A few weeks ago, Johnny Smith ascended from the dungeon and said, “Turn on channel two. You might want to check this guy out.”
He’d stumbled onto the beginning of a documentary called Silence at the Heart of Things, about Oliver Schroer — a Canadian fiddler, composer, and producer. Neither one of us had ever heard of him before. By the time the film was finished, I knew two things: I was getting some of his music as soon as possible, and this was the happiest I’d been to find something I wasn’t looking for on television since I found myself watching an episode of a brilliant animated show called Home Movies very late one night back in 2006.
If you ever happen to catch the documentary on Canadian public television (I’ve read it re-airs every year or so), I highly recommend watching it. Even if violin-led music is not your thing, I don’t think it’s possible to come away from the film without a great affection for the man and what he was all about. This is someone who wrote more than a thousand original pieces of music, played on more than a hundred albums, and when he found out he had terminal cancer, instead of being crippled by depression, he drove himself to make as much music as he could in the time he had left. When he knew he was close to death, he played one last live show, billed as Oliver’s Last Concert on His Tour of This Planet, which is what the clip above is drawn from.
If you only get one of his albums, hunt down Camino. It was recorded in twenty five churches, at different stops along a thousand-kilometer journey on foot along an ancient pilgrim trail that runs through France and Spain. There’s nothing else like it. It isn’t classical music, or ambient music…it’s Oliver music. And if it doesn’t make you feel something, I’m sorry to say you may be a zombie. You wouldn’t think solo violin pieces and ambient location recordings could hold your attention for an hour, but as much as I like the other Oliver Schroer albums I’ve picked up so far, this one operates on a different level. It’s pure, unadulterated music of the soul, the likes of which you rarely get to hear in any genre.