Rossetto, long active in Austin and now based in New York, entered the public sphere in 2008 with a trio of self-released albums in generic black packages: imperial brick, misafridal, and whoreson in the wilderness, all on her Music Appreciation label. Released more or less simultaneously, the discs provide a tightly compressed view of a stylistic evolution, from intense, tight-focus scrabbling on viola to a broader, more layered, and more nuanced approach to evoking a holistic sound ecology in which her playing was one part, her listening another. (Matthew Revert, an Australian composer-performer, novelist, and graphic artist who has worked closely with Rossetto, lays out her back story with exacting detail and a keen ear in a 2013 article for the web journal Surround.)
On the strength of those discs, and especially for a brilliant 2009 release, dogs in english porcelain, which built on the original trilogy’s foundation, Rossetto generated substantial buzz among followers of electroacoustic improvisation and field recording – a paradox, considering she seldom improvised live onstage, and treated field recordings less as inviolate artifacts than as raw material for cut-ups and assemblages. Rossetto told one interviewer after another that despite her lack of formal musical study (she trained as a painter), she considers herself a composer, one happiest left alone to contemplate and manipulate recordings retrieved from her routine ambling.
Regardless of her lack of academic credentials, Rossetto has proved her compositional acumen repeatedly with each new project she’s released. In particular, three limited-edition vinyl LPs to date on the Kye label – mineral orange (2010), exotic exit (2012), and whole stories (2014) – established her as a sound artist of astounding efficacy: one able to direct the ear from one detail or vector to another as efficiently as a seasoned film director leads the eye, while also situating discrete elements within a teeming soundscape exactingly designed and intimately nuanced.
At any given moment a listener can feel swept up within a vast panorama, or privy to someone else’s personal conversation. Moments later, Rossetto might bring a random noise (or her viola) uncomfortably close; execute a jump cut too sharp for routine perception to navigate; or foreground some bit of noisy detritus that reminds you explicitly: This is a recording. In duo projects issued with Revert, Kevin Parks, and Lee Patterson, she has proved her techniques are amenable to collaboration.
Rossetto’s impetus to create erased de kooning – its title a reference to Robert Rauschenberg’s famous 1953 conceptual art piece Erased de Kooning Drawing – was an invitation from Casey Anderson in 2015 to contribute to the Experimental Music Yearbook, using only past contributions to that annual series as her raw materials. She downloaded all previous submissions back to 2009, recordings by artists such as Christian Wolff, Olivia Block, Taku Sugimoto, Peter Ablinger, Julia Holter, and Blevin Blectum (Bevin Kelly), then manually erased them and worked with what was left. Rossetto explains her approach thusly:
It occurred to me to build the piece out of the interstices – the unperformed parts of pieces and the silences between deliberate acts. … As in any erasure, complete eradication to the point of absolute vacuum is not possible – marks may remain that prove unusually indelible and in yet other spots the hand of the remover may prove too forceful and rend uneven holes in the plane of the paper.
What resulted is an expansive aural terrain littered with tiny scrapes, pings, rumples, and hisses, punctuated liberally with recognizable sounds from musical instruments, electronic implements, and the occasional human voice. The background ambience shifts as often as the foregrounded details, from antiseptic silence to the shush and hum of a voluminous space. The piece feels quietly chaotic, but never merely random, and the continual ebb and flow moves at a pleasingly narcotic pace: a leisurely parade of fleeting sensations, with the emotional gravity of memories misplaced or cast off. It’s surely because of that last quality that the overall impact of erased de kooning is not one of absence, but of presence.