The Origin of the
Mr. Show Theme

Let's Twitch Again

We Love The





The Civilian

I haven't taken Eban Schletter's new CD off the player for a couple of
weeks, except to replace it with Glenn Gould's recording of Bach's organ
fugues (The Gould Variations-The Best of Glenn Gould's Bach [Sony
Classics] ), and an album of silent movie accompaniments (and, of
course, the Eraserhead soundtrack--with its Fats Waller organ recordings:
"Digah's Stomp" is a treat).

I was playing cards with my girlfriend with The Civilian playing in the
background. She lost handily, which rarely happens (I had inoculated
myself against distraction by having already listened to it several times);
she didn't grouse about losing, which never happens. Therefore, I'm
not the only one affected by this CD. I'm impressed.

The danger of working in certain formats and media is that prior artists
have left such an indelible stamp that everything done in that format
that everything done in that format subsequently is compared to that
artist. In pipe organs, using the fugue format, the name that is always
mentioned is Bach (unless you're a critic, in which case you have to show
off the two or three music history classes you took, and you'll mention
Buxtehude for Jeopardy points). It is therefore inevitable that The
Civilian will be compared to Bach. Fine. It's a good comparison. It
more than holds its own. (One silly thing critics seem to love to do
is to tease out all the influences in a piece of work. Take a critic to
see Chicken Run and s/he'll be busy talking about The Great Escape,
or Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom , or Bridge over the River
Kwai . This can be irritating as hell to those trying to enjoy the brilliant
animation. It's also reductionist. It mistakes a whole work for a
collection of borrowed parts.) Music critics like to listen for rif fs and
flourishes borrowed from other artists. Well, anyone who wants to
accuse Mr. Schletter of simply having swiped Bach chops is welcome
to autofornicate; I've been bombarded of late by music that aspired
to ape Bacharach and Paul Williams. No one is without influences; at
least one should try to have the choicest available ones. And when
an artist transcends those influences and creates genuinely new work
--as Mr. Schletter has done here--then comparisons are meaningless.

Mr. Schletter has a strong background in soundtracks. He certainly has
a sense of drama: pipe organ is nothing if not dramatic, evoking
everything from a Rollerball stadium to Captain Nemo's bridge to
the Paris Opera after dark to a calliope-accompanied circus to a dark
theater equipped with the mighty Wurlitzer. The instrument is versatile,
at least in these hands.

Just in case the music alone weren't quite enough, a quatrain
accompanies each of the eleven pieces. Each poem matches its
accompanying piece in mood, but steps lightly out of the way of
the music, its brevity a bow. When you're listening to composition
this complete, the words are an hors d'oeuvre to a banquet--they
sharpen the appetite, but they are not the main course.

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