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."