« Thollem’s keyboard flights unleash cascades of notes of seemingly impossible velocity and no matter where he goes tonally, it always seems right, fresh and satisfying. He should be on everyone’s listening list who appreciates great piano music. As an improviser, he inhabits a world uniquely his own, rhythmically, harmonically and formally. A true original. » (Terry Riley)
« Both my mother and grandmother were piano teachers. I woke almost daily to piano lessons they were giving. Together they clocked about 150 years of teaching piano. I wonder how Thollem would have sounded to me then ? Maybe the answer is on the CD » (Pauline Oliveros)
These are recordings found in a shoe box in a garage on tape cassettes thought to be lost. The album contains both compositions and improvisations of Thollem's as well as performances of pieces by other composers including Skryabin, Prokofiev, Scarlatti, and Bach recorded while in high school and first years of college. The newest recording of this collection is from 1989, more than 15 years before Thollem's first official release on Edgetone Records and Pax Recordings in 2005. Though he never abandoned music entirely, the years between were spent primarily in grassroots political activism and urban farming. These are the best quality recordings of the collection but still retain a very 'archeological' sound to them.
Extracts of the liner notes by Clifford Allen :
« Dear Future, is a collection of recordings that look back to Thollem’s development as a musician and composer, focusing on his teenage and collegiate years (1982-1990). All of these pieces are archival and most were thought, until recently, to be long lost. Thollem’s experience is diverse and in constant motion; therefore, these pieces are programmed in such a way as to reflect the variety of the composer’s involvements and the breadth of his thought process. After all, life and art are not lived bit by bit “in order.” Therefore, the pieces aren’t presented chronologically and two were actually waxed in 2008.
An assertion of Thollem’s repertory expertise starts off the proceedings – a gorgeous, deft rendition of a Scarlatti sonata. From there, the proceedings move quickly into an “out” realm with the prepared piano and feedback of “War Expected,” with echoes of David Tudor and David Behrman. Thollem is at this formative stage quite adept with the prepared keyboard – “Intended Consequences of the Secret Action” is much more gamelan-like, true to the early investigations of Cage and Lou Harrison, while the gritty piano-guts improvisation “Thin Line” introduces a stark precariousness to his music. At various points across Dear Future, he also interprets Debussy, Prokofiev, Scriabin and Bach – all with precision, depth and an occasional foray into winking oddness.
Thollem embraces minimalism and wry humor as easily as he does classicism and extended techniques, volleying between chopped and warped electro-acoustic music and more traditional keyboard studies. The fact that most of these pieces were recorded with seemingly inexpensive and portable equipment lends them an in-process studiousness, not to mention lo-fi charm. What’s clear, too, is the fact that Thollem approaches the instrument romantically and with a feel/emotion separate from what normally befits classical music and modern composition – it’s no wonder that the tug of improvised music exerted such force on his subsequent life and work. »