Natalie Calma

violinist | improviser

Wet Ink 20: A Celebration of Creativity and Collaboration (Carrier Records)

Named the Best Ensemble of 2018 by the New York Times, Wet Ink Ensemble has been having a year of celebration and reminiscence in honor of their twentieth anniversary, including the release of their brilliant album Wet Ink 20. Released on Carrier RecordsWet Ink 20 features works by Eric Wubbels, Katherine Young, Sam Pluta, Anthony Braxton, Kate Soper, and Alex Mincek, with beautifully-designed cover art by Angela Guyton. The sense of camaraderie and respect that these creative people have for each other is something that is perceptible throughout the recording. Good things come with patience and arduous labor, and Wet Ink has created a space for musicians to gather and explore, which reveals an incredible musical world worth listening to over, and over, and over again.

Wet Ink 20 opens with Eric Wubbels’ Auditory Scene Analysis, Part I (2014) for 18 players, narrator, and electronic sound, featuring Erin Lesser on flute and narration by Kate Soper. The piece opens with a fast flurry of solo flute, combining registral extremes in a great variety of textures that are suddenly (and almost comically) interrupted by white noise. Lesser molds the sounds of the flute into whatever she wants it to be in this humorous, sneaky, groovy, and remotely ASMR-ish work. Soper’s voice is direct and easy to listen to–she talks about chimeras, and the words melt away in the incredible world of sound that the composer has created.

Katherine Young’s like a halo (2014) offers an alluringly creepy and disturbing atmosphere that is suspenseful and comforting at the same time. Young creates this environment by combining soft and articulated breath sounds from the voice, with slow, chocking whispers from the violin. like a halo features Josh Modney on prepared violin, achieved by detuning the instrument and using a very slow bow technique. His control and precision are outstanding, and the quality of his sound is awe-inspiring.

Sam Pluta’s Portraits/Self-Portraits (2011) is described as a “re-imagining and re-orchestration of the sounds and processes found on Sum and Difference,” Pluta’s 2010 improvised album with Peter Evans and Jem Altieri. A cloud of slap-tongue, harmonics, and sharp percussion interference kick off this fascinating piece for solo violin (Modney) and large ensemble. Understanding that the piece draws inspirations from improvisation is paramount. The musicians show that they have a level of sensitivity and awareness that can only come from players that are true masters of their craft.

Anthony Braxton’s Composition No. 56 (1976) presents a confrontation of jazzy pizzicatos and voice-like moans from the bass, supported by a foundation of scratchy electronics. The piece is written for “creative orchestra”–what a beautiful way to describe what is going on in this piece. Braxton’s work is a combination of composition and improvisation that gives the musicians ample space to use their creative powers, delivering a final product that is daring, playful, and vibrant.

Kate Soper‘s The Ultimate Poem is Abstract (2016, rev. 2017) sets texts by Wallace Stevens with hypnotizing beats and waves of microtonality. The resulting lush and full sounds build a great base for Soper’s beautiful voice. Wet Ink 20 ends with Alex Mincek’s Chamber Concerto (2013), originally commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture for Ensemble Linea to be paired with Ligeti’s Kammerkonzert. Mincek employs perhaps the most academic language in the album, asking the listener to intensely pay attention to all of the different voices and textures that occur throughout its four movements. Wet Ink Ensemble shares their take on this demanding piece with intense sensitivity and virtuosity.

Ryan Streber’s recording work, Sam Pluta’s mixing, Matt Mehlan’s mastering, along with the performance work of the members of Wet Ink Ensemble display humanity, honesty, and outstanding musicianship throughout Wet Ink 20. The album is a truly wonderful celebration of twenty years of hard work and stellar music making.



And just like that, still in front of him, she finally said it. “I don’t care for bats. I don’t care for bats or the people that carry them around on the streets, flying them on a leash! Bats on a leash! It’s absurd and I beg you, don’t make me go out again. I can’t stand the sight of it. They are there, like balloons floating, day after day, after day…”
He looked into her eyes, and after a pity hug to calm his beloved, he said “a minicow will suffice”

3 poems


If I close my eyes


I can see all those things

we do in our dreams (but

not those sleeping dreams)

the dreams that we talk

about. The real ones.


If I close my eyes


I see them so clearly (my eyes)


I also fall to the side

(the left side) My left

I think


If I close my eyes


Purple circles appear, with

Dots and dots and dots

Purple dots

(that don’t actually exist)



One day. I was horizontal.




I moved in circles, like

That injured opossum we saw in Florida,

Trying to eat.





But yes, I’m spinning in circles,

Or maybe I can’t tell you the shape

I’m making. Can you be certain

Of where things are? Their

Location in the universe? Is the wall on my head?

Is it on my foot? It is, isn’t it?

I broke my promise









My foot is on the wall

In the wall?

UNDER  the wall


That particular feeling of believing that every single thing you do is fake. When you realize that any moment now, someone will come, take your mask, expose your failure to anyone that cares.


How can I tell you that I can see every little detail that is wrong with me, and you, and him and her and them?


I see this place and I am certain, that any moment now, someone will stand and take my face, and my skin too, and all those muscles and things will fall on the ground, and my skeleton will remain there, ashamed for a couple of minutes, but then it will walk away and find a puddle to jump in and disintegrate, because it was mostly made of sugar