Ingram Marshall: Hypnotic Clouds and Washes of Sound

The Writer of Mystical Electro-Acoustic Music Introduces His Work

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Some of Ingram Marshall's earliest recordings are of solo, semi-improvised performances, playing an Indonesian flute and singing falsetto to an accompaniment of prerecorded electronics and live tape delays. They are mesmerizing—thick, swelling, fragrant clouds of music.

His music has evolved over the decades, but the sweetest ingredients are still there. The love of Indonesian music survives in luminous, overlapping, diatonic melodies, inspired by Marshall's immersion in the gamelan, in pieces like Peaceable Kingdom for orchestra and tape (1990), and the lush atmospherics have expanded into landscapes of Romantic grandeur, inspired by Marshall's lifelong infatuation with the symphonies of Bruckner and Sibelius. And core techniques remain the same, as in Hymnodic Delays for voices with electronics (1997), composed for Paul Hillier's Theatre of Voices, where Marshall uses loops to turn melody into canon and canon into a great wash of sound.

Perhaps most importantly, he has retained an improvising performer's sense of timing.  He listens long and deeply, and organizes his music according to a mysterious, intuitive, but undeniable logic.  Even when he ventures into writing music totally free of electronic augmentation, his compositional voice is strong and clear, as in his surprisingly moving Authentic Presence for solo piano (2001).

Perhaps the greatest mystery of Marshall's music is why it isn't better known. Despite performances by the Kronos Quartet (Fog Tropes II, 1994) and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (2006), his music has never been taken up by the classical mainstream.

But its genius is recognized by a handful of connoisseurs.  John Adams, Marshall's ex-roommate from his West Coast days, remains a steadfast champion of the composer, and with good reason—it's hard to imagine Adams writing a piece like On the Transmigration of Souls without Marshall's influence.  The New Albion record label, one of the essential independent voices in modern music, was founded largely for the purpose of putting out a recording of Marshall's Fog Tropes for brass and tape (1982). 

And a generation of younger music lovers, studying under Marshall, or just downloading his records, is spreading the word: here is a major American composer, even a central one, writing mystifyingly beautiful music like nobody else. Have you heard this stuff?


More in:

Comments [3]

Beverly Lawson

'Hippie' was used as an insulting term by those who were not of that ilk. I never knew of one person back then who was called 'hippie' who referred to themselves as such. Often when the word was heard spoken it was preceded by numerous negative adjectives and sometimes followed by a punch in the nose. Thus, I request it join our list of the politically incorrect descriptions compiled that describe our fellow homo sapiens.

Oct. 06 2015 02:11 PM
John Jacobsen from New Jersey

Enjoying Daniel Stephen Johnson on Q2 Music! Thank you!

Mar. 11 2012 10:03 PM
nancy ryan from New Mexico

I have just discovered you from Taos, N.M. Clouds of thank yous and speaking of clouds how about the great and too little played David Behrman? best, Nancy Ryan

Mar. 11 2012 06:11 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Follow WQXR 







About Q2 Music

Q2 Music is WQXR’s multiplatform home for musical discovery and dynamic new classical music from trailblazing composers, ensembles and leading New York new-music venues. Q2 Music's 24/7 stream lives online at and is accessible via the free WQXR app.


Follow Q2 Music