Ben Cosgrove writes music about landscape. He spends the majority of his time in northern New England but is always in motion: Cosgrove has performed in 47 states, composed music in the middle of the ocean and his tour schedule shows no sign of slowing down. His last studio album, 2014’s Field Studies, featured 13 dramatic instrumental portraits of landscapes around the country, from the White Mountains to western Kansas. “I worked hard to understand and articulate how certain environments struck me,” he says, “and tried to recreate those reactions using whatever musical sounds were available.”
On his new EP, Salt, scheduled for release this spring, Cosgrove pulls back from the lush orchestrations of Field Studies in favor of a stark, quiet, and graceful sound that relies heavily on his idiosyncratic piano work to explore landscapes of inconstancy and ambiguity.
“This is music about places where the land tends to come and go: marshes, rivers, tidal estuaries, salt flats, floodplains, frozen lakes, places where earthquakes happen,” Cosgrove explains. “I wrote this music during a time that was characterized by a lot of pain and confusion: everything often seemed to be all tumult and motion, and it wasn’t always obvious to me which way was up or down.”
Cosgrove found himself composing music about places where that sense of unrest and instability was reflected in the landscape: “I took several simple little interrelated, shifting melodies and knocked them around a bit to try and explore this idea. Sometimes, it can feel as though everything is collapsing, nothing is still, and you can’t seem to plant your feet, but it can be useful in those moments to try and take comfort in that ambiguity, or just to remember that the ground moves, too.”
“Champlain,” the new record’s opening cut, considers the fragility of the surface of a vast, frozen lake. “The places this record goes after the first song are sort of calamitous and fraught,” says Cosgrove, “but this opening is more to establish an initial feeling of a growing awareness that you’re standing on shaky, impermanent ground, however solid it may seem or how beautiful it may be.”
Catch Ben Cosgrove live at Open Door in White River Junction on Friday, April 7 at 7:30 p.m. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagra