Tom Tolleson – “Merry Guesswork”


From composer and electronic musician Tom Tolleson, the instrumental “Merry Guesswork” is an enjoyable journey of a track, successfully navigating a creative soundscape led by eclectic piano tones and string-laden accompaniments. Piano creaks out initially in ominous form, gripping me from the get-go. Mounting piano chords follow, followed by beautifully elegant strings at the one-minute mark. A lush piano assumes a gentler, though still mysterious sounding pleasantry around the two-minute mark. The backing involvement of whirring strings around 03:10 sends a chill up my spine, enjoyably, as does the interesting piano discordant punches at 04:30 — sounding like things are crashing down. “Merry Guesswork” is an engrossing showing from Tolleson.

More information on the track below, via the press release from Tolleson’s label Dymaxion Groove:

Merry Guesswork is moody and somber, with a repeating, wave-like motif. For composer Tom Tolleson this was intentional. “Merry Guesswork gets its name from a statement made by Frank Worsley, Earnest Shackleton’s navigator on the 1914 Imperial Antarctic Expedition. After their ship the Endurance had been crushed by ice, and following months of starvation on Elephant Island Worsley was able to navigate their small rescue boat the James Caird South Georgia. using dead reckoning (a primitive form of navigation). It’s almost impossible that they actually made it to a precise location over 238 nautical miles away. Worsley later referred to it as “”a merry jest of guesswork.”

Tolleson doesn’t actually play piano on the title track but rather by Juilliard pianist Chi Wei Lo, “when I heard him first play the piece I was amazed that he totally got it immediately, the wandering, lost quality. Trying to find the path. He told me that he really connected with the piece. I feel so lucky we captured this performance one evening at the old Church next to Juilliard on 66th street. I decided to keep his performance instead of mine.”

“Merry Guesswork” and other memorable tracks from this month can also be streamed on the updating Obscure Sound’s ‘Best of May 2020’ Spotify playlist.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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