2009 saw two criminally overlooked classics from the young multi-instrumentalist Peter Broderick. The prolific musician put out two stellar records of neo-classical and lo-fi songs, became a touring member of the Danish outfit Efterklang, moved to Denmark and is putting out a release with TOME fav. Machinefabriek later this year.
4 Track Songs – I kind of go crazy over things like this. I love the idea of self-prescribed limitations within recordings like TuNe-YaRdS n0-fi recording or Angil/Hiddntracks Oulipo like refusal to use the letter “E” in writing their album. Originally released in 2006 the story goes like this. Peter Broderick wanted to make an album exclusively using the range of the 4-track recording machine. To make this album he mandated that each track on the recording machine must be utilized by some sort of instrument. This should be a home-run for someone who loops at least 4 instruments on every live song right? The limitation, for Peter, is not in having to find a place to put that 3rd or 4th instrument over a simple guitar line. The limitation is not putting the 5th or 6th instrumental flourish in to accompany the track. The results are beautiful string, piano, banjo and guitar arrangements stripped down to the bare essentials and recorded with all the fuzzy warmth of analog tape. The songs sound purposefully minimal and simple, the sort of fragile beauty perfect for accompaniment on fall drives and reading in parks. His song-writing chops (which are featured prominently on his 2008 stunner “Home”) are very much on display here, especially in songs like “The Cold” which has the same minimal quality as some of the best songs on “Home”. His initial idea was to release this album for free on his myspace page. If you e mailed him he would send it to you free of charge. Unfortunately that didn’t work out, no one really bought it. Now, since it has been picked up and distributed by Type records people are seeking this album out for purchase. Weird. But it is easy to see why.
Songs For Falling From Trees – SFFFT is a collection of songs written for a contemporary dance piece by Adrienne Hart. The piece narrates what Hart describes as, “the piece is set in a psychiatric hospital and centered around one man’s struggle to retain his identity in the most extreme of circumstances.” Peter scored this piece after retreating to a barn loft for a few weeks and produced one of the most beautiful piano/string pieces I have heard all year. The retroactively written piece has a narrative quality that is beautiful in parts and quite intense in others. It is amazing that this album can pull so much emotion and narrative flow out of a play that he scored sight unseen . This stuff really fascinates me, the impetus of an idea or a theme and a musician retreating for a few weeks with a few instruments in a barn and recording something that is debuted in concert halls in London and abroad. It makes overproduced production and lengthy recording sessions in Hawaii or some tropical locale seem like a joke. Without ever seeing the piece the album stands alone as a delightful and solemn listening experience.
Classical music in 2009 has been brought down from it’s lofty place among concert halls and dusty corners of the library into it’s rightful place among listeners who want to connect with something on a purely emotional and intellectual level. Composers like Peter Broderick are forging a new path that takes classical music out of it’s perceived irrelevancy and back into the hands of young musicians willing to move beyond the tag of instrumental music as “classical” into something more amorphous and exciting. A live show by Peter Broderick is not to be missed.