Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Academy in Peril

One of the most delicate works in John Cale's catalog is the title track of the underexposed The Academy in Peril. It's yet another of Cale's extremely slow meanders around the keyboard, but this one is more accessible than most, in that the rests aren't antisocially prolonged and the piece seems to have some composition behind it rather than being purely improvised.

The first half of the piece is an extremely poignant and arching exploration of two-note harmonies. For that duration, unless my ears deceive me, only two fingers seem to be needed to play the piece - is this the reason for the title? As silly as this sounds, it's music of immense beauty, and I tend to forget to breathe when I listen to it.

In any case, at that point it gets all 19th century French Romantic, like Fauré or something. It speeds up and turns dramatic/dynamic, though still very bare and unornamented. This isn't as impressive, and it's a little disappointing after the sublime first movement. Still, quality music of a type the man wouldn't come round to again for a long, long time.

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