The Basketweave Elegies CB0066
The Basketweave Elegies is in nine movements:
- Very quiet, still
- Bright, clear
- Very quiet, still
- Bright, clear
- Lyric, expressive
- Vigorous, declamatory
- Peaceful, radiant
- Bold, emphatic
- Lyrical, tranquil
Garland writes about the work:
“The title was originally conceived as a homage to the late artist Ruth Asawa (1926–2013), famous for, among other things, her woven wire sculptures. Also, anyone who knows me knows of my lifelong interest in basketry (and my collection!). My admiration for basketry and basket makers also extends to a kind of traditional lifestyle and art practice, one that is often rural, attuned to the natural world and the seasons, and lived at a slower pace than the urban-art-world-oriented modern artist (or composer). What difference is there between art and craft? There is some, I suppose, but what unites them both is the idea of doing something well. I want to write music that is well-made, sturdy, useful, and beautiful—like a basket—its beauty resulting from those first three qualities. . . . Formally I got an idea from the medieval poetic-musical form the rondeau. The work is in nine sections or movements. There are four declamatory “core” movements—sections 2, 4, 6, and 8—which are preceded and followed by lyric ‘refrains’—sections 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9. Of course, this being the 21st century and not the 12th, I do not follow the rondeau form in any literal fashion. . . . It is very gratifying to me to have William Winant as the performer on this recording. We have been close friends and collaborators for over 50 years, and he has been a preeminent interpreter of my music. He was featured on two of my first CDs, 30 years ago, and it feels like we have now come full circle with this. Thank you, Willie.”
Peter Garland is a composer, world traveler, musicologist, writer, and former publisher (Soundings Press) whose music is informed by his well-traveled ear and strong sense of personal vision. He studied with Harold Budd and James Tenney and maintained long friendships with Lou Harrison, Conlon Nancarrow, Paul Bowles, and Dane Rudhyar. As a musicologist, he has focused on Native American, Mexican, and Southwestern American musics and 20th-century experimental composers of the Americas, championing the work of Revueltas, Partch, and Nancarrow long before their music became fashionable and regularly programmed.
Since the early 1970s, Garland’s music has been marked by a return to a “radical consonance” and simplification of formal structure influenced by Cage, Harrison, early minimalism, and a great variety of world musics. His unique and highly engaging pieces have been played around the world by such noted performers as William Winant; pianists Aki Takahashi, Herbert Henck, and Sarah Cahill; accordionist Guy Klucevsek; and the Kronos Quartet and released on the Cold Blue, Tzadik, New Albion, Mode, Avant, Toshiba-EMI/Angel, New World, and other labels. Garland’s music has appeared on eight previous Cold Blue CDs, which include Moon Viewing Music (Inscrutable Stillness Studies #1) (CB0052), Three Dawns & Bush Radio Calling (CB0059), After the Wars (CB0044), and String Quartets (CB0031), as well as on four of the label’s anthologies (CB0036, CB0014, CB0008, and CB0005).
“Garland’s music seems to be about the sheer expressive power of sound itself. . . . I feel he is one of our true originals.” —Robert Carl, Fanfare magazine
“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.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“[Garland] is an avatar of an experimental American tradition . . . a composer of mesmerizing music; and in many ways, the musical conscience of my generation.”—Kyle Gann, Chamber Music magazine
William Winant, declared “the avant-elite’s go-to percussionist” by SPIN magazine, is a Grammy-nominated new-music champion who has appeared on more than 200 recordings. Among his recent recording appearances are on Roscoe Mitchell’s Bells for the South Side and Discussions, Joan Jeanrenaud’s Visual Music, Fred Frith’s Field Days (The Amanda Loops), John Zorn’s Malkhut and Fragmentations, Prayers and Interjections, the collaboratively composed (with Wadada Leo Smith, Henry Kaiser, and Tania Chen) Ocean of Storms, John Cage’s The Ten Thousand Things, and Alvin Curran’s Shofar Rags.
Winant has worked with and collaborated with some of the most innovative and creative musicians of our time, including John Cage, John Zorn, Alvin Lucier, Iannis Xenakis, Pierre Boulez, Frank Zappa, Keith Jarrett, Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, Anthony Braxton, Fred Frith, James Tenney, Terry Riley, Cecil Taylor, Gerry Hemingway, Mark Dresser, Barry Guy, Marilyn Crispell, George Lewis, Steve Reich, Nexus, Peter Garland, David Rosenboom, Michael Byron, Jean-Philippe Collard, Frederic Rzewski, Ursula Oppens, Joan La Barbara, Annea Lockwood, Danny Elfman, Oingo Boingo, Sonic Youth, Marc Ribot, Keith Rowe, Joey Barron, Bill Frisell, Yo-Yo Ma, Rova Saxophone Quartet, Lawrence “Butch” Morris, Henry Kaiser, and the Kronos String Quartet. For many years he worked closely with composer Lou Harrison, premiering and recording many of his works.
Winant is principal percussionist with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players and the William Winant Percussion Group and has been featured as a guest artist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (under the direction of Pierre Boulez), the San Francisco Symphony, and the Berkeley Symphony (Kent Nagano, director), as well as at the Cabrillo Festival, the Monterey Jazz Festival, the SFJazz Festival, Central Park SummerStage, the Ravinia Festival, the Salzburg Festival, the Donaueschingen Festival, the Victoriaville Festival, the Holland Festival, the Edinburgh Festival, the Ojai Festival, the Sonar Festival, All Tomorrow’s Parties, the Taktlos Festival, the Other Minds Festival, the Meltdown Festival, Lincoln Center, the Royal Festival Hall, the Library of Congress, the Barbican, the Kennedy Center, the Paris Opera, Disney Hall, the Miller Theater’s Composer Portraits Series, Merkin Hall, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. (www.williamwinant.com)
“Winant is a dazzling virtuoso but also a catalytic presence in adventurous music, a percussive dynamo generating rhythms, colours and textures that blaze life into visionary scores.”—Julian Cowley, The Wire magazine
“[Winant is] . . . one of the most wide-ranging musicians in North America . . . making a cumulative point about open-field maverick tendencies in the music of this country, whether it involves notes-on-paper composers, noise generators, rock improvisers, jazz-tradition players or whatever.”—Ben Ratliff, The New York Times
“William Winant is simply the best percussionist working today. . . . . Whichever piece it is, he is not afraid to make it come alive.”—Kim Gordon
“William Winant always plays his ass off!”—John Zorn
“Willie is very much responsible for my lifelong infatuation with percussion and remains to this day a true inspiration to me.”—Danny Elfman
“One of the great contemporary percussionists . . . San Francisco’s William Winant.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Peter Garland’s Basketweave Elegies begs the question: What is a rondo in the 21st century? When we have lived through the tapestries woven by Morton Feldman, Wadada Leo Smith, and Michael Pisaro-Liu, not to mention those of so many others like Garland’s contemporary Michael Byron, is there a point to such formal considerations? I find them comforting, almost as comforting as the nine-part composition so ably and beautifully performed by William Winant on this new Cold Blue Music entry.
“There’s no point in pretending toward anything approaching collectivity, so I’ll speak personally. A bit of comfort in these trying times is always welcome, so as Garland’s modal structures open out onto moonlit vistas of near silence and dance-like vigor, I’m afforded respite and solace. Part of it all comes from the vibraphone’s sound, thick without syrup and light without harshness, so many frequencies bottled and served cool. The inter-movement contrast is also mesmerizing. Garland himself invokes the rondo, and the slow-fast contrast does bring the antique form to mind, but only as substance. In fact, the form is even tighter than that, as it seems that each movement, no matter what the tempo, emerges from similarly constructed modal figurations. They can be serial, as in the first movement, or conjoined, as with the fifth, in something I hesitate to label harmony for fear of constructing yet another flimsy box, and don’t we have enough of them! The fifth movement breathes along in dyads, opening up on itself with the clarity and concision of haiku but with the ease of walking to and fro. Didn’t Rod McKuen have a line about buying tickets around the room and back?
“At the music’s heart—and heart there is, plenty of it—is a simplicity of spirit. As the album trills, arpeggiates, and ascends its way toward the mild conclusion, the invitation to the listener points inward. If a reflection of cityscape is desired, this music is not for you. However, if the urge to stop the train and get off for a while is what you crave, any of the recent Cold Blue releases will do the trick, but none more than this one. Each interweaving of melody and harmony leaves a space for the next, and yet connection is always apparent as one sinew connects softly, inexorably, to the next, and the next, as simply as peaceful sleeping and with commensurate certainty.” —Marc Medwin, Fanfare magazine
“Garland states on the inner sleeve, ‘My admiration for basketry and basket makers also extends to a kind of traditional lifestyle and art practice, one that is often rural, attuned to the natural world and the seasons. . . . I want to write music that is well-made, sturdy, useful, and beautiful—like a basket.’ His affection for natural purity, the eloquence of simplicity, and aesthetically elegant design are embodied by the nine-movement work, which, in his descriptions couples four ‘core’ declamatory parts with five lyric ‘refrains.’ It’s fitting that Winant, who’s appeared on over 200 recordings, is the performer, as he and the composer have been friends and collaborators for more than half a century, and the percussionist also appeared on two of Garland’s first CDs thirty years ago. How wonderful that such a fruitful collaboration has endured for so long.
“That the movements are related is intimated by descriptive titles—’Bright, clear,’ ‘Peaceful, radiant,’ ‘Bold, emphatic’ and so on. The opening ‘Very quiet, still’ instantly establishes the work’s poetic quality, and with the percussionist giving voice to graceful, at times hushed expressions, garish displays of virtuosity are the furthest things from the composer’s mind. Both ‘Bright, clear’ movements sparkle iridescently when their aural spaces flood with interlocking patterns. The ‘Lyric, expressive’ and ‘Lyrical, tranquil’ sections are particularly beautiful, especially when Garland’s haunting compositions are direct and free of unnecessary embellishment. In the sixth spot, ‘Vigorous, declamatory’ suggests a gamelan character in the chiming of its chordal patterns; ‘Peaceful, radiant’ lives up to its billing with polyphonic figures executed with extreme delicacy. At the level of pure sound, the music entrances when the vibraphone produces such shimmering reverberations. There are moments where it’s tempting to draw a comparison between The Basketweave Elegies and a prototypical mallet percussion-based one by Steve Reich; yet while such a move might be sustained, it’s also clear that, in this piece and the many others he’s written, Garland is operating within territory he’s demarcated for his own explorations as opposed to mimicking another’s.” —Ron Schepper, Textura
“A leading artist on Cold Blue Music, American composer Peter Garland (born in 1952), returns to Jim Fox’s label with a solo vibraphone work whose title is an explicit homage to the works of the artist Ruth Asawa (1926 -2013), whose elegant geometric sculptures of intertwining wires inspired these Basketweave Elegies. Garland’s style here remains faithful to his minimalist and genuinely communicative poetics. The composition is divided into nine movements, alternating between declamatory, affirmative movements and those that the composer calls ‘lyrical interludes.’ Far from the most experimental or maximalist branches of contemporary music, Garland works by subtraction, giving each movement a distinctive and immediately perceptible character, thanks to open harmonies, straightforward and direct melodies, and rhythmic iterations that the composer dispenses sparingly and effectively. The composition is performed by a longtime friend of Garland’s, the great percussionist William Winant, whose familiarity with the music of the American West Coast (I am thinking, for example, of his admirable interpretations of the compositions for percussion instruments of one of Garland’s main references, namely Lou Harrison) make him the ideal interpreter of this work which is both fragile—like Asawa’s delicate sculptures—and luminous.” —Filippo Focosi, Kathodik (Italy)
“Tomorrow Cold Blue Music will release its latest album of the music of Peter Garland. The entire album is devoted to a single composition, a nine-movement suite entitled The Basketweave Elegies. The music was scored for solo vibraphone; and the performer on the album is William Winant, no stranger to those that follow contemporary music performances in the San Francisco Bay Area.
My wife and I probably first encountered Garland’s music after we returned from Singapore in 1995. That was when we found his Walk in Beauty CD, which presented performances by pianist Aki Takahashi and the Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio. The trio of violinist David Abel, pianist Julie Steinberg, and percussionist Winant had formed in 1984; and we had seen them in performance at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art later in that decade. While we knew nothing about Garland when we purchased the album, all of the performers on Walk in Beauty motivated us to purchase the album. Since that time we have acquired a moderate number of Garland albums, the most recent of which have been on Cold Blue. . . .
Garland’s approach to composition has been described as ‘radical consonance.’ There is a simplicity in his approach to structure that escorts the ear on its journey through each of the movements that he assembles for a suite structure. The structure for The Basketweave Elegies dates back to medieval structures in which a ‘refrain chorus’ alternates with distinctive ‘verse’ movements.
The music was conceived as an homage to the late artist Ruth Asawa, whose woven structures figured significantly among her many creations. Thus, one of the best ways to approach listening to the album as a whole is to appreciate the interleaving of thematic content, both within and between the suite’s movements. (It goes without saying that Winant’s execution of Garland’s score contributes significantly to guiding that listening approach!)” —Stephen Smoliar, The Rehearsal Studio
“Garland is responsible for one of my favorite Cold Blue Music releases, Moon Viewing Music. Garland is fond of basketry, and The Basketweave Elegies is a homage to the late Ruth Asawa, known for her woven wire sculptures. Garland likes the craft that goes into basketry and sees his music as part of that craft tradition: do something well. I always like the vibraphone sound, and the nine relatively short pieces here are in the form of the rondeau. There are four declamatory, ‘core’ movements and five lyric refrains. . . . The nine pieces move around in various delicate moods, and the vibraphone sounds like a bell. . . . Joyful music it is most of the time, a bit sad at other times, and like so many Cold Blue Music, it has that fine spring breeze (that I long for on this cold day!).” —Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly (Netherlands)
“This is a CD of solo vibraphone music performed by renowned percussionist William Winant, a close friend and collaborator of the composer. . . . The very first thing you notice when listening to The Basketweave Elegies is the absolute radiance of the notes coming from William Winant’s vibraphone. Very quiet, still, the opening track, immediately establishes this purity of tone. The phrasing is simple – a series of singular notes followed by an arpeggio. . . . The final movement, Lyrical, tranquil, concludes the album with a slow series of notes in two independent lines that turn and work off each other. . . . the overall feeling is one of quiet serenity. The simplicity of form and the brilliant tonal colors of the vibraphone are lovingly maintained in this movement, as throughout the entire album. The sparkling clarity of Garland’s writing and the sure-handed touch of Wiliam Winant’s playing make The Basketweave Elegies a masterful summation of the elemental and the pure.” —Paul Muller, Sequenza21
“A world traveler and musicologist, Garland’s own compositions are at once steeped in post-minimalism and informed by his travels and other interests, and from those that I have heard thus far, can go just about anywhere within a modern classical context. The title The Basketweave Elegies was originally intended as a tribute to the late artist Ruth Asawa (1926-2013) who was known for her woven wire sculptures, and also the composer’s lifelong interest in basketry. How does that translate into music? At hand we have an album of compositions for solo vibraphone performed by percussionist William Winant. . . . This is essentially one long composition of four movements (the even numbered tracks) preceded and followed by lyrical refrains (the odd numbered cuts), for a total of nine segments. At first the listener might find this suite to be very stark and introspective, though repeat listens unveil the beauty and warmth of the compositions as well as Winant’s masterful execution. Being a purely instrumental endeavor, there isn’t a lot of repetition, and at 35 minutes total it may seem at first to be a lot longer than that, that is until the listener has been through it enough times to establish a degree of familiarity with the proceedings. The sound of the vibraphone alone by itself with its natural reverb seems to have a calming effect—at least on this listener, sort of an ambient tranquility that is at once dreamy and colorful. In the silence that follows that last note, one’s natural instinct is to press the repeat button; it’s a good, immersive feeling that one will want to continue to bask in. I can’t recommend The Basketweave Elegies highly enough.” —Peter Thelen, Exposé