Luke Gullickson — piano
Ben Hjertmann — guitar / pedal steel
Chris Fisher-Lochhead — viola
“The question arises: why, in a book written by a composer with music as a focus, am I discussing at such length my ramblings in the Oaxacan mountains? With little or no references to music? ‘Composers must experiment with life, first’ wrote Dane Rudhyar some fifty years ago—and that answers the question. If I talk about life so consistently (my own, naturally, the only one I know), it is to bring it all back, in the end, to music…Those places, the traveling, the views, encounters, the hours have changed the music. The stream of peoples, lone houses, flowers, birds, gorges—there is a music to all that, the silence of those afternoon hours…In the Oaxacan sierra I have felt most distant from everything/everyone I know, most alone with myself and 'all my road,' alone with my creative voice. An absolute state, the passing landscape its indecipherable record…and music? Could my own, or the cultures I proclaim, stand up to the silence of these ranges, one stretching away from another to a high distant horizon? What culture, but these distances, this silence, the sun beating down from above?”
— Peter Garland
These pieces come from two periods of musical and personal refocusing. In October 2010 at the Banff Centre I began to start each day with a free improvisation at the piano. I would record these improvisations, and as I returned to them in listening, I found myself gravitating to several favorites. These I transcribed, then edited and shaped into compositions—in some cases changing almost nothing from the original. This was the first book of Piano Inventions (tracks 1-3). The titles come from spontaneous recollections and associations that occurred during the original improvisations.
"My soul didn't know what kind of picture to paint," said the abstract expressionist painter in Kurt Vonnegut's novel Bluebeard, "but my meat sure did."
Five years later, working at my home studio in Albuquerque, I started recording daily improvisations again. The studio was a converted garage in my North Valley backyard. The trees whispered above the acequia. The rest of these pieces come from that time; tracks 5-7 constitute Book Two of the Piano Inventions.
These were intensely solitary periods. One long improvisation, recorded during a weekend-long fast in November 2010, was called “The Well.” I wanted to climb out of the well in the company of friends, so I wrote a couple of three-part inventions to round things out, and I thank Ben and Chris for being my “band” for this go-round. From free improvisation to notated composition we circle back around to these two’s extemporaneous additions. I told them to add a layer, and that they were the Luke Gullickson Trio. That’s about it.
Tallest, widest thanks to the Banff Centre, where I started over, and especially to Henk Guittart, for passing me the Thesaurus; to David Pay, for teaching me about cars; and to Sarah Rothenberg, who heard “trees of the field” at an early stage and suggested it might be an Invention.
Lastly, because this note of explanation has occasionally been requested:
At Pinicon Ridge Park in the countryside of eastern Iowa there is a 72-foot observation tower crowning a place called Woodpecker Hill. In July 2000 I climbed it with a group of friends, and we sat at the top and talked and looked out at the forests and cornfields across the distance, the patterns of light and cloud. I was fifteen. The friends were summer friends, one of those cohorts that seemed desperately important while it was happening but soon, always blissfully too soon, would dissipate to the winds. Today I don’t even remember most of their names. But that day they were my whole world, and the tower rocked lightly in the breeze.
Piano music recorded and mixed by John Dieterich at Keller Hall in Albuquerque, NM
BH and CFL recorded themselves in Valle Crucis, NC and Hoosick Falls, NY
all compositions by Luke Gullickson
© by Two Labyrinths Music (ASCAP)
cover art is "Winter Nights" (2016) by Mary Laube