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(E) Music in NYTimes
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  01/6/2002 | Culture And Arts | Unrated
(E) Music in NYTimes
Nenad: This appeared in today's NYT and mentions this fellow Marshall as 
 
recording music from Croatian and Serbian Orthodox Churches in Dubrovnik. 
 
Marshall brother-in-law, Francis Tomasic, was killed in BH - I assume 
 
Tomasic is a Croatian surname. 
 
 
John Kraljic 
 
December 30, 2001 
 
 
An American Minimalist Who Can Stir the Soul 
 
 
By ADAM SHATZ 
 
 
ONE of the most intractable myths of the classical tradition is that Western 
 
art music is "autonomous," heroically transcending the context that nurtures 
 
it and lacking any genuine social function. It's hard to see how anyone 
 
could take this notion seriously after Sept. 11. Within days of the attacks, 
 
memorial events were held in concert halls throughout the country, vividly 
 
confirming an often forgotten attribute of classical music: its ritual 
 
power. I recently spoke to a friend about what we'd been listening to, 
 
post-apocalypse. At the top of his list was Arvo Pärt, the Estonian composer 
 
known for his haunting settings of Christian texts. At the top of mine was 
 
Ingram Marshall. To which my friend replied, "Ingram who?" 
 
 
If Ingram Marshall had a longer beard, spoke Estonian, lived in Berlin and 
 
worshiped in the Russian Orthodox Church, he might, like Mr. Pärt, be called 
 
a "holy minimalist" and count Michael Stipe among his fans. But reputation, 
 
like fate, is partly an accident of geography, and Mr. Marshall, who was 
 
born in New York and lives in New Haven, will never have Mr. Pärt's exotic 
 
aura. American minimalists, we're told, write secular music, while Eastern 
 
European minimalists like Mr. Pärt write sacred music. Never mind that Steve 
 
Reich, Philip Glass and John Adams have all composed major works on 
 
religious themes. Next to Mr. Pärt, the Pole Henryk Gorecki and the 
 
Englishman John Tavener, they might as well be children of a lesser god. 
 
 
 
James Patrick Cooper for The New York Times 
 
Ingram Marshall conducting a rehearsal of his 1981 work ``Fog Tropes'' at 
 
Cooper Union in October. 
 
 
  Arts & Leisure (Dec. 30, 2001) 
 
 
The contrast between American secular minimalism and European holy 
 
minimalism is especially misleading in Mr. Marshall's case. True, he does 
 
not write explicitly liturgical music, nor does he cultivate any priestly 
 
airs. But his music is some of the most stirring spiritual art to be found 
 
in America today. 
 
 
"Composers, poets and artists always feel useless in the wake of calamity," 
 
Mr. Marshall said in a recent interview. "We are not firemen; we are not 
 
philanthropists or inspirational speakers. But I think it is the tragic and 
 
calamitous in life that we try to make sense of, and this is the stuff of 
 
our lives as artists." A few months ago, Mr. Marshall's plainspoken sense of 
 
duty would have been almost quaint; today it feels just right. 
 
 
Mr. Marshall's mournful, sonorous music can be heard on two new releases - 
 
"Kingdom Come" (Nonesuch 79613-2), which features recent works for 
 
orchestra, choir and string quartet, and "Dark Waters" (New Albion NA 112 
 
CD), a series of pieces for oboe and French horn. Like the films of Andrei 
 
Tarkovsky, much of the music here has a quality of timeless lament, of 
 
inconsolable sorrow. Tenderly human in expression yet superhuman in scale, 
 
it seems to contemplate our condition from a very great height. Mr. Marshall 
 
enhances this effect by interweaving conventional instruments with 
 
prerecorded, computer-manipulated sounds or with live devices, like digital 
 
delay. The fusion of electronic manipulation and human intention is seamless 
 
but never slick. 
 
 
"Ingram has always had his own extremely distinctive voice," Mr. Reich said. 
 
"Call it subdued, call it Northern, call it tragic and personal. `Kingdom 
 
Come,' especially its opening measures, is some of the most beautiful music 
 
I've heard." 
 
 
Mr. Adams likened Mr. Marshall's music to "certain 19th- and 20th-century 
 
American painters who used landscape as an expression of an elegiac 
 
sensibility. There is a real sense of melancholy, an experience of landscape 
 
in Ingram's music." 
 
 
His work is a synthesis of three radically divergent traditions: electronic 
 
music, Indonesian gamelan and turn-of-the-century European Romanticism. Born 
 
in 1942, he came of age at a time when many American composers were 
 
thrilling to the possibilities of electronic technology. A graduate student 
 
in music history at Columbia University, Mr. Marshall found his true home in 
 
the school's renowned electronic music studio, directed by Vladimir 
 
Ussachevsky. "What I loved about the studio was being able to manipulate 
 
sounds as if they were colors you were painting with," Mr. Marshall 
 
recalled. "It was a very direct, physical act." Although he no longer writes 
 
strictly electronic music, he said his "impulse of working with sounds as 
 
color, atmosphere, and memory hasn't really changed." 
 
 
The other defining experience of Mr. Marshall's first years as a composer 
 
was the trip he made to Indonesia in the summer of 1971. In Bali he studied 
 
with the gamelan master K.R.T. Wasitodipura and learned to play the gambeh, 
 
a flute that he has since incorporated into several compositions. But what 
 
revolutionized his thinking was the slow, stately music of Java, which 
 
showed him that "time could be driven to an almost complete halt and still 
 
be interesting." 
 
 
Oddly enough, Mr. Marshall's music has virtually none of the Eastern 
 
inflections that ripple through the early work of Mr. Reich, who fell in 
 
love with gamelan around the same time. Indeed, Mr. Marshall is in some 
 
respects the most European of minimalists, an unabashed romantic who 
 
luxuriates in sound and who does not shy away from grand, even bombastic 
 
gestures that would cause some of his peers to blush. Where Mr. Reich and 
 
Mr. Glass rebelled against the 19th-century symphonic tradition, Mr. 
 
Marshall has embraced it. He said he felt "an especially strong affinity 
 
with the Northern loneliness in Sibelius's music." Both "Dark Waters" and 
 
"Kingdom Come" allude to Sibelius's tone poem "The Swan of Tuonela." 
 
 
Neither a process-oriented minimalist nor a neo-romantic, Mr. Marshall never 
 
fit comfortably into any camp. As Mr. Adams, a close friend of Mr. 
 
Marshall's since the 1970's, when they were neighbors in San Francisco, 
 
recalled: "Ingram was a fish out of water because his music was so romantic, 
 
so expressive. His example gave me a great deal of encouragement and helped 
 
to validate my own feelings about expressivity." 
 
 
The support was mutual: it was Mr. Adams who encouraged Mr. Marshall in his 
 
move away from purely electronic composition. After Mr. Marshall presented 
 
his tape piece, "Fog" - a brooding collage of fog horns, ringing buoys, 
 
wind, female voices and gambeh - Mr. Adams, then the conductor of a 
 
contemporary-music ensemble, suggested that Mr. Marshall arrange the piece 
 
for brass sextet. With painstaking attention to verisimilitude, Mr. Marshall 
 
succeeded in making the brass lines - the low murmurs of tuba and trombone, 
 
the sirenlike sounds of French horn - seem as if they were emanating from 
 
the fog itself. Composed in 1981, the revised work, "Fog Tropes," has become 
 
Mr. Marshall's signature piece; "Kingdom Come" concludes with a fine new 
 
arrangement of it for the Kronos Quartet. 
 
 
In recent years, Mr. Marshall has been especially drawn to spiritual 
 
sounds - church bells, choirs, the shuffling of feet in cathedrals. The 
 
title track of "Kingdom Come," a 16-minute work performed by the American 
 
Composers Orchestra under the conductor Paul Dunkel, dates to Mr. Marshall's 
 
visit to the former Yugoslavia in 1985. Wandering through Dubrovnik, he 
 
smuggled his tape recorder into services at Croatian Catholic and Serbian 
 
Orthodox churches. The recordings lay on his shelf until 1994, when Mr. 
 
Marshall's brother-in- law, the journalist Francis Tomasic, was killed by a 
 
mine in Bosnia. Mr. Marshall then set to work on the piece, combining his 
 
tapes with an old recording of a Bosnian Muslim gusle singer. 
 
 
More dissonant than anything Mr. Marshall has written, "Kingdom Come" is a 
 
troubled requiem. After a sumptuously lyrical opening for strings, the piece 
 
builds to a tormented polyphony as Croatian, Serbian and finally Bosnian 
 
voices are added. The conclusion - the repetition, and the dying away, of a 
 
left-hand piano chord - is no more reassuring. It's a meditation on the 
 
clash of political and religious faiths that may speak to American listeners 
 
today with an uncomfortable immediacy. 
 
 
A measure of solace is provided in the work that follows, "Hymnodic Delays," 
 
an arrangement of four early American Protestant psalms for Paul Hillier's 
 
Theater of Voices, a choral quartet. Mr. Marshall, whose mother played piano 
 
in the family's Congregational church, combines digital delay with more 
 
traditional techniques like canons to underscore the meaning of these 
 
prayers. In his arrangement of Jeremiah Ingalls's "Bright Hour Delayed," 
 
which asks "How long dear savior, O how long / Shall this bright hour 
 
delay?" he elongates the words "delay" and "long" through digital delay, 
 
which gives the yearnings they express an aural embodiment. "What I'm trying 
 
to do is go into the actual sound of the words," he said. "I think that 
 
words in religious texts that are very old have a way of connecting people 
 
to God." 
 
 
Ingram Marshall's music offers a powerful recreation of the experience of 
 
solitude that is very close to an experience of the divine. Reprinted in the 
 
liner notes to "Kingdom Come" is a 1976 photograph of Mr. Marshall by his 
 
friend Jim Bengston. In the picture, Mr. Marshall is seen from the back, 
 
looking out on the Sierra Nevada enshrouded in fog. It's a portrait of a man 
 
jealous of his privacy and humbly aware of the fragile position he occupies 
 
in the cosmos. As in his music, Mr. Marshall suggests that, measured against 
 
the inexorable forces of nature and time, we are finally insignificant 
 
figures in a vast landscape. 
 
 
Adam Shatz's most recent article for Arts & Leisure was about the guitarist 
 
Marc Ribot. 
 
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