I haven't taken Eban Schletter's new CD off the player for
a couple of
weeks, except to replace it with Glenn Gould's recording
of Bach's organ
fugues (The Gould Variations-The Best of Glenn Gould's Bach
Classics] ), and an album of silent movie accompaniments
course, the Eraserhead soundtrack--with its Fats Waller
"Digah's Stomp" is a treat).
I was playing cards with my girlfriend with The Civilian
playing in the
background. She lost handily, which rarely happens (I had
myself against distraction by having already listened to
it several times);
she didn't grouse about losing, which never happens. Therefore,
not the only one affected by this CD. I'm impressed.
The danger of working in certain formats and media is that
have left such an indelible stamp that everything done in
that everything done in that format subsequently is compared
artist. In pipe organs, using the fugue format, the name
that is always
mentioned is Bach (unless you're a critic, in which case
you have to show
off the two or three music history classes you took, and
Buxtehude for Jeopardy points). It is therefore inevitable
Civilian will be compared to Bach. Fine. It's a good comparison.
more than holds its own. (One silly thing critics seem to
love to do
is to tease out all the influences in a piece of work. Take
a critic to
see Chicken Run and s/he'll be busy talking about The Great
or Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom , or Bridge over
Kwai . This can be irritating as hell to those trying to
enjoy the brilliant
animation. It's also reductionist. It mistakes a whole work
collection of borrowed parts.) Music critics like to listen
for rif fs and
flourishes borrowed from other artists. Well, anyone who
accuse Mr. Schletter of simply having swiped Bach chops
to autofornicate; I've been bombarded of late by music that
to ape Bacharach and Paul Williams. No one is without influences;
least one should try to have the choicest available ones.
an artist transcends those influences and creates genuinely
--as Mr. Schletter has done here--then comparisons are meaningless.
Mr. Schletter has a strong background in soundtracks. He
a sense of drama: pipe organ is nothing if not dramatic,
everything from a Rollerball stadium to Captain Nemo's bridge
the Paris Opera after dark to a calliope-accompanied circus
to a dark
theater equipped with the mighty Wurlitzer. The instrument
at least in these hands.
Just in case the music alone weren't quite enough, a quatrain
accompanies each of the eleven pieces. Each poem matches
accompanying piece in mood, but steps lightly out of the
the music, its brevity a bow. When you're listening to composition
this complete, the words are an hors d'oeuvre to a banquet--they
sharpen the appetite, but they are not the main course.