Wednesday, November 30, 2005


In this household, ChamberMusic (a publication of Chamber Music America) usually gets little more than a quick skim before meeting its end in the recycling bin. This morning, however, the magazine awaited me and my coffee, having been strategically placed just to the left of the laptop and opened to two important pages. The December issue presents Peter Garland in the American Composer column, and the thoughtful survey, written by Kyle Gann, makes a case for the music's simplicity and considers why Garland is so underappreciated.
It is no secret how much modern music is kept alive today by performers proud of their ability to negotiate its daunting complexities. These people will see little opportunity for self-validation on Garland's pages.
Ah, yes. Penasco Blanco, for piano and vibraphone, is one of my favorite pieces and exhibits all the Garland qualities, including widely spaced, triadic harmonies, seemingly aimless phrases, and almost laughably elementary rhythmic configurations--quarters, eighths, and a few tied notes, all at a modest tempo. But notice I said, 'almost.' Simplicity requires its own peculiar virtuosity, and I once realized this--yikes--in the midst of performing the work. With Garland, the performer has to learn to "sell" space, not notes,

Give Peter a listen:
Love Songs: featuring William Winant, the Abel-Steinberg-Winant trio, and others; 2005 (Tzadik, 8012)
Another Sunrise: featuring Aki Takahashi; (Mode 110)
Nana + Victorio: William Winant, percussion, Julie Steinberg, piano; 1993 (Avant, 012)


His essays are worth reading if you can get a hold of them. I did a little write-up recently on his first collection.

By Blogger Adam Baratz, at 8:14 PM  

I once read in a counterpoint textbook a marvelous quotation: "Two voice counterpoint is the irreducible essence of Western art music." Unfortunately, I cannot recall the source (And, I've searched for it a few times over the years), but the quotation stuck with me and sort of became my philosophy of musical expression.

Personally, I'll take the charming little miniatures of Bach's lute and cello suites over any bombast produced during the twentieth century (And, most of the nineteenth century, for that matter). Not that there aren't "long" works that I like, but it seems like in today's fast-paced world of stupifying mechanical effeciency and innovation, miniatures "fit in" better. Heck, even Beethoven's late string quartets contain a bunch of little tiny movements of two minutes duration.


By Blogger Heather, at 7:19 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home