Conrad Winslow
The Perfect Nothing Catalog
innova 992

The Perfect Nothing Catalog
       1. mixed bag                                  3:19
       2. tunes                                          6:54
       3. materials                                   4:26
       4. devices                                       4:12
       5. controls                                      4:06
       6. coda                                           4:56
7. Ellipsis Rules                                                 4:44
8. Abiding Shapes                                           10:42
9. Benediction                                       4:29



Produced by Aaron Roche and Conrad Winslow. Cadillac Moon Ensemble is Karen Kim, violin, Roberta Michel, flutes, Aminda Asher, cello, and Sean Statser, percussion. The Cadillac Moon Ensemble commission of The Perfect Nothing Catalog was made possible by a grant from the American Composers Forum with funds provided by the Jerome Foundation. The Perfect Nothing Catalog, Abiding Shapes, and Benediction were recorded at Figure 8 Recording. The Perfect Nothing Catalog and Abiding Shapes were engineered by Michael Coleman. Benediction was engineered by Shahzad Ismaily. Ellipsis Rules was recorded at the NYU James Dolan Music Recording Studio, and it was engineered by Daniel Pasquel. The album was mastered by Sarah Register. Art direction was by Frank Traynor. Album art was designed by Frank Traynor, Christopher William Wegman, and Conrad Winslow. Photo credits: Kim Winslow, Aleks Karjaka, Nathan Martin. Liner notes by Michael Amico.

Innova Director: Philip Blackburn
Operations Director: Chris Campbell
Publicist: Tim Igel
Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.


The players marched into the exhibition space in ritual formation, dressed in classical toga-like garb. It was the premiere performance of The Perfect Nothing Catalog, at Signal art gallery in Brooklyn in December 2014.

Conrad held aloft a white flag at the front of the pack. What kind of ritual was this? The musicians placed themselves next to their instruments amidst a scattering of burning candles. As they began to play, their gestures and their sounds became objects on display.

In 2012, Conrad’s friend, artist Frank Traynor, who helped don the musicians at the premiere, began exhibiting found objects, redressed by artists, in an abandoned ice shack turned thrift store, which he moved on a truck bed to the backyard of Signal. He called it the Perfect Nothing Catalog. Inside you might find one item that looks like another, or looks like it belongs next to another.

The arrangement of objects directs our attention and shapes our consideration. Does that one mean something to you? Our handling re-objectifies each thing. Electronics sharpen the objectivity of sounds.

We survey the ground for a melody. We scurry around to connect parts into a recognizable whole. And then another. And another. We imagine, anticipate, exaggerate our feelings. Go on. Pick up the pieces, extrapolate a meaning, and then‚ “after it flitters across your mind and flattens in on itself” put it down. Each tune is only an object. Keep going. Change the channel. The static will break the illusion of meaning.

What melody does the texture of Velcro hold‚ or a resonant sonority‚ a tightly-voiced cluster‚ a ringing smack‚ a whistle in surround-sound‚ a zipper?

The short scenes of Caryl Churchill’s 2012 play Love and Information whisked by us with no repeating characters. I sat watching the play with Conrad, trying to make sense of the information, to connect the scenes as they accumulated. Some were only a few words, evocative of a mood, while others explicitly thematized the difficulties of communicating. But why did one scene follow another? I tried to write a collective tune from the texture of each scene, but the shuffling feet of the set changes dissipated into white noise and a black out.

Now we hear what the scampering feet have been saying: repeat, differently. The players gesture through their instruments, which produce sound, which is fingered through electronics, which all together form rhythmic contraptions that create the scene‚ an ensemble of aural objects unfurling around each other.

Music exposes the undertow of language. Music is materials becoming tunes, but never completely and always flickering back and forth through our devices.

One player speeds up, slows down, takes the lead. We listen for the controls, bowing in unison, stomping a possible Morse code, humming the melodious yet unclear words of a tune.

Music mediates between the material and symbolic worlds. Whatever we feel standing in their midst is no more than a short circuit between an object and a meaning, a wished for place in a whole, a place that‚ for a moment‚ sticks out as the coda of a mixed bag.

We are alone. We hear snippets of voices. Sound trails off.
Ellipsis Rules. The only thing we can do is hit on the keys at our fingertips, sounding the resonance with no clear tune in mind.

Feelings snap players together, extend their gestures, create order. Abiding Shapes. Not of meanings but of sound waves, which we can ride, and let the music unfold and the order spread thin‚ until objects are replayed, reprocessed, and the embroidery feels ever more elastic.

The weave of players and instruments and gestures and sounds becomes a Benediction. We hear care and consideration in the ritualistic passing of chords between two friends. Information becomes love, but only for a moment. We get up to move on. The melody fades. Only then does the object of the gesture emerge again.

Michael Amico, 14 August 2017


Conrad Winslow is a composer whose musical forms are bold, legible and emotionally direct. His music combines precipitous edges with subtle shifts of syntax. He draws influence from architects and playwrights to structure pieces like places to inhabit. Raised in Homer, Alaska, he first learned to make a world from scratch by watching his parents build a log cabin home in the woods.

His instrumental music has been commissioned by Alarm Will Sound, Carnegie Hall, the American Composers Orchestra, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the New York Youth Symphony, New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute (for choreographer Justin Peck), the Aspen Music Festival, the Juilliard Orchestra, the New Juilliard Ensemble, Cadillac Moon Ensemble, and Gaudete Brass Quintet, among many others.

Awards and support have come from The Minnesota Orchestra, New York Youth Symphony, Yale Glee Club, ASCAP, The Jerome Fund, The Juilliard School, and New Music USA. Gaudete Brass quintet released his Record of a Lost Tribe on Cedille records in February 2017. Winslow also directs Wild Shore New Music, presenting new music in Southcentral Alaska.

Cadillac Moon Ensemble is a new music quartet dedicated to retaining the intimacy and artistry of traditional chamber music while exploring the expansive sonic possibilities presented by its unique instrumentation (flute, violin, cello, and percussion). Since its formation in 2007, Cadillac Moon Ensemble has commissioned and premiered over eighty works, in the process cultivating close relationships and ongoing collaborations with many of New York City’s most talented emerging composers.

The “commission-crazed” (Time Out NY) Cadillac Moon Ensemble is one of New York’s most visible new music groups, performing not just in traditional venues such as Roulette and the DiMenna Center, but in non-traditional spaces such as the High Line as well as in collaborations with dance, theater, and cabaret artists. The group strives to present a cross-section of contemporary music styles, tying together both uptown and downtown aesthetics with the creative use of thematic programming. Recent commissions have included works by Timothy Andres, Caleb Burhans, Shawn Allison, Nicholas Deyoe, Rick Burkhardt, Osnat Netzer, and Alex Weiser.

Cadillac Moon Ensemble’s first full CD, Atlas, released on the New Dynamic Records label in September 2012, was hailed as “an auspicious collection of new compositions by contemporary composers that combines the fun and wit of rock and film music with the intensity and challenging sonics that have come to define the best of the New York indie classical scene.” (Lucid Culture). CME was also featured on the critically acclaimed release of Zack Browning’s “Secret Pulse” on Innova Recordings in 2012. The group has also been featured on John Shaefer’s New Sounds program on WNYC, Jackson Parodi’s Classical Lunch program on WVUM, the University of Rhode Island’s WRIU Music for Internets, and WQXR.

In its mission to work closely with composers throughout the creative process, Cadillac Moon Ensemble works frequently with student composers. Their university work has included a residency at Indiana University Southeast, a workshop performance with Queens College composers, an appearance on NYU’s Interactive Arts Series, and collaborations with Rutgers University graduate composers. Their upcoming season will include several university performances, as well as an increased effort to illuminate the collaborative process between composers and performers through open rehearsals and live-streamed workshops. Planned commissions include works by Matt Marks, Alex Temple, Melody Loveless, Viet Cuong, and Jacob Cooper.

CME has recently been awarded funding by the Amphion Foundation, Eric Stokes Music Fund, the Met Life Creative Connections Grant, and the American Composers Forum’s Encore Program. Cadillac Moon Ensemble has performed on Kathleen Supove’s Music With a View series, Ear Heart Music, the Lark Society Chamber Series of Portland, ME, the Trinity Church Wall Street Concerts at One, the Vox Novus Composer’s Voice series, and at numerous non-traditional venues. The quartet has also collaborated with Ethos Percussion Group, TRANSIT, Sospiro Winds, Circles and Lines Composers’ Collective, Random Access Music, KDNY Dance, and Iktus Percussion.

Aaron Roche is a musician living and moving in Brooklyn, New York. He has performed as a soloist with various orchestras around the United States. He has had formative musical experiences working with Shahzad Ismaily, Anohni, R. Stevie Moore, and many more. “BlurMyEyes” was recorded for New Amsterdam Records a few years back. Most recently Aaron has completed an album 7 years in the making entitled “Haha Huhu” for Figure 8 Records which grapples with the idea of mental illness in the modern age.