I have done as much as I can deal with with respect to revising my CV and inputting the info the university's "digital measures" software, by means of which our "productivity" will be judged.
While I was working on that project, I reacquainted myself with the playlist I had accumulated of the music of Peter Garland. He is 10 years older than I am and lives in Maine. He is someone whose music I had been led to because it had been referenced by John Luther Adams, whose music I had been following for a while. In fact, they were classmates at CalArts in the 70s, and studied with James Tenney and Harold Budd. This is a group of musicians that has been influential to me. Tenney, and to a certain extent, Adams (not to be confused with the John Adams of Nixon in China), have had more ties with official, academic music culture, and Budd has been regarded more as a major figure in the alternative popular scene. Garland's music is more art than pop, to be sure, but he has been less of an establishment figure than Adams, who has been a guest professor at Harvard and who recently had his Pulitzer-prize-winning orchestral work Become Ocean performed at Carnegie Hall.
A couple of weeks ago I went to Carnegie Hall to hear the Adams piece. It was the final concert in a series called Spring for Music. Part of the point of the series was that ticket prices were all set at $25, which made the concert affordable to wider spectrum of people than might otherwise be the case. I have a student who has worked with me on a couple of independent studies and who has asked to work with me again in the fall. In trying to come up with a topic, it occurred to me that I could try to introduce him to Garland's and Adams's work. I had been meaning to complete my reading of Garland's book of essays, Americas, and thought that the train ride to New York might be a good opportunity to advance further in that. I also brought the library copy of Al-Ghazali's Mishkat al-Anwar, which I had been inching my way through for several months now. In fact, I had started that book in November, which is the last time I had been in correspondence with Garland. (I had sent him a copy of my Rudhyar CD, and he wrote back to me and sent me one of his CDs.) I had felt as if my life had been on hold since then, as I attended to various duties and projects. In retrospect, I wondered how it was that I had allowed that to happen for so long, and wasn't too happy about it.
So, I got out of town and went to the concert, even though I was really tired. Before I went, I emailed Garland to let him know that I would be there. I figured that, since he and Adams are friends, he might also be at the concert. After I got back I got an email from him saying that he doesn't have much money and therefore doesn't travel much, and that he hadn't been to a symphony concert in 40 years. His wife has a traditional job and they live a very modest existence.
The title of his book, Americas, is a direct translation of the title of Edgard Varèse's first important orchestral work, Amériques, which is a ferocious tone poem about New York City, written just after the first World War. It is also a reference to the plurality of Americas including, of course, Latin America, which is often ignored in accounts of high art culture. Garland lived in Oaxaca for a number of years and there is a long essay in the book about his life in a small village there.
Some of his music is powerful, and a lot of it is elegaic. It's not as if it tries to make a point of being religious or secular, but there are many moments in which it seems to evaporate into an elemental place of spirit. As odd as it may seem that I brought his book and Al-Ghazali with me to New York, I think that there's a kind of light that suffuses the work of both authors.