Peter Broderick: Music for Falling From Trees
Western Vinyl

Peter Broderick: Five Film Score Outtakes
Secret Fury Hole

The powerfully emotive and elegant character of Peter Broderick's music has been thoroughly established in previous releases for Type (Float, Home) and Kning Disk (Docile), and his latest, half-hour outing on Western Vinyl perpetuates that tradition. It's a rather unusual work in that it's music Broderick composed for London choreographer Adrienne Hart's dance work, Falling From Trees. Set in a psychiatric hospital, the dance piece presents the plight of a man struggling to hold onto his identity in the face of extreme circumstances, and features four dancers representing the male patient and three female hospital workers. In keeping with Hart's directive that the score be written for piano and strings, Broderick created the material (in about three weeks) using minimal recording equipment, violin, viola, and an old, dusty piano (admittedly, Broderick significantly expanded upon those materials by using digital processing to generate layers of strings and pianos, and produce bass tones and drones too). When the score called for the sound of a ticking clock (in “Patient Observation,” for example), he resourcefully mimicked the sound by tapping on the violin's body with his fingernails, and used the distorted smear of a piano chord to suggest the electric treatment administered to the patient during the brooding “Electroconvulsive Shock.” Many of the seven settings are episodic, with multiple shifts in mood and style occurring within a single piece.

In “Pill Induced Slumber,” a melancholy intro is followed by an alert march treatment (suggestive of anything but slumber) that then morphs into rolling waves of chords and strings, while “Awaken/Panic/Restraint” begins with an aggressive string theme and rolling piano clusters before segueing into a haunted coda. Similarly, “The Dream” begins with a slow-moving drone mass augmented by piano tinkles and then follows it with piano and pizzicato strings voicing an alternating Appalachian folk melody. As peaceful as one would expect, “The Path to Recovery” finds Broderick playing the work's loveliest piano melody against a silken string backdrop in the slow and elegant waltz that concludes the work. There's a hint of Nymanesque minimalism in “Electroconvulsive Shock” but generally Broderick tills his own field here. Music for Falling From Trees amply demonstrates that, as a composer and instrumentalist, he's coming more and more into his own with each new production.

A commission of a slightly different kind came Broderick's way in March 2009 when Matt Clark asked him to create the score for a new short film. When the dust settled, the composer discovered that he'd recorded a lot of music for the film, with some of it not making its way into the final cut. Five of those pieces—cinematic mood pieces Broderick created using piano, violin, cello, guitar, and laptop—are now available as a three-inch CD-R courtesy of Italian label Secret Fury Hole. Piano is the main instrument here, with the first outtake a melancholic rumination that pairs keyboard playing with a soft, slowly-rising drone, and the fifth pensive by comparison; wondrous in feel, the second pits spacious piano accents against a symphonic string backdrop, while the third augments searching piano playing with string shadings. Only outtake four, a ghostly, processing-heavy setting for guitar and electronics, parts company with the others. Don't be thrown by the “leftovers” connotation of the word “outtake,” incidentally, as Broderick's miniatures are exquisite wherever they're found.

July 2009