Monday, February 7, 2011

Willis M. Gault "Viola d'Amore with String Orchestra" (The Ancient Instrument Society of Washington, DC)

My opening gambit is what I consider the jewel of my collection. Inasmuch as records are not just records, this is my favorite record. The cover is just beautiful: we see Monsieur Gault in his woodshop, lit only by his shoplight (unflattering), smiling triumphantly with his prized viola d'amore resting on his knee. Amidst the dross and disappointment of the $2 bin, this record shone like a beacon and I could barely keep from crying. The single side of music is both unexceptional and deeply satisfying; the poor recording obscures the distinctiveness of the viola d'amore (a baroque viol with sympathetic strings) entirely but the amateurish enthusiasm of the performances (instrument-building is the primary passion here) more than saves it. With all that in mind, the label's plainness carries its own emotional charge and I would have it no other way.
I could keep going but Richard Brautigan sums it up more nicely than I could:
"It looked like a fairytale functioning happily in the post-World War II gothic of America before television crippled the imagination of America and turned people indoors and away from living out their own fantasies with dignity."


  1. Owen, beautiful Brautigan quote. Where's it from, I'm pretty sure I've read it before, maybe "Revenge of the Lawn"?

  2. It's from the end of "So the Wind Won't Blow It All Away"