Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Baratz on Garland

Adam Baratz at Form/Content writes thoughfully about Peter Garland's Americas.

I can't overstate my debt to Peter Garland. I grew up in a corner of Southern California where new music was a fleeting -- but when so, astonishing -- presence. KPFK had great music programming from David Cloud, William Malloch, and Carl Stone. At 13, I bicycled to every concert of the last Claremont Music Festival (I then lived in Montclair, a very non-collegiate town, across the L.A./San Bernadino County border and south of the tracks from Pomona College in gentile Claremont) and heard pieces by Kohn, Leedy, Ives, Stravinsky that I can vividly recall to this day. I also cycled to libraries, in Ontario and Pomona, with much better collections of scores and recordings. Barney Childs was a presence in Redlands. Even strange old Gail Kubik brought Bert Turetsky and Stephen Scott to Scripps College for concerts. But this was not yet the real American experimental tradition, that came with a very special guidebook, called Soundings.

When I first learned of Soundings, I wrote to Peter directly and he sent me the only two issues he had in stock. The rest I had to read in the library at UC Riverside. Pomona College had a full set of Source, which was beautifully made and had an attitude, and a full run of the West Coast edition of Ear, which had character, but Soundings had -- as I think Charles Olson would have put it -- a posture. That posture was uniquely Peter Garland's. Peter did have precendents -- in the writings of Yates or Cowell, or in the enthusiasms of his teacher, Tenney. But Peter managed to connect the generations from Ives, Ruggles, Varese, Cowell and Seeger to Partch, Harrison, Cage, Beyer, Nancarrow, and Rudhyar, and on to Tenney, Childs, Oliveros, Ashley, Corner, Mumma, and finally to Garland's own contemporaries. I've run into Peter two or three times over the years, and we somehow got off on the wrong foot when I referred to him being in the next older generation from mine... but never mind. Soundings (alongside John Chalmer's microtonal journal Xenharmonikon) changed my musical life forever, and I think, for good.

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