Let’s See What Happens

I met Peter Broderick last March at the DotMd conference on medicine and the arts in Smock Alley. He had just played a short set to a room of doctors. It seemed that not that many people knew him and he was just standing there while we had our lunch.

I have never quite shaken the notion that the musicians I love are a little bit other/more than human and shouldn’t be as readily accessible as Broderick was at DotMd. You shouldn’t be able to just go over and say hello. So it took me a minute. He was great. He has a huge, huge smile. I told him how much my wife Sharon loved his piece ‘A Tribute to our Letter Writing Days’. “No-one ever mentions that one!” he said, apparently genuinely delighted. He signed the copy I bought of All Together Again “To Sharon—Long live the letter!”

‘Tribute’ was from when he had just started singing on his records and I wasn’t sure at first, like I wasn’t sure when Kevin Murphy in Slow Moving Clouds started singing. Sharon was right: Peter Broderick has a beautiful voice, unassuming but full of character. (So does Kevin.)

I’ve listened to Broderick a lot in the last decade, since discovering post-classical music in the late 2000s initially through Johann Johannsson and Max Richter. I would have initially bracketed him with people like Goldmund, Dustin O’Halloran, and Nils Frahm, the melodic melancholic solo piano guys. Broderick’s early solo piano work is really popular; ‘Begin’, the opening track on his first album, has 6 million Spotify listens. He released that in 2008 when he was 21. He could have continued in that vein with great success but he is restless and he has been careful not to be pigeonholed. He is from Oregon but he lives in Galway now and I think you can hear it in his violin playing in particular.

Broderick is incredibly curious and his creative energy is unbelievable. He has released about fifteen albums in the decade since ‘Begin’, including an album of covers of Arthur Russell songs that emerged unheralded last Christmas Day. It is gorgeous. I have rarely known any musician better at conceiving and completing and releasing work. No MBV he. He writes, records, releases, then: Next! It’s amazing.

At DotMD, we chatted about the legendary Ukrainian pianist Lubomyr Melnyk, who collaborated with Peter on a mesmerising piece, ‘Pockets of Light’, from a 2013 album called Corollaries. Broderick and Melnyk are playing together next week in London to celebrate Melnyk’s 70th birthday. He was graciously appreciative of my knowledge of his work with Melnyk and ‘Pockets of Light’ in particular. (I’d named a Spotify playlist and a previous post for the song).

Peter asked if I had heard what he says to Melnyk at the outset of the song, a nineteen-minute torrent of continuous music, and I said no. I listened later. ‘Pockets of Light’ was the first piece they’d ever recorded together. Before Melnyk begins, you can hear Broderick saying “Let’s see what happens”. I loved that – as an exhortation, and as an artistic code to live by for a musician just obviously enthused by the sounds that are out there for the shaping. Long live the letter; long live Broderick’s intoxicating adventure.

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