Resonating Abstractions

by the Michael Dessen Trio
Michael Dessen, trombone/computer/composition
Christopher Tordini, bass
Dan Weiss, drums
Clean Feed Records, 2014
CD from Clean Feed Records
Listen on Apple Music, Spotify
Download score PDF (full album)

Resonating Abstractions CD cover

“Michael Dessen is a slide-trombone virtuoso and computer musician of the highest order, and the music his trio crafts on Resonating Abstractions showcases his work as a composer in compelling fashion….”
All About Jazz review of Resonating Abstractions, by Robert Bush

Sample track: The Infinite and the Invitation


  1. grid after grid (9:46)
  2. organic and unnatural objects (5:19)
  3. ignite (2:44)
  4. the infinite and the invitation (6:14)
  5. while in the subterrain (5:47)
  6. where does time go (6:15)
  7. to make real (9:20)

Liner Notes:

Resonating Abstractions was created for this trio, and is meant to be performed in a continuous set. We recorded it in that same spirit, shortly after a five-concert tour that gave us time to internalize all the music and explore different interpretations each night. With this band, my focus has always been on that kind of dynamic: we work on scored rhythmic and melodic materials that are sometimes very intricate, but in concert we approach them in a radically open way. The goal is to discover in each performance a deep sense of collectivity and flow, by maintaining a fluid relationship between structures that are precomposed in rich detail and structures that emerge through improvisatory dialogue. The chemistry we’ve developed over the years, along with Dan and Chris’ exceptional musicianship, make this possible, and I’m always grateful to them for bringing my music to life.

This composition is also inspired by the work of seven contemporary, abstract painters: Beatriz Milhazes, Allison Miller, Tomory Dodge, Jonathan Lasker, Mamie Holst, Julie Mehretu, and Odili Donald Odita. I didn’t intend to depict or translate their paintings, but instead used their artworks as catalysts for exploring abstraction in diverse ways. Each track responds to a particular dimension of an artist’s work; some tracks respond to formal features of a painting, but others might relate more to aspects of the artist’s working process, or to ideas they have articulated. In today’s visual art world, it is no longer meaningful to say simply that one works with abstraction, since that practice has accumulated so many histories and meanings. I have long been fascinated with abstraction, both in visual art and as a more general concept, so this music is another way for me to join that conversation.

Tracks 1, 4 and 7 are acoustic, and the other tracks involve the computer for live sampling/processing (tracks 2, 5 and 6) or algorithmic composition (track 3). Tracks 3 and 5 are solo features composed for Dan and Chris respectively. As I’ve written in previous liner notes, I use the computer in this trio to build upon what we do as acoustic performers, approaching it with that same creative tension between precomposition and improvisation. I also use technology to give the music a kind of dimensionality that a chordal instrument would traditionally provide, not by having the computer play chords, but by expanding the timbral and textural palette in a variety of other ways.

Thanks for listening.

– Michael Dessen


All compositions by Michael Dessen (Cronopio Music, ASCAP)
© 2012 Cronopio Music
Recorded at Systems Two in Brooklyn on January 4, 2013
Produced by Michael Dessen
Mixed and mastered by Rich Breen
Executive production by Trem Azul
Resonating Abstractions was commissioned through a 2011 New Jazz Works award from Chamber Music America, funded through the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
Special thanks to Mariángeles Soto-Díaz and Abstraction At Work for research assistance.