“The Silence of Järvenpää” – Fragments of Voices Intersecting in The Night

Posted: January 23, 2019 in Music, Uncategorized


The indoor photos were taken at the grand piano, and in the library, where [composer Jean] Sibelius often listened to broadcasts and recordings of his works in the evenings.


Ingram Marshall
“Sibelius in His Radio Corner” (1974-1980)

Sibelius in His Radio Corner was inspired by a photograph of the Finnish composer during his “forty years of silence,” sitting in an armchair and listening to his own work being performed on the radio. “In his old age Sibelius enjoyed pulling in distant broadcasts of his music off the short-wave. I imagined that with all the static and signal drift, some of these listening experiences might have been proleptically like a modern-day electronically processed kurzwellen piece.” New Albion Records

  1. Nick Canfield says:

    That music makes me feel like Hal is just about to help me out when he’s actually about to take over the ship. Sounds like Marshall may have been a fan of Kubrick…I know I am.

    • I don’t know that Marshall was a fan of cinema. More than anything, he seems to have been a fan of the San Francisco Bay. Most of his music that I know is inspired by the land- and seascapes of the area. The most important of them, Fog Tropes, is a ‘chamber’ piece for fog horns. Another piece of his, “Prelude: The Bay”, was inspired by Alcatraz, and used in the soundtrack for a film I’ve never seen, Shutter Island. If Marshall has an musical precursors, they would be the generation of Minimalist composers who descend from John Cage and his experiments with magnetic tape and ambient sound. I plan to discuss this material at some length in future classes. For now, thanks for listening.

  2. Parker Law says:

    The Marshall pieces are definitely different from just about anything I have ever listened to, but I enjoyed having it on. I listened to it all the way through once, listening intently, and then I left it on replay while I did some other homework. Something about the constant tones and the vibe it puts off helped me focus on what I was doing (except for the change at ~13:35 before the church bells that kept startling me). The ocean was the first thing I thought of when listening to this, without having seen any of the titles, so it makes perfect sense to me that Marshall’s work is usually based on land-and seascapes. I actually love listening to lyric-less music, and the incorporation of oceanic sounds made this that much more appealing for me.

    • I’m glad you took some time to explore this music. I’m not sure your decision was the result of my behest in class or not, but it doesn’t matter. The point is not to like everything, but to try everything with an open mind. These days, what critics contemporary with and akin to Greenberg called the “culture industry”, is working around the clock to feed us what we are supposed to like. While that could sound quite a bit like Eliot telling us which poets are good and which are bad, the difference between the two is significant. What the cultural industry wants us to purchase mass-produced, easily consumed, and easily reproduced commodities, Eliot and Greenberg want us careful and gradually to develop a taste for what is utterly unique and can’t be easily reproduced. One definition of genuine poetry I have found instructive is ‘irreplaceable language’. Whether a given poem is or is not the finest thing we have ever read, what matters is that it cannot be easily translated, and its place cannot be indifferently occupied by some other piece of writing. Students may not like most of what we read, see, and hear this semester, and I suppose that is just fine. But I do hope to offer students while they are here in college an opportunity at least to sample and understand the real deal, and not some Dollar Store imitation of culture. Thanks for giving Ingram Marshall a try!

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