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Annette Peacock: An Acrobat's Heart

AAJ Staff By

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The release of Annette Peacock's first CD in 12 years certainly is a cause for celebration for a number of reasons. She hasn't led an album since she recorded "Abstract-Contact on the Ironic label (such an appropriate label name for Peacock's music!), although she performed on Marilyn Crispell's CD, "Nothing ever was, anyway." Due to her reclusiveness and uncompromising devotion to her art, very little has been heard from Peacock until the present release of "An Acrobat's Heart," which was two years in the making. Nonetheless, she has remained influential from the sidelines in her own eccentric way. Even through the 1990's, various references to her utterly original music have surfaced in movies, in rap and in pop music.

It seems that the catalyst for Peacock's resurfacing—"resurgence" would be too optimistic of a word—is the legendary ECM founder, Manfred Eicher, who suggested that Peacock record with a string quartet. Never having done so, she must have felt challenged by such an arrangement, which led to a creative emergence with the release of "An Acrobat's Heart."

Even though Peacock's earlier albums for the most part are unavailable on CD, the familiarity from memory with her original fusing of heartfelt lyrics with bleak or even melancholy lyrics rings true once again. Peacock's implicit chordal development, seemingly always in minor keys, has found appropriate voice in the Cikada String Quartet, a Norwegian group which has recorded to cultish acclaim, as has Peacock. With a desultory development of her tunes and rhythmless exposition, Peacock expresses thoughts from a keen emotional basis as the quartet acts as a chorus of musical response.

Peacock's composition of the 15 tunes on "An Acrobat's Heart" can be called thematic, to say the least. Her reclusiveness may have resulted from extreme sensitivity and hurt because the lyrics without let-up describe the fragility of relationships, loss and the tentativeness of love. With intervals that take listeners by surprise or lyrics that remain unremittingly down-hearted, "An Acrobat's Heart" remains purely a presentation of the persona of Annette Peacock through her artistic integrity and her self-revelatory outreach for an audience.

To wit: "Take the sum of your own tears. Multiply by unknown years. You've been so brave, unafraid. Underneath you bare the wounded child." Or "Tho I love u darling, I love happiness more. So I can't give u my heart, tho it's u I adore." Or "My soul searches thru universes for you, but I can't say 'I love you' out loud. Cause if I do, I might believe it too. I don't feel sure enough to lose control."

This lyrical honesty attracts Peacock's enthuasiasts, and it's all there in all of its soul-baring intensity. So is her initialization and abbreviation of the English language, so fashionable lately, as is the punctuation of single words. For example, "Over." (Finality well noted.) I have to admit that ",ever 2 b gotten" is the first song title I've seen that starts with a comma.

Observations of Peacock's syntactical quirks may trivialize her music, and that's not the intent. The intent is to provide detail of her continuing unconventional approach to art from the early sixties until even today. Always breaking the rules. Always creating new forms. Always influencing other musicians such as Albert Ayler or even indeed her ex-husbands Gary Peacock and Paul Bley.

"An Acrobat's Heart" is cause for celebration, not only for the re-emergence of Peacock and the reminder of her originality, but also for the consistent and influential statement that she makes, sparingly and powerfully.

Title: An Acrobat's Heart | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Minor Music


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