String Quartets CB0031
“Peter’s quartet [No. 1] is the most beautiful thing since Corelli.” —Lou Harrison
“Garland… an avatar of an American experimental tradition … a composer of mesmerizing music; and in many ways, the musical conscience of my generation….” —Kyle Gann, Chamber Music magazine
This CD presents the premiere recordings of two spirited and enticing quartets that draw on the composer’s well-traveled ear and great sense of personal vision. Both works move with a unique sense of grace and a sincerity of expression that is purely Garlandesque—marked by a sometimes lively dancing, a sometimes alluring stasis, and an often sauntering gait that allow musical ideas to seem to appear intuitively and develop subconsciously..
Performed and recorded beautifully by members of the renowned British new music ensemble Apartment House, which has for many years championed the music of such composers as Christian Wolf, John Cage, Cornelius Cardew, Philip Corner, and many other experimental and avant-garde composers at major festivals throughout Europe.
The composer writes:
String Quartet No. 1, “In Praise of Poor Scholars” was composed in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1986. Commissioned by Mrs. Betty Freeman (1921-2009), the work is dedicated to James Tenney (1934-2006), his wife Ann Holloway (1952-1986), and to the memory of Dane Rudhyar (1895-1985). The title is taken from a poem by T”ao Ch’ien (365-427). —PG
1. Rondeau “nouveau”
2. Like an elegant slow dance …
3. Back to the 14th century …
4. To the memory of Dane Rudhyar
5. Son Huasteco (for Jim Tenney); A Walk in the White Place (for Ann Holloway)
6. Like a simple Indian dance—elegant and eloquent; “Look this outrage in the eye and put on the dancing music!” (Carolee Schneeman)
String Quartet No. 2, “Crazy Cloud” was begun in May 1994 at Koninji Temple (where I was staying at its guest lodgings) in the hills above the town of Hamochi on Sado Island, Japan, and was completed in Kreuzberg, Berlin, in the summer of that year. It is dedicated to Helena de Carvalho Tietjen. Its title refers to the pen name of poet-priest Ikkyu (1394-1481). Special thanks to Helena; and to Georg Kochi and Ralph Samuelson at the Asian Cultural Council; and to Mr. And Mrs. Kusaka and their daughter at Koninji Temple for the use of their piano and for giving me 12 sheets of music paper (hence movement 1 became 12 pages long!). This recording also represents the work’s world premiere performance. —PG
2. Mori (the blind courtesan and singer who became Ikkyu’s lover)
3. “Sueño en Rio Grande” (title of a song by Las Hermanas Padilla)
4. Blues for Helena
5. “From the Mountains, Returning to the City” (title of a poem by Ikkyu)
Peter Garland is a composer, world traveler, musicologist, writer and former publisher (Soundings Press). He studied music composition with Harold Budd and James Tenney at Cal Arts and maintained long friendships with Lou Harrison, Conlon Nancarrow, Paul Bowles, and Dane Rudhyar. Garland also studied performance art with Wolfgang Stoerchle and American literature with poet Clayton Eshleman.
As a musicologist, he has primarily focused on Native American, Mexican, and Southwestern American musics and 20th-century experimental composers of the Americas, championing the music of such composers as Revueltas, Partch, Nancarrow, and others long before their music became fashionable and regularly programmed.
Since the early ’70s, Garland’s own music has been marked by a return to a “radical consonance” and a simplification of formal structure influenced by Cage, Harrison, early minimalism, and a great variety of world musics. His unique and highly engaging music has been performed around the world by such noted performers as pianists Aki Takahashi and Herbert Henck, percussionist William Winant, accordionist Guy Klucesvek, and the Kronos Quartet and released on the Tzadik, New Albion, Cold Bue, Mode, Avant, Toshiba-EMI/Angel and other labels.
“Garland’s experimentalism takes place more along expressive lines than technical ones, closer to Lou Harrison and Henry Cowell’s Celtic mode….” —Kyle Gann, Village Voice
“Ever his own man, Garland has moved beyond a strictly minimalist phase of evolving melodic and rhythmic patterns into a hybrid sphere of many influences from the panorama of world music, suggestive of such composers as Conlon Nancarrow and Lou Harrison.” —Marilyn Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle
“Often simple in design, his consonant or modal melodies, frequently inspired by southwestern Native American or Mexican folk music, grow rich in resonances through repetition or subtle variation, suggesting the stark beauty and vast open space of the New Mexican desert.” —Fanfare magazine
“Garland is a passionate advocate for the music he believes in, and an equally opinionated and harsh critic of the musical establishments from which he has kept his distance…. The sound of his compositions affirmed that new music need not be abrasive, abstract, nor consumed with technical complexity.” —David Laskin, EAR Magazine
“Two composers in my generation are the lighthouses I use to navigate through the volatile waters of fashion…. The Pacific is lit by Peter Garland…. Garland’s been A Name for so long that his combination of youth and longevity works against him… Garland’s not a very baaaad-assed composer, but he’s one of the best.” Kyle Gann, Village Voice
“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.… 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.… 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.” —Kyle Gann, Village Voice
“[Garland] is one of our true originals.” —Robert Carl, Fanfare
Apartment House was created by the cellist Anton Lukoszevieze in 1995. Since then it has become a venerable exponent of avant-garde and experimental music from around the World.
Apartment House’s performances have included many UK and World premieres of music by a wide variety of composers. Notable portrait events have featured composers Christian Wolff, Luc Ferrari, Dieter Schnebel, Christopher Fox, Laurence Crane, Helmut Oehring, Clarence Barlow, Philip Corner, and Richard Ayres. The Apartment House ensemble is of flexible instrumentation, allowing for a vast range of performance possibilities. Apartment House has made many radio broadcasts for BBC Radio 3, Danish Radio, Swedish Radio 2, WDR Cologne, ORTF Austria and Deutschlandfunk, Berlin. They have also released a CD of music from 1956–1971 by Cornelius Cardew for Matchless Records.
Past events have included a Clarence Barlow Portrait at the Hoxton New Music Days; Cornelius Cardew, John Cage and Christian Wolff Retrospectives at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival; and a residency at the GAS Festival, Sweden. In 2002 they presented performances of new British Music at the Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik, a Sylvano Bussotti/Luc Ferrari event at the Almeida Opera Festival, Kings Cross. In 2003 they appeared at the Wien Modern Festival, Austria, Dresden Zeitgenössische Musik Tage, MaerzMusik, Berliner Festspiele, MDR Festival, Leipzig, HCM Festival and performances in Belgium. In 2004 they presented concerts in Stuttgart, Huddersfield, Cambridge, London (BBC and BMIC Cutting Edge). In 2005 they appeared at Ultraschall, Berlin, Wien Modern (Cage concerts), Belgium with XXX Live_Nude_Girls and Cut ‘n Splice Festival, London with Kagel’s Acustica and Peter Ablinger.
Apartment House has recreated a large scale project of “Die Schachtel”, an environment for musicians, performers, space, video installation, lighting and electronics based on the music by Franco Evangelisti and the scenario by Franco Nonnis. In collaboration with “labor für musik:theater”, Berlin, Apartment House performed this work at the Sophiensaele in Berlin as part of the Ultraschall Festival, 2006. In May 2006 they gave the premiere of a new string quartet with electronics by Zbigniew Karkowski at the Sonic Arts Network Cut ‘n Splice Festival at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, in association with BBC Radio 3. 2007 events included a BBC Invitation concert featuring new music from Berlin, performances in Oslo, Rome, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, and at the Wien Modern Festival.
In 2008 they performed at the ISCM world Music Days in Vilnius and took part in a full performance of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Aus den Sieben Tagen for Sonic Arts Network/ BBC Cut ‘n Splice Festival at Wiltons Music Hall, London. They also recreated the 1958 Carnegie Hall John Cage retrospective concert at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, with BBC commissioned works from Philip Corner, Alvin Curran, Claudia Molitor, Hans W. Koch and Zbigniew Karkowski.
Gordon MacKay, violin
Hilary Sturt, violin
Bridget Carey, viola
Anton Lukoszevieze, cello
After early training as a chorister and organist, violinist Gordon MacKay gained a music degree from London University before moving to Cologne to study with Saschko Gawriloff. He returned to London in order to pursue a freelance career and has performed with a huge variety of ensembles and orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra.
Hilary Sturt, violin, was born in New Zealand and started learning the violin in America. She completed her studies in London with David Takeno and Felix Andrievsky. After graduating from Guildhall and the Royal College of Music with solo, chamber, and contemporary music prizes, Hilary performed with Ensemble Modern and guest led many of the leading European contemporary chamber ensembles. In this capacity she was involved in the improvisatory field, working with Frank Zappa, the dancer Laurie Booth, and music theatre, often doubling on the viola (her other passion). She has been a frequent guest principal with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and is a member of the Rasumovsky Quartet. She is Head of Strings at St. Paul’s School for Girls’ and teaches at the Royal College of Music, London.
Bridget Carey, viola, studied jointly at the Royal Academy of Music and London University, graduating with a Masters degree in Performance in 1987. Since this time she has pursued a varied freelance career based in London, encompassing genres from symphony orchestra to free improvisation. She has developed a particular reputation in the field of new music, where she has premiered new opera with the Almeida ensemble, dance scores with Siobhan Davies Dance company and Ballet Rambert, contemporary classics with Music Projects London and Opus 20, new complexity with Ensemble Expose, experimental music with Apartment House, and new chamber repertoire with the Kreutzer Quartet and Okeanos.
Cellist Anton Lukoszevieze is one of the most diverse performers of his generation and is notable for his performances of avant-garde, experimental, and improvised music. Anton has given many performances at numerous international festivals throughout Europe and the USA (Maerzmusik, Donaueschingen, Wien Modern, GAS, Transart, Ultima.). Deutschlandfunk, Berlin produced a radio portrait of him in September, 2003. Anton has also performed concerti with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at the 2001 Aldeburgh festival and the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra. He is unique in the UK through his use of the curved bow (BACH-Bogen), which he is using to develop new repertoire for the cello. From 2005-7 he was New Music Fellow at King’s College, Cambridge and Kettle’s Yard Gallery. Anton is the subject of four films (FoxFire Eins) by the renowned artist-filmmaker Jayne Parker. Anton is also active as a film and sound artist, his work has been shown in Holland (Lux Nijmegen), CAC, Vilnius, Duisburg (EarPort), Austria, (Sammlung Essl), Wien Modern, The Slade School of Art, Kettle’s Yard Gallery, Cambridge Film Festival and Rational Rec. London. His work has been published in Musiktexte, Cologne, design Magazine and the book SoundVisions (Pfau-Verlag, Saarbrucken, 2005). Anton Lukoszevieze is founder and director of the ensemble Apartment House, a member of the radical noise group Zeitkratzer and recently made his contemporary dance debut with the Vincent Dance Company in Broken Chords, Dusseldorf 2008.
“Elegantly balancing sensuous melodicism and spacious austerity of form, Peter Garland’s string quartets are alluring and inviting, their carefully-wrought complexity often hidden within a luminous transparency.
“String Quartet No. 1, ‘In Praise of Poor Scholars,’ takes inspiration and title from a poem by T’ao Ch’ien. Like that ancient Chinese nature poem, it carries a sense of strong epiphany tinged with autumnal melancholy. Throughout the quartet, appealing and epigrammatic cells of melody are treated to the dance-inspired repeats and variations of European Renaissance-era forms and structures. In this, the work is often reminiscent of Lou Harrison (an avowed crucial influence.) But Garland has his own way of framing those melodic epigrams with a compelling and masterful use of space and silence, allowing each line and pattern to resonate clearly and visibly—like, perhaps, Zen calligraphy on a scroll, or the poem’s images of a solitary cloud and a flight of geese. This particular confluence of eastern and western ideals is a signature of Garland’s style, as is the subtle suggestion of American Indian music in the pulse-like rhythmic ground that carries the melodic and harmonic material.
“String Quartet No. 2, ‘Crazy Cloud,’ offers more complexity, trying for, and achieving, a wider range of emotion. This is accomplished by the use of longer, more elastic melodic lines, and increased variation of tempo and structure. The piece begins boldly, the mysterious and gorgeous melodic materials arcing, staggered and terraced into upward motion. The second movement is almost ambient in its languid, moody spaciousness: the long lines and dark-timbred low-voiced strings create a hypnotic and exquisitely slow unfurling. An elastic sense of time and architectural space inhabits each subsequent movement, with gestures honoring Mexican song, blues tonalities and, again, American Indian ceremonial dance music. Overall, while the first quartet is pellucid and of-the-moment in its effect, the second quartet seems to ask the listener to come back again and again, to experience it from new and changing angles.
“Mention must be made of the string quartet that performs all of this music, Apartment House. The sonic approach they take serves both quartets perfectly. The group conveys great unity, each player contributing through timbre and phrasing to a sense of the ensemble as one resonant instrument, rather than a colloquy of voices.” —Kevin Macneil Brown, Dusted magazine
“Peter Garland has had a rich career…and the two string quartets recorded here show the imprint of his varied interests and pursuits…. The first quartet, written in 1986 in Santa Fe and subtitled “In praise of poor scholars,” takes as its inspiration a poem by a fifth century Chinese poet. Garland has delved deeply into the musics of East Asia, and he unselfconsciously and gracefully incorporates elements of pentatonicism into several movements of the quartet. He began the second in Japan and finished it in Germany in 1994. It, too, has a literary association; its subtitle, “Crazy Cloud,” was the pen name of a fifteenth century Japanese poet, and it inhabits much the same varied musical landscape as the first. Apartment House, a string quartet formed in 1995 and dedicated to new music, plays with commitment and understanding, making a strong case for Garland’s sometimes enigmatic musical logic. The group also has an exceptionally pure and clean tone and a beautiful blend. The sound is intimate and clean.” —Stephen Eddins, All-Music Guide
“Peter Garland’s String Quartets presents premiere recordings of two compositions—String Quartet No. 1 (“In Praise of Poor Scholars”), composed in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1986; and String Quartet No. 2 (“Crazy Cloud”), begun in May 1994 at Koninji Temple on Sado Island, Japan, and completed in Kreuzberg, Berlin, in the summer of 1994—that show related yet slightly different sides of the composer’s personality. That Garland , who studied with Harold Budd and James Tenney and befriended Lou Harrison, Conlon Nancarrow, Paul Bowles, and Dane Rudhyar, focused in a musicological capacity on Native American, Mexican, and Southwestern American musics and 20th-century experimental composers of the Americas is clearly evidenced by the recording’s material. Though a plaintive current emerges in the writing, Garland’s consonant music also often dances with joyful abandon. A key part of the music’s appeal is its earthy quality; anything but remote, Garland ‘s compositions suggest stronger connections to African, Native American, or Mexican folk music than to the conventional classical tradition. It reminds one more, in other words, of Leaves of Grass than a sacred biblical text, and it’s easy too to imagine the music rearranged for a vocal quartet, so natural and breath-like are its melodic lines. Garland’s music unfolds with a natural and conversational grace that makes it feel liberated from classical conventions.
“The first quartet, “In Praise of Poor Scholars,” which takes inspiration and title from a poem by T’ao Ch’ien, exudes a rapturous quality with clearly-defined melodies that sing elegantly and resonate boldly. Despite the general mood of autumnal melancholy that pervades “Rondeau “nouveau”,” the movement’s themes are brightened by jubilant melodic lines, while strings sing rapturously in “To the memory of Dane Rudhyar” and engage in Renaissance-styled polyphony during “Back to the 14th century …” The second quartet, “Crazy Cloud,” ranges stylistically further, encompassing as it does American Indian ceremonial dance music, blues, and Mexican song. “Sado” begins the piece with bold and assertive gestures, with melodic lines passionately surging upwards. The recording reaches a poignant peak in the twilight meditation that follows (“Mori (the blind courtesan and singer who became Ikkyu’s lover)”) where somber lines unfurl languidly like an ululating lamentation. After an energized homage to Mexican song and a bittersweet blues elegy, “From the Mountains, Returning to the City” ends the quartet with a brief reprise of the opening movement’s ascending figures.
“String Quartets exudes a wide-ranging and wide-eyed, even ecstatic character at times, due in no small part to the magnificent rendering of the quartets by the four Apartment House string players. In fact, it would be criminal not to comment on the caliber of the string playing, with violinists Gordon MacKay and Hilary Sturt in particular demanding to be recognized for the passion with which they bring Garland’s luscious and lyrical melodies to life.” —Ron Schepper, Textura
“There’s nothing intrinsically difficult about this music, except that it goes where it wants to, and when it wants to. To use a literary analogy, it’s in English, but it’s as if someone took a familiar short story and rearranged all the words.… but the more I listen to it, the more it grows on me, losing little of its strangeness, but gaining in attraction. The phrase “radical consonance” has been used to describe Garland’s music, and I think it is an apt choice of words.… Apartment House…play these works assertively.… There’s also a sense of dedication here—not to mention tonal allure—that suits Garland’s music well. Good engineering, and (thanks to the composer) more booklet information than is usually the case with Cold Blue.” —Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare
“So, Henry Cowell begat Lou Harrison and Harrison begat Peter Garland, in a manner of speaking. Each of them has been influenced by the culture, and in particular the musics, of the Pacific region, but to differing degrees. Garland’s inheritance is so rich that he treats it selectively and, like Harrison and Cowell, with respect though not with undue reverence, in that the aim is to make something new of ‘found’ musical material as its brought into new cultural contexts. ‘New’ is the keyword in the previous sentence. Garland is a restless, nomadic and often (one senses) lonely individual whose work makes reference to the musics of the distant and sometimes not-so-distant lands he’s visited, but his compositions exist entirely on their own terms and without a hint of pastiche or the uncomfortable feeling that cultural plunder is afoot. The high point of his career so far, The Days Run Away (Tzadik), a CD of minimalist solo piano compositions is almost heartbreakingly beautiful without being pretty or sentimental, and the String Quartets run a close second to it. Played by members of the celebrated English new music ensemble Apartment House, under the direction of cellist Anton Lukoszevieze, the two quartets, composed in New Mexico (1986) and Japan (1994), are elegantly constructed but with an occasional anxious or querulous edge, as though Garland found the harmonies curdling under his pen.” —Brian Marley, Signal to Noise
“While it is not stark or simplistic, the music has been pared down to only the most efficient gestures, and Garland’s affinity for Harrison and John Cage is at least as prominent in these two quartets as his work with Budd and Tenney. Garland’s music has also been described as “post-minimalist” because it shares several characteristics with minimalism, but not minimalism’s usual forms or processes. Compared to early Glass, for example, Garland’s music might seem formless or aimless, but it is also less contrived.
“In Praise of Poor Scholars comes from a poem by T’ao Ch’ien, which begins, ‘All creatures, each has a home: / The solitary cloud alone has none.’ The six movements…are a mixture of the Harrison-esque (the first is a ‘Rondeau nouveau’) and the allusive (the fourth is ‘To the memory of Dane Rudhyar’). This is not music for listeners who want strong contrasts and drama, but it should please those who are content to let musical events happen on their own and at a measured pace.
“Quartet No. 2 is named after the pseudonym of the Japanese poet-priest Ikkyu, who lived in the 1400s. In fact, Garland began this quartet while visiting Japan’s Sado Island.… Again, the movement titles are long and allusive, belying the mostly even (but not anodyne) emotional tone of this more than 30-minute quartet. The music unfolds at its own pace, taking its time but never outstaying its welcome. Garland’s multicultural interests are apparent throughout. For example, the third movement, with its thickets of pizzicati, might suggest gamelan music and also the second movement of Ravel’s String Quartet. Garland is not a postcard writer, though, and these allusions to world music are integrated within his own style.
“Apartment House, founded by cellist Anton Lukoszeviese in 1995 is a ‘new music ensemble of flexible instrumentation,’ meaning that it is not just a string quartet. I can’t imagine any group presenting this repertoire more sympathetically or with greater technical prowess. There’s not a lot of vibrato here. I don’t know if that is by Garland’s request or by the musicians’ choice, but I don’t miss it. It complements the music’s central paradox: how can the ordinary sound so strange? The up-close engineering lends every stroke of the bow both character and color.” —Raymond Tuttle, International Record Review (UK)
“Quartet 1 is partly dedicated to James Tenney…and also to Dane Rudhyar.… The music is modal and takes its cues from some kind of mythical ‘Early Music.’… The piece’s noble diatonicism has a stately, striking effect. The opening movement is a lovely ‘Rondeau nouveau’ out of the ’13th or 14th Century;’ it is followed by a set of elegant dances in Garland’s newly invented style. The second part of the Tenney movement is dedicated to Tenney’s wife Ann Holloway, and she gets music that is simply pure magic. The finale is an ‘Indian dance,’ bringing in belatedly the Native American-Santa Fe connection, but the work’s non-ending is an ambiguous gesture not worthy of this beautiful piece, which deserves a wider public.… Quartet 2 was written in Japan, its title referring to the pen name of 15th-century Japanese poet Ikkyu.… [Movement] II is a breathtaking ‘Heiliger Dankesang’ referring to Ikkyu’s blind courtesan lover. The movement is absorbing, expansive, and visionary. That’s followed by a pizzicato scherzo carrying the title of a song by a group called Las Hermanas Padilla. After a ‘Blues for Helena,’ the piece closes cyclically with another reference to Ikkyu. The references are obviously personal, but the music is authentically communicative and worth getting to know.… There is much to admire in these remarkable works. The composer is well served by this fine group.…” —Allen Gimbel, American Record Guide
“If what I hear on this CD, performed by the string quartet Apartment House with the natural spontaneity of a block party, is truly representative of the composer, then I’d have to say that Garland’s music has a beauty and a breadth of vision that transcends the sort of stuff I’d associate with the Nonesuch Records Mob (You know who I mean). I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard.… These two works are not string quartets in any classical sense, but only in that they are performed by a quartet of string players with a common purpose. They do, however, have the economy of design and the feeling of intimacy that we find in the best of chamber music over the past three centuries. We find here a love of richly layered, slowly moving harmonies and sweetness akin to sadness, a beauty so deep it hurts.
“String Quartet No. 1, subtitled In Praise of Poor Scholars, takes its title from a poem by Tao”Ch’ien (365-427).… The Chinese poems of olden times were accustomed to expressing down to earth feelings in terms of fanciful concepts. The solitary cloud represents the threadbare scholar who must wander in the elusive search for a princely patron (for the modern equivalent, read ‘arts foundation grant’ or ‘endowed chair’). The six movements of this work tend to have an evocative rather than a descriptive purpose: Rondeau ‘nouveau,’ Like an elegant slow dance, Back to the 14th century, To the Memory of Dane Rudhyar, Son Huasteco / A Walk in the White Place, and Like a simple Indian dance—elegant and eloquent. The music is predominately slow, with just enough variety—for instance, the alternation of plainsong and dance in the aptly named Back to the 14th century that the listener is never afflicted with monotony. Garland’s harmonies weave their own spell of peace and serenity, perhaps evoking also the immense beauty and solitude of the great American west.
“Quartet No. 2, subtitled Crazy Cloud, is built of more diverse materials and has greater variety of tempos that its predecessor. There is considerable evocation of traditional Japanese culture, if not actual melodies or rhythms, in 1, 2 and 5 of its five movements, Sado, Mori (the blind courtesan and singer who became Ikkyu’s lover), and “From the Mountains, Returning to the City” (title of a poem by Ikkyu). The first named begins with a surge of hope from all members of the quartet, the second is a meditation tinged with a darker mood (despair, perhaps?), and the third has a rising mood, concluding with a radiant burst of happiness. Movement 3, ‘Sueño en Rio Grande,’ the title of a song by Las Hermanas Pallida, has a south of the border flavor, calling forth lively, sensational syncopated pizzicati from the members of Apartment House. More syncopations are found in 4, Blues for Helena, though the general mood is subdued, almost overstaying its welcome before the fifth movement provides the satisfying ending hinted above.” —Phil Muse, Sequenza21
“In the 51 minutes of this graceful record, finely played by Apartment House, you won’t find an unnecessary note or phrase.… the first sensation experienced as soon as ‘In Praise of Poor Scholars’ begins is one of accomplishment, of inner quietude. The last verses of T’ao Ch’ien’s poem from which the piece’s title originates are: ‘Know your strengths, keep to trodden ways. Who hasn’t known cold and hunger? Those who know me: if they are no longer here—that’s it then. Why complain?’… The musicians perform Garland’s tantalizing score with agile susceptibility and ecstatic sentiment.”—Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes (Italy)
“When you listen to Peter Garland’s first two String Quartets, as played by members of the new music group Apartment House, you enter a world you feel you’ve been in before, but something has changed. It’s what he calls ‘radical consonance,’ which helps you get an idea of what’s in store, but as a thumbnail only. The years he’s spent with Native American, Mexican and Southwestern American music does also give you some idea of influences, and yet these quartets do not particularly emanate in ways that would point in those directions.
“The music often has a largo-esque, dreamy quality. There is a kind of primal archaicism of simple rural Americana or ages past–not really like the shape-note hymns that were a part of early American Colonial musical life and survived in various permutations in rural areas. Not really and yet there is something non-academic about the voicings and harmonies that follow a path of earthly “unschooled” expression like that. And yet it is a Garland sound and feel. The second quartet is a bit more complex rhythmically and sonically, yet both works work together to give a unified impression/expression, at least to me. And it is the sure hand of Garland that constructs a world that is not truly archaic in that the music is written in the full light of our present-day musical consciousness, and so there is a meta-presence there, so to speak, that generally would not be in some earlier musical expression of this kind, made for unselfconscious social music making in a local place. That is inevitable and not necessarily a bad thing, of course.
“These are highly original, very moving, beautiful works. They have their own logic, primal but transcendent. If it’s post-anything, it’s also pre-post-anything as well. What’s important is the listening experience. You tend to savor each intervalic expression, each harmonic foundation as somehow looking back, forward and inside the memory-self to a place that gives us pause, brings us to a place before most everything was what it is today or when it will be what it currently is not. It’s music that is the opposite of a cell phone. It does only one thing. It doesn’t add things to the one thing but continues the thing until it has been made existent…then it goes on…to do another thing something like the first thing without being in any way identical. So there is nothing in the way of classical form going on here that I can discern, nor is there a collage collation of many things getting short spaces to be themselves. It’s not either.These are landmark string quartets of our current era. Very highly recommended.” —Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review