I’ve said this a couple of times now, to people who haven’t heard Peter Ablinger’s music before, but who are interested: He’s sort of (sort of) like our John Cage. Which is one of those handy shortcuts you sometimes have to take in conversation.
And yeah, it’s a little hyperbolic, but it gets the idea across.
But it’s not just the ideas and sounds and themes of Ablinger’s music that suggest Cage; there’s a certain unavoidability about him too. Not that I think that every composer after, say, Voices and Piano or IEAOV is going to have to come to some sort of accommodation with Ablinger as they did with Cage after Music of Changes or 4’33”. The music world isn’t structured in that way any more. But there is a sense that every path you follow, if you follow it far enough, leads you to Ablinger.
Connected with this, and something else Ablinger shares with Cage, is a sense of completeness about his compositional project. That, like unfolding a box, every side to each new work has been laid out in turn and followed through. His deceptively excellent website is a perfect illustration and realisation of this. Pick a link from his list of works, get an idea of the themes and materials of the piece (transcription, representation, listening, subjectivity, community, space, technology, the environment, etc.), pick one and follow the thread to the next piece. It’s like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books we used to read in the 80s before the Internet existed. Choose Your Own Realised Sound Concept.
Today, while writing up next month’s Secret Music listings (soon come), I discovered his piece Piano and Record for the first time: a faithful transcription of the microvariations of a blank vinyl record for solo piano. Isn’t that just the perfect early 21st-century artefact?
I bloody love Peter Ablinger.
P.S. Can a hyperbole ever be a shortcut, geometrically speaking?