Peter Broderick: Music For Confluence
Certain musicians possess the requisite compositional artistry and musical prowess to effect the transition in apparently seamless manner from stand-alone instrumental music-making to film soundtrack composing. One thinks of Max Richter as one example, but Peter Broderick clearly belongs in that category, too, judging from Music For Confluence, a collection of “textural soundscapes” (his words) the now Berlin-based artist composed for Confluence, a documentary film by Jennifer Anderson and Vernon Lot that concerns cases of missing and murdered young girls in Idaho during the 1980s.
With piano and strings as primary focal points, the album's thirteen pieces make powerful impressions despite their brevity and sometimes sparse arrangements. Broderick requires but two minutes, for example, to conjure a world of sadness and longing when multi-layered strings express themselves plaintively during “She Just Quit Coming to School.” There's a programmatic character to the album, too, as track titles alone convey the tragic nature of the movie's subject matter: “The Last Christmas,” “What Was Found,” and “We Enjoyed Life Together” capture a sense of a family torn apart by abduction, the wrenching heartbreak of memories, the dogged pursuit of a suspect and gathering of evidence, and so on. Both the title of “We Didn't Find Anything” and its ponderous mood convey the trauma and devastation experienced by a family whose child has gone missing. The cryptically titled “It Wasn't a Deer Skull” implies the skull in question is no animal's, while the music itself veers from mournfulness to wonderment. The dramatic attack driving “The Person of Interest”—a martial flow of psychotic string scrapes and percussive thrust—renders the piece the album's most aggressive setting and offers a striking contrast to the generally restrained and melancholic tone of the others. “He Was Inside That Building” is, as one might expect, a brooding, tension-building meditation, while “Circumstantial Evidence” is portentous and methodical, as if to suggest the painstaking nature of of evidence gathering.
Some of the album's loveliest moments appear at the start and end. Elevated by the wordless vocalizing of Arone Dyer and Broderick's violin playing, “In the Valley Itself” begins the album on a gloriously pastoral note that's followed by “The Last Christmas,” a melancholy piano rumination sweetened by subliminal electronic backing. The graceful folk song “Old Time” (apparently the music accompanying the closing credits) ends the album on a beautiful and nostalgic note, with the pure voices of Dyer and, in the lead, Broderick backed by a front-porch backing of acoustic guitar and violin. In crafting the album, his aim was to compose pieces that would “complement the building tension of the story without being too intrusive or suggestive,” and in this regard he's succeeded marvelously well. He strikes a deft balance throughout Music For Confluence in sensitively honouring the dramatic weight associated with the film's subject matter whilst also allowing moments of levity and hopefulness to emerge, too. Don't be misled by its soundtrack designation: Music For Confluence is as pure an expression of Broderick's gifts as anything else he's released, and it's as deserving of one's attention as previous outings such as Docile, Float, Home, and Music For Contemporary Dance.