Music From the Long Quiet
is the fourth solo piano album by Matthew Labarge that I’ve reviewed since 2007 (he has also released two collaborative electronic albums under the name Larkenlyre). It has become a popular practice over the past few years for pianists to soften the percussive effect of the hammers hitting the strings by placing felt or some other material on the strings to lightly damp or mute them. Sometimes this technique also accentuates the sounds of the inner workings of the piano, but Labarge’s album has very little of that.
The nine original pieces on the album are quiet and contemplative, but also very personal. “At a time when so many need solace, I hope Music From The Long Quiet might help some others experience the quiet well again…. The track titles are very carefully chosen, and the album as a whole -- as a journey and a narrative -- is more important to me than the individual pieces.” Labarge also mentioned in an email that he has spent much of 2020 in quiet contemplation, working through painful times of his own as well as those we all have been dealing with. “…when I became able to experience the quiet well again, I tried to capture the moment by writing and recording this album.” This music feels especially personal and intimate - a dear friend sharing his deepest thoughts through the language the piano.
Music From the Long Quiet
starts our journey/narrative appropriately enough with “Begin,” a very quiet but deeply emotional expression of solitude and of healing. During difficult periods in life, it’s very easy to ask ourselves “what if?” or to dwell on “if only…,” and “Longing” seems to very gently express that. “Regret” is often part of a healing process, and this poignant look within is as honest as it beautiful - a favorite. “Quiet” is more ambient than melodic, with a steady repetitive pattern that could suggest the sound of a clock or dripping water - something that seems prominent in profound quiet that you probably wouldn’t notice otherwise. There are melodic passages, too, making this one more of a concept piece that works really well. “Continue” seems to be breaking through to a warmer and more optimistic outlook as the clouds start to lift. “Compassion” beautifully expresses heartfelt tenderness and empathy - very minimal, but it says so much with so little - another favorite. “Redemption” is also on the ambient side with a rhythmic pattern that sparkles as it supports a very spare melodic line - another beauty! The first part of “Cathedral” is dark, ambient and more than a little mysterious, gradually brightening as it unfolds. The two themes are repeated and the piece ends with a very ethereal and harp-like coda. The last piece on the album, “Songbirds,” brings us back to the light with a renewed appreciation for the simpler things in life that are always “hiding in plain sight.”
As beautiful as each piece on Music From the Long Quiet
is, I agree with Matthew Labarge that it is an album that should be experienced in its entirety. Deeply personal yet universal, it’s an exceptional album and is available from https://www.matthewlabarge.com
, Amazon, Apple Music/iTunes, Spotify, and Bandcamp.