Microscripts // Cabbaggage

Dedicated to Robert Walser, whose life and writing provided the inspiration and impetus for this album.

Each piano piece is a meditation on a corresponding “microscript” that Walser wrote, hence the titles. The two cassette-exclusive bonus tracks were especially reflective of Carl Seelig’s accounts of their walks together.

My first introduction to Walser was through W.G. Sebald’s “A Place In The Country”, which is a collection of homages to some of his own greatest influences, including Walser.

All that to say: thank you Robert Walser, and thank you Carl Seelig, and thank you W.G. Sebald. Thank you also to Jochen Green, Werner Moorland, and Bernhard Echte, who invested so much time and energy in transcribing and deciphering Walser’s scripts, which turned out to be a radically miniaturized form of the medieval Kurrent script.

These pieces attempt to convey a variety of things at different times – sometimes it’s the specific subject matter of a microscript. Other times it’s the overarching impression that a microscript made on me. It’s not just the microscripts that I had in mind while working on this album, but Walser himself, or at least as much of him as I have so far come to know. His walks, his poverty, his mental breakdown. These and other details very much informed my intentions behind the way the album sounds. Some pieces were fully composed. Others were improvised. And others were a combination of composition and improvisation.

About Walser

Robert Walser (1878¬–1956) is considered one of the most mysterious writers of his time. Born in Biel, Switzerland, he left school at the age of fourteen to serve an apprenticeship at a local bank. Walser’s early poems were first published in 1898, and his success allowed him access to Munich’s literary circles.

Although Walser achieved some success with his first three novels—Geschwister Tanner (The Tanners) (1907), Der Gehülfe (The Assistant) (1908) and Jakob von Gunten (1909)—he was unable to establish himself in the literary life of Berlin, where he had lived since 1905. In 1913, feeling he had utterly failed, Walser returned to his native city of Biel. He rented an attic room in the servants’ quarters of the Hotel Blaues Kreuz, where he lived in extreme poverty and wrote a number of short prose pieces. Prosastücke (Prose Pieces) (1916/17), Poetenleben (A Poet’s Life) (1917/18) and Seeland (Lake District) (1920) were all published by Swiss publishing houses. Der Spaziergang (The Walk) (1917) is widely considered to be Walser’s most important work from this period of his life. The novel Tobold, which was also written in Biel, remained unpublished, and the manuscripts for both Tobold and a subsequent novel, Theodor, have disappeared. In 1921, Walser moved to Bern, where he frequently changed lodgings. He continued to publish his work in the “feuilleton”sections of newspapers; however, except for the collection Die Rose (The Rose) (1925), Walser failed to publish another book. Various texts, including the novel Der Räuber (The Robber), were contained in the so-called “microscripts”, i.e., a large number of loose papers covered to “the edges” with a minuscule, almost illegible pencil script, which at first was considered to be some kind of secret code.

After a mental breakdown in 1929, Walser first entered the asylum in Waldau, Bern, and then the Herisau sanitarium (Appenzell) in 1933, where he ceased to write and spent the last twenty-three years of his life in almost complete anonymity.

Walser died on a solitary walk in the snow on Christmas Day, 1956. Although Walser was greatly admired by such writers as Hermann Hesse, Kurt Tucholsky, Robert Musil, Franz Kafka and Walter Benjamin, he remained unappreciated by a wider audience. Today, however, he is considered one of the most important writers of the 20th century.

Bio taken from www.robertwalser.ch/en/rw

Released February 20, 2023

Written, performed, recorded by Levi Kempster

Mastered by Adam Badi Donoval

Design and layout by the House of GoB

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