November 05, 2005


Yesterday I ended up listening to some of Peter Garland's piano music, reading some of his essays, and thumbing through some old copies of Soundings (thank you, extremely comprehensive music library!). His music is really shocking in its simplicity. "Radical consonance," the term used in the liner note bio, is an appropriate description. The shock is because the process that led to the music is a mystery at first hearing, and you're not sure if there was a high-level one going on. Music with a complex surface gives you the "assurance" that even if you don't know what the hell is going on, everything's probably very well thought-out. Alternatively, with process-y minimalism, if you don't know how the music was put together, you're just not paying attention.

With Garland's "minimalism," you become enamored by the simple beauty of the music, but afterwards find yourself asking very basic questions about it. So many things recur, chords, rhythms, that you want to know why he chose those ideas (whether or not that's a question worth answering isn't clear now). He makes no effort to hide them behind a developmental process, so they feel very exposed at all times. They're like little gifts being offered to the listener on nothing more than good faith. It's not often total strangers are so generous. You wonder, "Why me? What did I do to deserve this?"

His writing is similarly simple and generous. Kenneth Patchen's Journal of Albion Moonlight is not a completely unfair comparison. Though Patchen's work is far more lyrical and even more heart-felt, both writers are strongly attuned to an intense tragedy in everything that they see. This sense remains very tangible no matter how unclear the subject of their writing is. All in all, his work is the kind that lingers, that shoots with force into your thoughts hours after you experienced it. Definitely worth some further exploration.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Baratz,

I have been reading your blog and am enjoying your style and your reviews. I work at a new company called Gather. Gather acts as a venue for many perspectives. We are tapping into the public radio audience, which has a great base of active listeners and additional readers for you. In the next two weeks you will be hearing and reading a lot more about us.

As you know, the public radio audience follow classical and all types of music. When you have the time please take a look at Gather. If you'd like, please post an article (something new or from your archives) or excerpt with a link back to your web site.

Be well,

Adam Maffei