Monday, January 3, 2011

Music for the Pastor's Study: Part XII. Alan Gowen

At the risk of going way, way, WAY off the charts of most readers' pastoral tastes, let me mention the late Alan Gowen, a bright light on the Canterbury jazz fusion scene in the 1970s, who died of leukemia in 1981. As a tribute, his band mates from National Health, Gilgamesh, and Hatfield and the North recorded a number of his charts brilliantly on an album entitled, D.S. al Coda (1982). "Arriving Twice" is the most contemplative, "studious" track.

Although Gowen's material is not generally meditative from beginning to end, it has many such moments, yet these are often punctuated with rather complex, meticulously scored melodies that are meant to sound improvised. In the study, I return again and again to a handful of quieter tracks from various albums. As with Lyle Mays' Oberheim synth patch that has the mood and the feel of a whistle, Gowen's use of old analogue tone generators and flute-like patches has always struck me as a happy sort of meandering. Would that he had left us more material.

Perhaps I would not have mentioned him at all, but for the fact that, some thirty years before "double rainbow guy" went viral on YouTube, Alan Gowen and Hugh Hopper put together their prescription for Two Rainbows Daily (I assume - perhaps naively - no pharmacological references here), which includes "Morning Order," the one track that has registered more plays on this pastor's iTunes than any other. I like the title as much as anything, but the simple combination of bass, Fender Rhodes, and lead Moog synth is sufficiently sparing and pensive, yet bright and cheerful, to serve as a pleasant greeting most mornings, a smiling "Welcome to the day!"

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