Aki Takahashi, piano & harpsichord
John Kennedy & Charles Wood, directors
1-6. Another Sunrise (1995) (25:33)
for 2 pianos & 4 percussionists
with Judith Gordon, piano 2
Written for Aki Takahashi & Essential Music
Download the MP3 sample (2.3MB)
7-8. Dreaming of Immortality in a Thatched Cottage (1977) (13:55)
for soprano, mezzo, baritone, harpsichord & 6 percussionists
Karen Burlingame, soprano, Marion Najarian, mezzo-soprano, James Javore, baritone.
Charles Wood, conductor
Download the MP3 sample (2.2MB)
9-12. I Have Had to Learn the Simplest Things Last (1993) (16:10)
for piano & 3 percussionists
Download the MP3 sample (1.4MB)
Peter Garland’s music is uniquely American; a blend of minimalism with influences from South/Central America, Asia and the Native Americans; along with American mavericks Cage, Partch, Harrison, Cowell, and Varèse. Born in 1952, he studied with Harold Budd and James Tenney.
The works on this record share a special meditative, and at times ecstatic, spirituality. Garland has a long artistic association with the performers on this disc. Essential Music’s percussive talents present this music’s exotic and brilliant sound in an authoritatively persuasive way. The recordings are composer supervised.
The below is from Peter Garland’s liner notes:
From 1972 until 1977, I stopped writing for European “orchestral” instruments. Strongly influenced by Harry Partch (with whom I had a brief but very intense and important friendship in the early 70s) and Native American musics, I was convinced that so-called “classical” music was dead … I composed exclusively for percussion. Dreaming celebrated … my adoption of what I termed the “Lou Harrison compromise” – to work with European instruments again, but to create a culturally alternative music, using those means. The contrasting presence of harpsichord and angklung (Balinese bamboo chimes) in the same piece really owes a lot to Lou.
Another Sunrise was written in New Mexico for Essential Music and pianist Aki Takahashi – its instrumentation of two pianists and four percussionists was determined by the fact that they were playing the Paul Bowles Concerto for Two Pianos, Winds and Percussion on the same concert. The percussion consists of rattles, steel drum, vibraphone, marimbula, and bass marimba. The tambourine sound (also prominent in I have had to learn.) was influenced by my visit to Tlacotalpan, Veracruz in December of 1991, where it is a prominent instrument, both in the Christmas posadas and in jarocho music groups. The marimbula was prominent in the Caribbean basin in the early part of the century: in Cuba, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Veracruz (Mexico), in early son, merengue and rumba groups.
I have had to learn the simplest things last is from Charles Olson’s The Maximus Poems. Ever since I had heard of John Cage’s death (about two weeks after the fact) at a café in Ubud’s night market in Bali, I knew I was going to write a piece in honor of John. My very presence there in Bali was due to him. … Finally, when I moved to Berlin in March of 1993 and once again had access to a piano, this was the first piece I wrote.
Peter Garland’s often austerely minimalist Tzadik disc, The Days Run Away, was something I regarded as a useful adjunct to relaxation techniques, till it slowly pulled me in. But the ensemble music here, played by Essential Music, has a more obvious attraction, partly because of the addition of percussion to the pianos of Aki Takahashi and Judith Gordon. Garland was born in 1952 in Portland, Maine. His mentors include Harold Budd and James Tenney at Cal Arts, and most pervasively his friend John Cage. Produced after a period when he stopped writing for European orchestral instruments, Dreaming Of Immortality In A Thatched Cottage from 1977 reflects his adoption of what he calls the “[Lou] Harrison compromise”: working with those instruments to create a culturally alternative music. The beautiful performance here of this piece for three vocalists, harpsichord, and percussion, conducted by Charles Wood, shows it as a totally beguiling blend of Harrison and minimalism. I Have To Learn The Simplest Things Last (1993) and Another Sunrise (1995) are for piano or pianos and percussion. The percussion, including the wonderful marimbula, isn’t simply decorative, but complements and challenges the pianist. The affinities with Lou Harrison are much clearer than on the Tzadik disc, and the music is richer for them.
— The Wire Magazine, May 2003
A pair of CDs of the music of American composer Peter Garland…
PETER GARLAND: The Days Run Away = Bright Angel Hermetic Bird, The Days Run Away, A Song, Two Persian Miniatures I & II; The Fall of Quang Tri, Nostalgia of the Southern Cross – Aki Takahashi, piano – Tzadik – TZ 7053:
PETER GARLAND: Another Sunrise; Dreaming of Immortality in a Thatched Cottage, I Have Had to Learn the Simplest Things Last – Aki Takashasi, piano & harpsichord/Essential Music/John Kennedy & Charles Wood, director – Mode Records 110:
Garland studied at Cal Arts with Harold Budd and James Tenney and has been active as a musicologist and essayist as well as minimalist composer. He played a role in the re-evaluation of such composers as Paul Bowles, Conlon Nancarrow, Revueltas, Dane Rudyar and Harry Partch. Now living in Veracruz, Mexico, he once traveled the world for 42 months and is influenced by various world musics as well as Indian and Hispanic traditions of the American Southwest.
Pianist Takahashi (known for her Hyper-Beatles project — 47 composers re-composing their favorite Beatles tunes) has been a prime interpreter of Garland’s music for some time. The notes for both albums refer to the opening line of a poem by Charles Olson which goes “I have had to learn the simplest things last.” That could be the central idea behind most of these works – deceptively simple in a Satie sort of way, meditative but full of strong feelings too. His music has a subtle impressionistic beauty that never seems to fall into the “stuck-record” bag of some minimalists. The first CD is devoted to earlier works of a more strict minimalist approach, while the Mode collection adds percussion and in the Dreaming of Immortality three vocalists. The percussion instruments include the marimbula — an instrument from the Caribbean area used in son and rhumba groups – as well as steel drum, vibes and bass marimba. Another Sunrise was inspired by both the death of a couple of close friends and a sunrise in New Mexico. With two pianos and four percussionists it creates an intense mood that is a sort of an American/Hispanic mirror of Bartok’s work for similar forces. Garland’s subtitle: “In the face of death, the beauty of life and love takes on its true meaning.”
— John Sunier, Audiophile Edition (online magazine), February 2003
Peter Garland/Aki Takahashi & Essential Music: “Another Sunrise”
#5 in Mark Jenkins’s Top 10: Lyrical yet robust, these three pieces for keyboards, percussion and voice evoke both Steve Reich and one of his essential precursors, Balinese gamelan music.
— Mark Jenkins, The Washington Post, Friday, December 27, 2002;
Simple Things First
New Discs From Out West by Peter Garland and Terry Riley
September 25 – October 1, 2002
I Have Had to Learn the Simplest Things Last is the title of a recent Peter Garland work. It’s a great title, but it strikes me that Garland learned the simplest things earlier than most people do. At least Garland’s music has always been simple, in a way, from the time it started out as Varesian noise in the 1970s through its current transformation into melody. Yet simple does not entail linear or obvious, and his technique leaves plenty of room for detailed nuance and even occasional rhythmic complexity. For 20 years Garland, lately living in small-town Mexico, has been developing a distinctive method of using sonorities melodically. Imagine a song, long and intense and spontaneous, improvised by some Maori tribesman to an impassioned text full of words, but using only four or five pitches. Now imagine each pitch of that song replaced, at every occurrence, by a specific rich sonority involving an entire ensemble. You’ll have some idea of the paradigm of Garland’s recent music.
The effect is most powerful in his large chamber works, of which we have had none commercially available until the new disc that the Essential Music ensemble has just released on Mode, entitled Another Sunrise. The eponymous piece, written for two pianos and four percussionists, is a sterling example of Garland’s composite sonorities. Sometimes the pianos growl in unison with rattles and steel drum, other times they whisper with vibraphones and marimba, sounding somehow abstractly Mexican, like mariachi music stripped down to its spare harmonies. But the music always talks, in a free kind of conversational rhythm. Ambiguously modal and never quite resolving, it is almost pretty, but more accurately it has a sustained, understated nobility, like the patient speech of an ancient man who has seen much and has much to tell.
The disc’s final work, I Have Had to Learn the Simplest Things Last (the opening line of a Charles Olson poem) is scored for one piano and percussion, with correspondingly greater focus on the superb pianist, Aki Takahashi. One further early work from 1977, Dreaming of Immortality in a Thatched Cottage – it sounds like much of Garland’s life – draws one of the most exotic ensemble textures I’ve ever heard: male and female solo voices, harpsichord, and angklung, shaken Balinese chimes. More polyphonic than Garland’s recent music, it already has the sustained modal elegance that’s been a constant with him for 25 years.
— Kyle Gann, Village Voice, Sept 25-Oct 1, 2002