American singer songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and composer Peter Broderick is a fascinating and multi-faceted musician. A relentless globe-trotter, the artist thrives on experimentation and collaboration with other artists and musicians. In addition to his own output of LPs, EPs, scores or commissions for several different record labels (Hush, Type, Bella Union or Erased Tapes), Peter Broderick also boasts an impressive CV as a music “partner”.

Either as producer, arranger or guest musician, he has “appeared” on well in excess of 100 recordings over the past ten years. Constantly alternating between piano, guitar and vocal or violin-based music, solo or backed by a band, Peter Broderick has released 7 full-length LPs to date, and Partners (Erased Tapes – August 2016) witnesses a return solo piano.

Peter Broderick - Partners (2016)
Peter Broderick – Partners (2016)

The inspiration really came when I decided to learn to play John Cage’s “In A Landscape” on the piano . . . I listened to a recording I had over and over again, five seconds or so at a time, picking out every single note […] The feeling of playing this piece really brought me close to the piano again, and brought new life to my own piano songs.

A mesmerising modal piece hesitating between scales, In a landscape was originally composed in 1948 to accompany a choreography for contemporary dancer Louise Lippold. The piece becomes the “pièce de resistance” along four other piano-based compositions on Partners, a quasi “concept” album inspired by the work of the American avant-garde composer and artist.

Fascinated by eastern philosophy and by his discovery of the I Ching in the early 1950s, John Cage (1912 – 1992) introduced the idea of using chance as a composition tool. With this method, the musician started applying “Chance Operations” by using a chart and tossing coins to determine sounds and silences, duration, tempo and dynamics in a new piece. The four books of Music of Changes (1951) for solo piano were entirely derived from this process.

These [chance-created] pieces […] were written by shifting my responsibility from making choices to asking questions. The questions were answered by means of I Ching chance operations […] in order to free my mind (ego) from its likes and dislikes. John Cage

On Partners, Peter Broderick recorded “Under the Bridge” as his “first ever chance-based composition, written by assigning different numbers to different notes and then rolling dice to decide in which order to play those notes.”

Also taking inspiration from the avant-garde composer, Peter Broderick wrote poems using mesostics, a technique John Cage used on Empty Words (1979), his collection of visual writings drawn from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau.

“Partners” consists of five short typographical poems written around the vertical phrase IN A LANDSCAPE with horizontal words or lines intersecting with each letter. The order for each poem was determined by rolling a dice.

“Carried” is a circular theme with vocal layers while “Conspiraling”, somewhat emulating the sound of Keith Jarrett in his live improvisations for solo piano, sees Peter Broderick freely singing along.

With its reflective walking pace, sustained reverb and key change halfway through, “Up Niek Mountain” was written as an elegy for a friend and also recalls “In a landscape” in many ways.

Concluding this serene and contemplative album is a wonderful cover of Irish singer songwriter Brigid May Power’s “Sometimes” from her own self-titled record released in June 2016. The album was recorded and produced by Peter Broderick.

In a similar instrumental vein, Peter Broderick also released the Grunewald EP (Erased Tapes) in December 2016 last. The EP features four solo piano compositions and one solo violin piece which were all recorded in one night in Grunewald Church. Chosen for its old piano and natural reverb space, the small church lies on the outskirts of Berlin and was a popular venue among a small group of musicians between 2008 and 2011.