters. ... 'Pathways, Interior Shadows' for its 21 minutes of modernist drama and vivid soundscaping is particularly worth hearing in its own right. ... a good impression of a composer who does not stand still but is ever moving forward. Bravo." [FULL ARTICLE]
Greg Edwards

"Here’s a special treat for the avant garde, contemporary classical fan. This CD-DVD combo set is a career retrospective of Klein, reaching back 30 years turning this into an audio catalog d’etre. Mainstream pop for people you just don’t get, this stuff is pretty out there." [FULL ARTICLE]
Chris Spector

"There are no particular laws which [Klein's] compositional path follows.... [B]esides the apparent range of orchestrations (trombone, flutes) are incorporated such handy devices as rubber hoses, balloons, chains, hammers, plastic buckets, and various music boxes, from which are produced an atypical 'classical' sound—the kind once known to be used by [German industrial band] Einsturzende Neubauten during the 80s.  In any case, it is very interesting music that defies the classical and modern principles, and is closely associated with the electroacoustic and experimental scene, as well as a large part of the noise avant-garde.  Recommended for unusual music lovers and those seeking new challenges." [FULL ARTICLE in Croatian]