The “self-inflicted obscurity” through which John Kennedy’s notes describe Peter Garland’s scarce appeal to ordinary critics and audiences is not that surprising after all. The union of eminence and matchlessness is something that average humans obstinately tend to repel, particularly when music is the discussion’s subject. That a bright individuality is expressed by compositions whose predominant quality is consonance – though derived from sequences and conjunctions that were not exactly devised to sing along – makes an establishment writer’s work even harder. How can they collocate figures that – for their intrinsic nature – are not easily placeable within predetermined contexts, especially when they have carved their own niche?
In this CD, Garland shows two different ways of throwing light where mental dullness would typically affect the experience. Pianist Aki Takahashi, a long-time artistic partner of the composer, is essential in transforming the rendition of the six chapters of “Waves Breaking On Rocks (Elegy For All Of Us)” – a cycle of serenely profound scores emphasizing our perception of “togetherness and impermanence” – into a prototype of egoless art that leaves numerous vacuums for the listener’s consciousness to occupy. The harmonic colours are vivid, yet those chords appear linked to the empyreal aspects of introspective reflection. Garland may have marked the third movement with an “easygoing” indication, but the purity transpiring throughout belongs to the fundamental spheres of inner knowledge.
The rhythmic component is more conspicuous and physically involving in “The Roque Dalton Songs”, built upon verses penned by the namesake revolutionary poet from El Salvador – killed at just 40 years of age by Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo as suspected of squealing for CIA – who inspired the conception of a rather unconventional statement halfway through gamelan-induced dance and native Indian ritualism (Garland himself being not extraneous to certain problems, to the point of leaving his country due to political reasons in the 90s). Tenor John Duykers is the arrangement’s central figure, performing the lyrics in English and Spanish; the instrumental action unfolds at respectable altitudes, thanks to Santa Fe New Music’s attentive interpretation and overall responsiveness, both to the fundamental issues and to less visible, but still important details.