The Generous Law
The Generous Law / 2022
album by Jack Langdon (organ) & Anthony Vine (electric guitar)
“I think you are writing about the generous law that exists in art. A law which can never be given but only found anew each time in the making of the work. It is a law, too, which allows your forms (characters) to spin away, take off, as if they have their own lives to lead—unexpected too—as if you cannot completely control it all. I wonder why we seek this generous law as I call it. For we do not not know how it governs—and under what special conditions it comes into being. I don’t think we are permitted to know other than temporarily. A disappearance act. The only problem is how to keep away from the minds that close in and itch (God knows why) to define it.” (Philip Guston to Ross Feld)
In the musty recesses of the Houghton Chapel at Wellesley College stands a large pipe organ built by Charles Brenton Fisk, a physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project and channeled his guilt into building organs. To access the organ’s console, one must step around a large wind system comprised of room-sized bellows that can be pumped by motor or hand. For Fisk, this apparatus made the organ “seem to be alive,” to breathe.
Its other bygone features—quarter-comma meantone tuning and 17th c. Danish and German stops—were added to give organists access to sonorities only found in historic European churches. Resurrecting this lost sonorous past echoes the design of the chapel itself, a braiding of ecclesiastical motifs with no historical center, designed to impart a sense of old-world sacredness. Fisk’s ahistorical mélange yielded something extraordinary, not a cheap replica or period imitation, but an instrument of sui generis chroma and expressivity.
“The Generous Law,” a new album by organist Jack Langdon and guitarist Anthony Vine, presents a 75-minute glimpse of the inner voices and acoustical splendor of the Fisk Organ. At the keyboards, Langdon crafts geometries of patiently braided lines and incisions, configuring the hues and shades of organ stops with an ear to the materiality of sound. Vine seizes on this, tuning his guitar to the organ and bringing his strings into alignment with the harmonics of the reeds and pipes, becoming an extension of the instrument, an organ stop of sorts. The guitar flows in and around Langdon’s angular counterpoint, like the shimmer between the divots of a jigsaw puzzle, illuminating its matrix.
The idioverse of Langdon and Vine is defined less by interior imaginations and composition, and more by the inexplicable pull of the organ, its guiding voice. Philip Guston speaks to this abstract, yet ubiquitous dynamic in artmaking with his notion of the “generous law,” the namesake for this collection. This music is not driven by concept, process, or system, but by the wanderlust of sound and time.
audio︎ (coming soon)
recorded June 18, 27, & 28, 2022 at Houghton Memorial Chapel, Wellesley, Massachusetts