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Gary NOLAND (b. 1957)
24 Postludes for piano, Op.72 volume 1 nos. 1-12:
Philomathetique; Effete Stinkopations; De Rigueur Mortis; Pickthanks and Prickmedainties; Psychonipptions; Frivolization Asserts Itself; Perfessor Xeroxburger's Ravery; Careero-Phlegmatic Blah-Blah; Snake Blossom; Mr. Bighead Goes to Town; Index Dementia; A Ho, Ho and a Coupla Hums
Gary Noland (piano)
No recording information. DDD
NORTH PACIFIC MUSIC NPM LD 018 [71'33]

 

Gary NOLAND (b. 1957)
24 Interludes for piano, Op.71 volume 1 nos. 1-12:
Mumbo Gumbo; Gillygalay; Espresso Wagon; Push-Button Fingers; The Tempation of Saint Floyd; Pseudodoes and Crocodilities; Stupersize It!; It Takes Three…; Pterodactyl Dit; Follywood Bubble; Sevenupmanship; Confusion Worse Confounded
Gary Noland (piano)
No recording information. DDD
NORTH PACIFIC MUSIC NPM LD 019 [72'39]

 


 

What with the whacky titles and notes - clever wordplay or irritating whimsy, take your pick - I had a dire suspicion that the music might intended to be humorous in some way. I tend to have trouble with ‘funny’ music even though I often smile at some particularly felicitous phrase or device. Take Haydn, for example; silences, sudden fortissimi … hardly hilarious by today’s sophisticated standards of humour. Even if I didn’t think that Haydn is one of history’s most overrated composers, I don’t think I could raise more than the faintest titter, and only once at that.

I needn’t have worried. Whatever words one uses to describe Noland’s piano music on these CDs – intriguing, irritating, meandering, distinctive, inventive, structureless, subversive, all of those and more came to mind at least five times – funny isn’t one of them, unless I have had a major sense of humour bypass recently. But then I realised that the verbal trickery of the allegorical stories in the notes wasn’t intended to be funny either and the music is very much an analogue of that.  Noland subverts the words – ‘Harvard Buffooniversity’, ‘wacademic’ – and that’s what he does with the music. It is never what you expect. You hear all sorts of styles and influences – Beethoven, ragtime, Nancarrow, stride – often in very quick succession and often in apparently arbitrary order.

And that is my basic problem. It is seldom that a piece seems to lead anywhere or finish because it is logically over. It flows along, one pianistic device after another, until the time to terminate arrives. But that may be exactly Noland’s point. I had the strange feeling with many of these pieces that, about half way through, I had got fed up with them but I was then sorry when they finished. Sorry, and relieved, because some of the repetitive trickery can get very wearing. Sometimes the music seems rhythmically very plain; it could do with some swing, some jazz influence. On and off, there is a fair bit of ragtime - Noland has apparently got a big reputation for his contemporary rags - but ragtime is a four-square style a long way from jazz.

You can hardly be indifferent to Noland’s music and so I would urge you to try it. In spite of my frequent irritation, I will certainly be returning to it and seeking out examples of Noland’s chamber works and multimedia compositions. Music aside, speaking as a cat-lover, I feel an instinctive sympathy with the composer depicted on the front cover of the Interludes fondly embracing his cat. Illogical? Well, yes; I think this music really has got to me after all.

Roger Blackburn

 



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