Peter Wood is a professor of theatre at the University of Mississippi. He earned his doctorate in theatre history and performance studies a bit further north, at the University of Pittsburgh. Besides teaching, Wood remains active in the field – he directs and composes sound design works for theatre productions. He also records ambient music and sound art under the name These Liminal Days.
Woods latest is a 29-minute collection of four expansive works called Empty Spaces I. The notes that accompany the new release promise “dark and metallic spaces full of ghosts and a sense of foreboding… .”
Indeed Wood says work on the new material began shortly before his mother’s passing. Which is not to say that this is a mournful record; at least not solely that.
“I began these pieces in the final months of my mother’s life,” Wood told me. “[I] found myself unable to really communicate what I was feeling through the melodies and harmonies of music and instead found myself creating these pieces that felt empty of those elements. Perhaps it was an absence that was more felt than actually in the compositions.”
This music is spacious, but not at all empty. If Wood’s compositions are designed to fill theatres, then These Liminal Days is about making your living room sound like one.
“I hope each person finds a different landscape while listening,” he said. “But I often imagined that the tracks were like exploring empty space stations or crumbling cities – full yes, but empty at the same time. It was less about minimalism and more about an emptiness of the human perhaps.”
Given how far the tech behind music like this has advanced, there is sometimes a tendency to downplay the role of the composer. Wood deserves more careful consideration.
There are multiple similarities between these four pieces that contribute to a listening experience loaded with connective tissue. And notwithstanding that careful attention to continuity, you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised on multiple occasions.
Empty Spaces I may have had its origins in an uncertain place, but Wood has landed on a fully realized work of sound art.