Over the last few years American contemporary classical prodigy Peter Broderick has released several albums intended to soundtrack a multitude of different concepts, happenings and people. This began in 2009 with the limited edition release of the enigmatically titled Music For A Sleeping Sculpture of Peter Broderick, soon followed by Music For Falling Trees. 2010 saw him move on to Music for Contemporary Dance and Music For Congregation. Throw in the fact that Broderick has also released other non-conceptual, instrumental material alongside song-based albums whilst also collaborating with other artists and you begin to get an idea of how prolific a composer/musician he is.
He has now returned to offer a soundtrack for Confluence, a documentary film by Jennifer Anderson and Vernon Lot. The film documents several cases of missing and murdered young girls in Idaho in the 1980s which could be traced back to one individual without there ever being sufficient evidence for him to be charged. Broderick’s resultant score is a suitably thoughtful, respectful and, in places, dark piece of work. Even if Music For Confluence had not been specifically created for a film of this name, it would arguably remain an appropriate title, going some way to capturing the coming together and merging of ideas and themes that currently takes place in the genre of modern classical music.
The track names on Music For Confluence themselves seem to piece together a basic outline to the story. This is further supported by the album cover art – a collection of images of various locations, presumably linking in with the narrative of the film (it has just received its first screenings in the US). The music itself is epitomised by shifting moods and a wider breadth of timbre than much of his previous work.
It opens with In The Valley Itself, glowing embers of slow electric guitar entangling with the strings as a female vocal plays out on top. We Didn’t Find Anything involves taut, quivering strings supporting a ruminative piano line before gradually occupying more opaque ground. Some Fisherman On The Snake River sees the reappearance of themes established in the opening piece, this time submerged in a wash of understated acoustic guitar.
We Enjoyed Life Together features some delicate Arvo Pärt-like piano, and equally would not sound out of place on the latest release by labelmate Nils Frahm, the close-up style of recording lending the piece an even frostier quality. Indeed, as with much in the modern classical canon, musically the temperature of the album is decidedly cold.
It Wasn’t A Deer Skull comes close to matching the gracefully developing minimalism of lesser know Latvian composer Peteris Vasks whilst the sound of a keys being pressed on a typewriter during He Was Inside That Building recall Max Richter circa The Blue Notebooks. In some ways it is hard not to compare modern classical musicians to each other, such is the sense of shared identity and belonging.
The Person Of Interest sees the biggest departure musically, capturing the anxiety inherent in the storyline in stormy, unsettling fashion. Conveying darkness is not something that modern classical particularly excels at, but this is an exception. It also sounds like a piece Michael Nyman could have written. Final track Old Time features Broderick’s soft vocals and can be viewed as a kind of musical postscript, allowing the listener to reflect on what has just passed.
Erased Tapes have enjoyed an excellent year to date, already having given us the emotive beauty of Felt by Nils Frahm and the post-minimalist sadness of the debut release by A Winged Victory For The Sullen. Music For Confluence is of a similarly high standard, an evocative album of considerable depth that beautifully completes the triangle.