Listening for Bells


released January 7, 2022

In 2019, we commissioned Detroit-based composer Harriet Steinke to write a piece for Virago. Listening for Bells is the result.

The piece is structured in four parts: A, B, C, and D. The parts can be played in any order, repeated, stand alone, or even blended together. Each comprises four cells containing phrases for each player to perform at the timing they choose. The four cells bear the same instructions as the four parts: play “most of the time,” “sometimes,” “rarely,” or “when you hear bells.” The result is a macro form that is a fractal of the micro.

We refer to this as our “musical sandbox” — Listening for Bells is communal, playful, exploratory, sometimes gritty, and free.

Two years later, we are proud to release Listening for Bells as Virago’s debut studio recording. As we have grown as individuals and as an ensemble, so has our interpretation of this piece. The process of recording was collective composition; we discovered tens of variations of each part and chose our path through them, resulting in the version enclosed. As time passes and our growth continues, let this recording serve as a snapshot — a sonic image of us in this moment.

Thank you to our friends Dominic Bierenga and Michael Malis for joining us for this recording. Both are incredible artists and people. They each brought such a positive energy to this music, and this version we recorded took shape as soon as we started working with them. Thank you to Josef Deas for recording, mixing, and mastering this project. Lastly, Harriet, thank you for writing this piece which continues to challenge and delight us.

Thank you for listening. We hope you hear bells.

With gratitude,
Sofia, Wesley, BethAnne, and Meg

BethAnne Kunert, alto saxophone
Meg Rohrer, violin
Wesley Hornpetrie, cello
Sofia Carbonara, vibraphone and percussion
Dominic Bierenga, bass clarinet
Michael Malis, piano

Listening for Bells was composed by Harriet Steinke.

Listening for Bells EP was recorded at Big Sky Recordings in Ann Arbor, MI on September 26th, 2021. Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Josef Deas.

Album art by Sofia Carbonara.