The Pieces That Fall to Earth

(New Amsterdam Records, 2019)
Christopher Cerrone album cover for The Pieces That Fall to Earth featuring Wild Up, Christopher Rountree, Lindsay Kesselman, and Theo Bleckmann


The Pieces That Fall to Earth is the long-awaited CD from Brooklyn-based composer Christopher Cerrone and Wild Up, LA’s leading new music ensemble. NPR Music called Cerrone “One of our most versatile composers under 40.”

Conducted by Wild Up’s Artistic Director, Christopher Rountree, The Pieces That Fall to Earth comprises three vocal cycles: the title work, with soprano Lindsay Kesselman; The Naomi Songs, sung by vocalist Theo Bleckmann; and The Branch Will Not Break, with a chorus of eight singers. The album was recorded and produced by Nick Tipp. 

More than three years in the making, The Pieces That Fall to Earth grew out of Cerrone’s musical friendships with these exceptional Los Angeles- and New York-based artists. Fittingly, the album’s release will be celebrated with concerts in both cities.

Like Invisible Cities, The Pieces That Fall to Earth highlights Cerrone’s luminous orchestrations, the structural clarity of his compositions, and his much-admired gift for setting texts – in this case by American poets Kay Ryan (The Pieces That Fall to Earth), Bill Knott (The Naomi Songs), and James Wright (The Branch Will Not Break). Notes Cerrone, “These authors profoundly inspired the music that I wrote. I feel that by setting their disparate languages, I have composed three works that are kindred spirits, but whose differences are as profound as their similarities.” 

Yet there are unmistakable connections. Songs in two different cycles share an identical melody (the fourth movement of The Pieces That Fall to Earth and the second of The Naomi Songs). The two outer cycles have the same structure: seven movements that culminate in a last-movement key change and climax. Distinct as they are, these works form a powerful whole when heard together, especially in the authoritative performances by Bleckmann, Kesselman, Rountree and company, intimately captured in Tipp’s production.

Most striking of all may be Cerrone’s ability to conjure elusive emotional states. Observes Andres, “Christopher Cerrone writes music for human voices which wander and persist through landscapes of cold instrumental sounds. Throughout his vocal works, musical metaphors reinforce poetry of loneliness, alienation, and nostalgia.

“To achieve this, Cerrone re-orders the typical hierarchy of the classical orchestra. Percussive, quickly-decaying sounds now occupy the core: a pointillistic battery of piano, harp, vibraphone, marimba, and glockenspiel. Stringed instruments are demoted from their central melodic role and leeched of their typical colors, instead concentrating on drones, often using harmonics or alternate bowing techniques. Wind instruments, too, often contribute only un-pitched air, their affect ranging from a subtle atmospheric pressure change to a chuffing engine driving an unstoppable rhythmic machine.

“Though the severe, crystalline soundscapes of Feldman and Berio are a clear point of reference throughout, it’s the vocal centricity and generosity of bel canto opera that comes through most strongly. Cerrone’s soloists sing in full sentences, set in strophic, melodically memorable lines. He selects poetry not to deconstruct, but to heighten and concentrate it.” 


“For this New Sounds, John Schaefer presents his annual highly-opinionated top 10 list of notable new music releases from 2019…listen to Christopher Cerrone, the American new music band Wild Up, and a vocal octet, from Cerrone’s song cycle set to the poetry of Pulitzer Prize-winner James Wright - The Branch Will Not Break.” John Schaefer, New Sounds
“Record Roundup: Past Is Present
Wild Up - Christopher Cerrone: The Pieces That Fall to Earth” Jeremy Shatan, AN EARFUL: Best Of 2019: Classical
“The Pieces That Fall to Earth benefits from three things in particular: refined writing by Brooklyn-based composer Christopher Cerrone, who demonstrates in the recording's three vocal cycles a mature command of the idiom; superb playing by the Los Angeles-based ensemble Wild Up; and stirring vocal performances by Lindsay Kesselman, Theo Bleckmann, and an eight-member choir. The combination of all three makes for an exceptionally rewarding outcome, especially when the singers' voices communicate with heightened levels of emotional intensity.” Textura
Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance 2020 GRAMMY AWARDS: Nominations