from shelter   CB0018

The music

from shelter is music written in 1997 for choreographer Lane Lucas’s dance/theater work Shelter, which deals with “the concept of metamorphosis, and the way connections between people can bring us to a greater awareness of our place in life.” The gently undulating three-section Three Short Stories and the beautifully insistent My burning skin to sleep form a suite that very successfully stands apart from the theater/dance work for which they were composed. Three violas calmly stroll through their pitches, starting and stopping to form little pieces within pieces, all leading to an alluring voice and gently off-kilter piano music, an evocative extended coda to the string music that preceded it.

“Pure, restrained and rigorously beautiful.” —Alvin Curran

A Sequenza21 “Best CD” for 2005

Peters’ music on this CD stands slightly apart from the greater body his work, which often is concerned with presenting an environment through soundscape and/or sounding techniques. The performers on this recording (each tracked multiple times) have collaborated with Peters on more than this one occasion.

The composer-performer

Steve Peters is a composer/sound artist who, drawing inspiration equally from the experimental tradition and a wide range of the world’s folk musics, readily integrates improvisation and open forms into the work he has creates for dance, theater, radio, public spaces, and concerts. In addition to performing as a soloist, using an array of acoustic and electronics instruments, environmental sounds, and amplified natural and/or found objects, Peters has worked in many collaborative contexts—touring with vocalist Anna Homler and sound artist Steve Roden and performing with composers David Dunn and Christopher Shultis; vocalist Marghreta Cordero; electroacoustic composers Francisco López and Steven M. Miller; and saxophonist Tom Guralnick. Peters is also a founding member of Gamelan Encantada, a Javanese/American ensemble that performs both traditional and contemporary music. With choreographer/writer Lane Lucas, Peters has produced several critically-acclaimed works (Faith, Ground Luminosity, and Shelter). He has also received commisions for music and sound design from numerous other choreographers, including Nora Reynolds and Bill Evans, Kagami Butoh, Deborah Slater, and John Carrafa. With visual artist Barbara Grothus he received a commission from the City of Albuquerque to create Celebrating Nature: The Landscape Underground, a permanent neon light and sound installation for the Albuquerque Convention Center. Other recent installations include The Alchemy of Desire with visual artist Christine Wallers, at the Historic San Ysidro Church in Corrales, New Mexico; Confluences: Songs of the Rio Grande and its Tributaries at the Albuquerque Museum; Emanations with visual artist Claire Giovanniello at the Harwood Art Center, Albuquerque; and Hereings, at the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe. His works for radio have been aired on internationally syndicated series. Peters’s solo CDs are on the Cold Blue (see Peters’s The Webster Cycles, CB0027), O.O. Discs, and Pianíssimo labels, and a CD and book documenting his Hereings project was published by La Alameda Press. Other recordings and writings of his have been included in numerous compilation CDs and publications.

Commenting on some of Peters’ earlier work:

“A beautiful, mesmerizing CD.” —Harold Budd;

“These are the kinds of things I listen to when I have the feeling that I have lost the vision. . .” —Robert Ashley

“It’s really a beautiful piece of work; teaches me a lot about listening; helps unteach me a lot of stuff I don’t need to know about music.” —Experimental Musical Instruments

The other performers

Marghreta Cordero (voice) grew up in the tiny border town of La Union, in southern New Mexico, where she began singing and playing the guitar at an early age, learning traditional Ranchera cancion from her grandmother and performing in border towns near El Paso with her cousins, the Black Brothers, sons of ex-Mothers of Invention drummer Jimmy Carl Black. She went on to study classical voice and electronic music at New Mexico State University before moving to New York City, where she studied flamenco guitar with Manuel Granados of the Music Conservatory of Barcelona, Spain. In the early 1990s, she was a principal singer in Robert Ashley’s opera company, touring Europe and Japan (and she also translated the libretto for Ashley’s opera Now Eleanor’s Idea). Since 1990, she has worked on several projects with Steve Peters and has collaborated with writer Melody Sumner Carnahan, visual artist Harmony Hammond, and filmmaker Catherine Gund. Cordero has received a National Endowment for the Arts Award and a fellowship from Mutable Music. Now based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Coirdero performs under her grandomther’s name, Nacha Mendez, touring regionally with her band, playing her original, eclectic pan-Latin-style songs. Her recordings include Fashion Dancing for Extreme People Who Don’t Like to Sweat (as Xica Jool); Slowly Rising (as Dueto Le Momo); and Blue Silence, Bodega de Amor, and Volando (as Nacha Mendez).

Alicia Ultan (viola) is an active violist in New Mexico’s classical, contemporary, improvisational, and popular music communities. She was a member of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, as well as the improvisational Trio Palladium with guitarist Stefan Dill and harpist Courtney Smith. She is a founding member of Out of Context, a large improvising ensemble led by J.A. Deane using the “conduction” methods developed by Lawrence “Butch” Morris. She also performs in various groupings assembled by poet Mark Weber, with flutist Lisa Polisar, and presents her own songs in the “twisted folk” duo Charmed. She is the Executive Director of the John Donald Robb Musical Trust at the University of New Mexico.


“Beautifully recorded music with suitably artistic packaging…elegant, almost neo-classical pieces that perfectly matched the gray autumn rains out my door…. [T]his is definitely music worth spending time with.” —Randy Raine-Reusch, MusicWorks magazine (Canada)

“Initially somewhat reminiscent of a sixteenth-century English consort piece, three viola lines—projected in a clean, almost vibratoless, manner by Alicia Ultan—describe slow, graceful undulations punctuated by intermittent silences; they move with, around, or across each other to create euphonious counterpoints. The second half or the ‘suite’ is both a continuation and a metamorphosis: it replaces violas with wordless voices—duskily sung by Marghreta Cordero—and simple, sustained concords on a ‘tinny’ piano (a timbral evocation of poverty and neglect that is wonderfully apt). This is a gentle, social, considerate piece; each component supports and is supported, sheltered and given shelter, by the others.” —Christopher Ballantine, Int’l Record Review (UK)

“The work of Steve Peters is of excellent quality…he has distinguished himself…. The suspended resonances and the ethereal voice of Marghreta Cordero, contribute to create a fantastic atmosphere, mystical and visionary.” —Sands-Zine (Italy)

“This CD contains beautiful music…a soft, hypnotic music.”Amazing Sounds (Spain)

“Long, irregular phrases evoke a kind of storytelling, and the use of multiple violas creates a panorama of shifting perspectives. The music is unadorned and plain-spoken, with no artifice whatsoever. My burning skin to sleep is scored for piano (softly chiming and sustained chords which hang in the air like stars) and the multi-tracked vocalise of singer Marghreta Cordero. Her singing is both mournful and erotic, and while the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ feel spontaneous, one notes how perfectly the vocal parts are tuned to each other, as well as to Peters’s ringing piano chords.” —Raymond Tuttle, ClassicalNet

Three Short Stories offers an intertwined, overdubbed viola ‘duet’ by Alicia Ultan. The dark-hued strings linger over arching melodies that carry the open-space lyricism and beatific atmosphere often found on Cold Blue releases…. Indeed, behind the West Coast spaciousness of this work, there seems to lurk the mind of a composer as scientific and intellectual in approach as American progenitor Charles Ives…. My burning skin to sleep is a vivid, stark, and alluring lullaby…. Cordero’s voice is electrifying, with a heart-rending vibrato on line-ending high notes, a sensuous and intimate dark-toned warmth in its lower ranges.” — Kevin Macneil Brown, Dusted

“Steve Peters shows another facet of his multiple gifts.… From shelter is highly distilled purity in the form of acoustic temperament…refined contemplations.… [T]he key to the heavens of lyrical enlightenment is served.” —ei magazine

From shelter includes the lovely pieces Three short stories and My burning skin to sleep. The mournful tones of Alicia Ultan’s ululating violas prove alluring on the former, while Peters’ sparse piano chords form a backdrop to Marghreta Cordero’s haunting vocals in the latter.” —Ron Schepper, Textura and Stylus

“A pensive viola generates a sedate foundation that dominates the stage for three of the four tracks on this release. Minimalism becomes stoic as the strings carry the listener to depths of the soul with melancholy tinged with optimistic aspirations. The fourth track mixes delicately hesitant piano with heavenly choral voices. The voices restrain themselves with meticulous deliberation, conjuring a slow birth of consciousness that is softly goaded on by sparse-but-evocative piano notes.” —Sonic Curiosity

“Both solemn and subtle.”altriSuoni (Italy)

“Peters’ four-track CD is like an embrace—like finding a shelter, indeed, or being warmed by recollections.… From shelter features Three short stories, where Alicia Ultan’s multiple-viola recording creates slowly drifting textures, while in My burning skin to sleep, Peters’ sparse piano touches and Marghreta Cordero’s painfully beautiful vocals lull you to a state of suspension and wonder. In his long career, the composer has used very different idioms and means (from gamelan to field recordings to found objects to installations), but maybe this represents his art at its most intimate.” —Eugenio Maggi, ChainDLK (Italy)

Three short stories…is absolutely diatonic, absolutely simple, absolutely flat, and consistently surprising; there is a strong air of Satie and early Cage here (Three short stories could be heard as a less homophonic Cage String Quartet in Four Parts), but never so much that the result does not seem fresh and genuinely appealing.… The effect is stunningly gorgeous. This is music that emphatically does not attempt seduction–it is reticent, modest, and requires attentiveness. For that reason alone, it is truly beautiful.… Peters’ music, on the evidence of this disc at least, has in abundance what I miss in so much new American music: strong commitment to an aesthetic goal, and adherence to that goal without compromise. Three short stories is the standout work on this disc…but My burning skin to sleep is in many ways a worthy companion.… Bring on more Steve Peters! —Evan Johnson, Sequenza21

“The works play themselves out in slow, folkish diatonic asymmetry. Three short stories centers around multiple violas played by Alicia Ultan for a haunting, nearly vibratoless counterpoint of intervallic cells that are ever-changing yet have a cantabile, rural song-like unfolding. It is almost like folk fiddling, yet very slow and without an ABA structure. My burning skin to sleep turns to multiple vocals by Marghreta Cordero and the piano of the composer. They continue in the slow deliberate manner of the Stories, only now we have a repeating chord progression that underpins wordless vocals in a slow counter-interaction of their own. The work goes well with the short stories, almost a continuation of the work by other means and intervallic relations. The delicate chordal ostinato of the piano contrasts against the endless melodic-diatonic, purposeful wanderings of the voices. Plaintive? Just a touch. I won’t say that this is one of the very best of the Cold Blue EPs. Yet it is very attractive, beautifully sedate. The long, winding trail of diatonic variations makes this music far from banal. The performances make the music flow like a pond with a slow undulating motion in the waters…a light wind on a fall afternoon, perhaps, making the movement possible. It is well thought-out fare. Delightful. Meditative.” — Grego Edwards, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review