What is it about the notes of a solitary piano that appeal to me so much, I wonder? This 2 minute 10 second piece passed my cardinal test for new music – which is that it made me pause in my work and give it my undivided attention. I expected the piano pattern to lead into some sort of aural explosion at the end, because this is how music of this sort conditions you; and it’s great at building tension, this track. The bass notes buzzes into existence around the 1:19 mark, but that is about all the variance you get.
The album, though, is more adventurous. A blend of cello-scrapes and breathy flute notes make up the bulk of the initial track ‘Divided’; it feels like a conductor raising his hands and waking an orchestra from a dream of centuries, a single note that is sustained over 4 minutes and 23 seconds. ‘Close Forever Watching’ is a sister track to ‘Divided’, going through a similar cycle of build-up of drone sounds that scream and whisper and sigh one after the other. Similarly, ‘Fiction Dawn’ is a sister track to ‘Time Spent’, a lone piano wandering through tense passages of full of promise. ‘The Day I would Never Have’ is a 10 minute track that marks the mid-point of the album, and combines the tinkle of the piano and the hum of the pads. Beautiful.
The problem with this kind of moody, creep-down-your-ears-into-your-spine music is how limited a window of opportunity I have to enjoy it. The bulk of my music-listening happens in the car, and what really goes well with driving is up-tempo beats and melodies. I have tried listening to Nils Frahm in the car, and I find myself slowing down on the freeway, or holding my breath in anticipation; the low-register subtleties of the music do not lend themselves to listening while on the move. At home, music gets put on in the background when I am cooking, or reading; the former brings in the same objections, and the latter makes it hard for me to focus on the reading.
This is also not the kind of music you want to listen to with others, not unless everyone’s willing to cut down on conversation and give a song like this their full-fledged attention. That is something that rarely happens in a group, and also, it is hard to get a bunch of people together that like the same things about a piece of music, or even that same piece, for that matter.
Similar to this genre are the weird, out-there sensibilities of Toru Takematsu or John Zorn, for example. Zorn’s music, in particular, would drive apartment-mates, my girlfriend and other assorted animals in the vicinity out of their minds. It’s hard to take this kind of music in for more than 2 or 3 tracks at a time, for sure.
Deaf Center would make for great meditation music, or walking-in-nature music. I don’t do much of the former, but I should definitely get around to indulging more in the latter. If only to listen to more space-hippie music.