New York's multi-instrumentalist David Garland, also a graphic designer and illustrator, contributed to the rise of the new avant-jazz scene of the 1980s.
He played drums and then organ in a band called Ad Hoc Rock that in 1981 featured Nigel Rollings on bass, Bill Buchen on amplified percussion, Mark Abbott on "synthabbott", and at times also included bassist Bill Laswell and vocalist Shelley Hirsch.
In 1983 he launched a radio program devoted to avantgarde music.
Garland played keyboards, guitar, bass, accordion, synthabbott, flutes, bowed psaltery, ocarina, percussion and found objects on Control Songs (1986), fronting a stellar line-up with Guy Klucevsek on accordion, John Zorn on alto sax, Christian Marclay on turntables, Clive Smith on trumpet and Mark Abbott on bass.
His cerebral prog-rock style yields post-pop tunes like I Am with You,
dadaistic noisy lieder like I Am an I-Beam Girder, the
videogame-inspired dance music of Clocks,
and especially the cartoonish jazztronica sound collage On Planet X.
The Worlds of Love (1989), instead, was an avantgarde take on the naive romantic elegies of Francoise Hardy from the early 1960s. Cinnie Cole was the dreamy vocalist (also on banjo and synthesizer) imitating Hardy in tender lullabies like You Belong to Me and One of Two Garland played synthesizer, accordion, bass guitar, flutes, melodica, theremin, toy piano, "vibrolute" and percussion. Garland sings the theatrical Lonely Boy and especially the chaotic Could It Be You. Another future star of the New York avantgarde, Ikue Mori, contributed noises from vocals, drum machines, computer and percussion.
I Guess I Just Wasnt Made for These Times (1993) was a tribute to
Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, another
electro-acoustic work that again featured
Ikue Mori and Cinnie Cole, besides a string quartet and other musicians.
He resumed his series of "control songs" on Togetherness (1999), on which he played keyboards, guitars, bass, accordion, vibraphone, flute, theremin, bowed saw, rebec, whistling, ocarina, percussion, and was flanked by Guy Klucevsek on accordion, John Zorn on alto sax, Kate Light on violin, Bobby Previte on drums, Jim Staley on trombones, Brian Dewan on electric zither, Mark Dresser on double bass, and Carl Parens on cello.
The album runs the gamut from songs that are mere abstractions to deviant ditties like Blame, and The Best of Both Worlds could be a lost Frank Sinatra song from the 1950s.
There seems to be no center of mass.
More "control songs" appeared on My Vortex Camera (2000), a humbler work that "only" features electric zither, autoharp, koto, accordion, theremin, flute, psaltery, recorder, toy piano, guitar and bass. The songs are generally more
traditional, some of them
(My Vortex Camera, My Tiny Life)
recalling neoclassical lieder despite the folkish instrumentation.
The main accompaniment on On the Other Side of the Window (2003) is provided by Karen Mantler on harmonica, Meredith Yayanos on violin, Ron Horton on trumpet and flugelhorn, while Garland plays guitar, bass, piano, vibraphone, flutes, harmonica, synth, accordion, bowed psaltery, percussion and found objects. This time the sound is folkish, and the songs tend to unwind slowly, especially On the Other Side of the Window and How To.
He abandoned the eccentric orchestration of the previous albums for an album of simple songs for acoustic guitar and voice, Reveal (2006).
He played guitars, bass, flute, clarinet, recorder, piano, reed organ, banjo, bowed psaltery, mandolin, xylophone, exotic instruments and percussion on the simple songs of Noise In You (2007). It includes a cameo of Sufjan Stevens on vocals and oboe.
Conversations with the Cinnamon Skeleton (2012) features cameo appearances by Vashti Bunyan and John Lennon's son Sean, besides an accordionist and a string quartet.
Time Out of Joint (2014) was instead devoted to improvisations on a custom amplified 12-string guitar, mainly the 17-minute Time Our of Joint.
This led to the colossal Verdancy (2018) that features Kyle Gann on piano, Steve Gorn on bansuri flute, Iva Bittova on violin, Christine Gummere on cello, Jonathan Talbott on viola, Julian Lampert on double bass, percussionists and vocalists (even Yoko Ono).
The album contains many lengthy musical journeys that fuse jazz, folk and classical music:
Lux Temporalis (22:38), a translucent composition for droning instruments and sweet female vocal harmonies,
Caliban Calibrates the Ecosystem (16:53), a sort of slow-motion psychedelic-jazz jam,
Monteverdi's Lamento della Ninfa (17:29), that reinvents a renaissance madrigal,
PoviŽdej mi (14:13), a free-form chant a` la Jeanne Lee over gentle Indian tapestry,
Our Summer Night (14:26), a subliminal piece of deep listening that blossoms into a romantic sonata,
Color Piece (12:37),
Traveling Doors (10:42),
Wave After Wave (12:18),
Constant World Thrive (10:01),
the dissonant and tinkling Evaporation Adagio (10:37),
Garland started flooding the Internet with similar compositions, mostly duets
with his son Kenji:
six volumes of Vulneraries (2019-2020),
the 28-minute I Am the Whole Tree (2019),
the 22-minute The Red Wing Room (2020),
the 19-minute Circumfluence (2021),
the 25-minute Materials and Proportions (2022),