Peter Garland

Garland: Border Music

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This collection of early pieces by composer Peter Garland is very telling in terms of what it reveals about his future direction evolving out of his past. The opening work, "Cantares De La Frontera," is written for harp and is the only later work that appears here. Played beautifully by Rosalind Simpson, it is comprised of three sections, all of them evoking either ancient song forms -- in this case a Mongolian love song -- or places forgotten. In each of them, Garland writes to embody the land, to become one with his surroundings and not stick out. In 1986, this was a move that changed his compositional MO and turned him toward a new direction, one of open spaces, quiet reflection, and spare parts, where music could articulate itself in the silences as well as in the played sections. Three works for percussion from 1972-1973, as well as "Three Strange Angels" from the same time period, follow these. This latter work features two pianos, a bullroarer, and a bass drum. The use of the drum and bullroarer is a landmark for Garland; it was the first time he made use of Native American instruments, percussion styles, and song forms, and is a tactic he employed thereafter. Following "Three Strange Angels," and perhaps meant as a segue from it, is the mammoth, crashing roar that is "Three Songs of Mad Coyote" from 1973. With the exception of two pianos treated like drums, the rest of the piece is comprised of wailing percussion, albeit used in a controlled, almost ceremonial manner. The other early works -- "Apple Blossom" for four marimbas from 1972 and "Obstacles of Sleep" from the same year -- are all concerned with various sonorities of individual voices as they are melded into a collective. They offer a deep and tender musicality no matter the instrumentation, and a meditative concern for timbral space. Garland went on to far greater things, but the early works collected on Border Music are essential documents for understanding his place in the world.

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