Review: Feel Free by Duane Pitre
I love me some minimal music. I really, really do. When my soul begins to crave a daze, a drone, music that is more aura- than piece-driven, nothing else will do.
Philip Glass put a famous face to minimal music in the mid-60s and ‘70s. What makes this music some of the most interesting to study is the intensity of order, structure, and minute adjustments, despite the seemingly simple sound. In other words, what sounds effortless is more detailed than you’d ever imagine. Simplicity is built on immense intricacy.
This musical trickery—one that I’d imagine takes no small amount of some sort of inner Zen to begin to even think of composing—is only interesting so far as the music is great to hear. One can blather on all day about the fascinating choices in composition of this piece or that piece, or about what makes them theoretically interesting. The problem with music made for the sake of the intellectual stimulation of theory buffs is that, at the end of the day, no one wants to listen to it.
Thus, when I read the promotional copy for Duane Pitre’s new album, “Feel Free”…
An open yet orderly system intended to produce potentially infinite variations of self-generating rhythm and melody was carefully created for this piece, allowing the sextet musicians to approach these factors in a freer manner.
…I became a bit worried that I’d be listening to a cerebral composition project, counting down the minutes until it was over.
Luckily for us, Pitre seems to be conscious of this listener’s fear. He’s managed to create an album that maintains the intricate order (he appropriately dubbed it “musical lattice-work”) of minimalism, while still producing a melody grounded in the consonant, pleasant sounds of intricate guitar harmonics.
One of the coolest things about this album is that, performed live, it will be different every single time. Pitre apparently informed his performers to do as the album title says and simply interact with one another—or not—as long as they stayed within the musical rules he’d already laid out; i.e., do not clash sonically with the harmonics. The result is something entirely cohesive and daze-inducing, worthy of your most serene meditative moments.
There are five “tracks” (named “sections” on the album), although they don’t seem entirely necessary. The album is really one long track, each section transitioning seamlessly into the next. Like the best meditative music, the album starts off very sparsely, introducing the first few harmonic notes of the guitar, and gradually introducing more and more instruments. By the album’s end, the sounds have escalated enough to include several string instruments, eventually leaving us with buildups and resolutions so well-executed, your body’s ebb and flow will seem to have adapted to the music’s.
Pitre’s “Feel Free” is that kind of album that one must always have on hand, for the moments it suddenly becomes irreplaceable. You know the moments I mean—when you feel blocked, pent up, and ready to burst, and you know in the pit of your gut that if you don’t begin to cultivate just the right kind of aura for yourself, the kind that will allow you to be centered at last, you’ll simply burst. You don’t know how, but some part of you will burst. And nothing but the most appropriate music will do. When you can’t find it, panic starts to set in: I could have sworn I had some random meditation compilation here somewhere! you may say to yourself.
Breathe easy. Here is an album you won’t misplace.
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