Video Premiere: New Morse Code Performs Viet Cuong’s “Next Week’s Trees”

Today, we’re happy to bring you the exclusive premiere of a new video by New Morse Code (Hannah Collins, cello; Michael Compitello, percussion), which looks into an uncertain world as if from an insect’s point of view. Extreme close-ups of leaves reveal textures smaller than our human experience allows; a single drop of water slowly slides off a twig and quietly falls into the unknown. The missing establishing shots, which would introduce context, make the setting somewhat unclear. This ambiguity allows us to experience the moment-by-moment editing as though trapped behind the eyes of an innocent caterpillar, or a leaf butterfly.

The percolating, minimalist chord progression of Viet Cuong‘s Next Week’s Trees is the soundtrack to all of this — matching the moods suggested by the flora shots in Nick Zoulek’s video. Originally commissioned by the California Symphony, Next Week’s Trees is here arranged for the duo, preserving the buoyant pizzicato of the string orchestra while injecting the warm, wooden timbres of a marimba. These interlocking dew drops of sound eventually burst into lush, kaleidoscopic sustained tones of vibraphone and bowed cello.

Viet Cuong--Photo by Aaron Jay Young

Viet Cuong–Photo by Aaron Jay Young

The opening lines of Mary Oliver’s poem “Walking to Oak-Head Pond, And Thinking Of The Ponds I Will Visit In The Next Days And Weeks,” which inspired Next Week’s Trees, encourage us to reflect on an imminent future:

What is so utterly invisible
as tomorrow?
Not love,
not the wind,
not the inside of a stone.
Not anything.

Here’s what Hannah and Michael from New Morse Code have to say:

We are so excited to share this video of Viet Cuong’s Next Week’s Trees. Inspired by Mary Oliver’s poem, Viet’s piece takes the forest ecosystem as a starting point to reflect on the tension between uncertainty and hope in the face of change to our planet. Originally an orchestral work, we reinvented the work for live and pre-recorded cello and percussion for a touring project addressing sustainability and scientific innovation in communities across the country. The corresponding video by Nick Zoulek depicts the intricate interconnectedness of a miniature botanical universe, inviting us to contemplate larger interdependencies in our social and ecological communities.

Next Week’s Trees will be featured on New Morse Code’s sophomore album, Next November, slated to be released in Fall 2023.

About New Morse Code

New Morse Code (Hannah Collins, cello; Michael Compitello, percussion) is the confluence of two magnetic personalities who have taken up the admirable task of creating a hub for the performance, commissioning, and promotion of new music. NMC is theoretically the alluring and uncommon combination of cello and percussion, but in practice is best described as two musicians of extraordinary depth and skill untethered by their instrumental constraints. This unrestricted approach has allowed them to create a body of work in which Hannah can be found crushing plastic bottles and Michael plucking the strings of the cello — all with the intention of expanding and facilitating the imaginations of their composer-collaborators — while ultimately creating a meaningful and lasting repertoire.

Over the past decade, the “remarkably inventive and resourceful duo” (Gramophone) has developed projects responding to our society’s most pressing issues, including The Emigrants, a documentary chamber work by George Lam, and dwb (driving while black), a chamber opera by Roberta Gumbel and Susan Kander, called “The Most Relevant, Hauntingly Evocative New Chamber Opera in Years” (Lucid Culture – New York New Music Daily). Their long-term collaboration with Christopher Stark on The Language of Landscapes (commissioned in 2014 by Chamber Music America) incorporates found discarded objects, field-collected environmental recordings, and live electronic processing as a way of making commentary on the urgency of the climate crisis. Named inaugural grand prize winners of the Ariel Avant Impact Performance Prize, they developed a tour program featuring Stark’s work alongside new pieces which address sustainability and scientific innovation.

About Viet Cuong

Called “alluring” and “wildly inventive” by The New York Times, the music of American composer Viet Cuong has been performed on six continents by musicians and ensembles such as the New York Philharmonic, Eighth Blackbird, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Sō Percussion, Alarm Will Sound, Atlanta Symphony, Sandbox Percussion, Albany Symphony, PRISM Quartet, and Dallas Winds, among many others. Cuong’s music has been featured in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Kennedy Center, and his works for wind ensemble have amassed several hundreds of performances worldwide.

Passionate about bringing these different facets of the contemporary music community together, his recent projects include a concerto for Eighth Blackbird with the United States Navy Band. Cuong also enjoys exploring the unexpected and whimsical, and he is often drawn to projects where he can make peculiar combinations and sounds feel enchanting or oddly satisfying. His works thus include a snare drum solo, percussion quartet concerto, and double oboe concerto. He is currently the California Symphony’s Young American Composer-in-Residence, the Pacific Symphony’s Composer-in-Residence, and serves as Assistant Professor of Music Composition at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

About Nick Zoulek

A modern saxophonist and award-winning media artist of “pure mindfulness and talent” (PopMatters), Dr. Nick Zoulek focuses on performance, collaboration, multimedia art, and improvisation, which has led to a diverse portfolio of distinctive artistic ventures, with performances across France, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States.

Zoulek’s visual media, audio production, and digital sound design are an extension of his musical language. His films have screened at festivals in England, Canada, Serbia, Italy, India, Africa, and around the United States, and have garnered numerous awards, including Best Experimental Film from the London Modcon International Film Festival and Largo Film Festival. His doctoral dissertation, “Analyzing the Intersections of Saxophone and Digital Media through Media Theory,” stives to expand the analytical language of musical multimedia. For more information on Zoulek’s media work, visit


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