The well-known slogan One picture is worth a thousand words, created by the advertising industry in the early nineteen-twenties and now a general cultural meme, could equally sensibly be applied to the field of music.
Instrumental music, in particular music generated by electronic means, has, over the last several decades, become of central importance to popular culture: you only need to think about Brian Eno’s “Music For Airports”, which helped define the genre of “Ambient” music and create a permanent bond between music and everyday reality. Similarly, the compositions and music productions by J.Peter Schwalm are testament to the power of tones without words.
Since 1998 and for six years, Schwalm worked continually with Eno, releasing numerous joint works, including the album Drawn From Life and the soundtrack to the film Fear X by Nicholas Winding Refn, all the while giving celebrated joint performances in Europe and Japan.
Since 2006, Schwalm has been repeatedly invited by the Punktfestival in Kristiansand, where he performed as celebrated live-remixer. As one of the most respected exponents of this particular art form, he collaborated with several well known music ensembles, including the Ensemble Modern from Frankfurt.
In 2013, the London New Music Icebreaker Ensemble commissioned Schwalm to write a piece of music from material originally composed by Kraftwerk; the resulting composition, Kraftwerk Uncovered – A Future Past, was successfully toured by both in Germany and Ireland.
The new album by J.Peter Schwalm, The Beauty Of Disaster continues this tradition, by exemplifying the suggestive powers of instrumental music, while drawing inspiration from contemporary images:
“I had been deeply impressed by satellite images of the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico while composing new pieces for this album. These surprising photos, which so reminded me of paintings, seemed to embody the very same deep duality between the dark melancholia they depicted and a continuous, meshed sense of hope, an embedded ray of light, as did the compositions I was working on.”
As such, these compositions of J.Peter Schwalm seek to balance the aesthetics of electronic with that of orchestral music. His swelling arrangements mark the difference between opulence (desired) and bombast (to be avoided at all costs), while his electronic sounds highlight his unique techniques, developed way beyond what is achievable by regular plug-ins. Many passages are completely devoid of beat, thus achieving a deep sense of contemplation in music.