(New Album Review) Eric Schmid- A Channel, Dedicated to Michael

In A Channel, Dedicated to Michael, poet Eric Schmid has assembled an intimate artifact; the collection is comprised of every voicemail left on his phone between 2010 and 2015. The initial notion, according to friend and collaborator Michael Pollard, was to record all his phonecalls for a set period. But of course there were many inter-personal and artistic considerations to be heeded, and so the idea was abandoned. And this finished piece, released on CD by Sean McCann’s fine Recital Program imprint last June, picks up where that discarded idea left off. A Channel is so disarmingly touching you cannot help but feel that the original concept would not have worked out as well as this concrete result anyway.

37 voicemails amount to just under 25 minutes in duration, and yet this collection of communications both personal and professional relays the history of Eric’s struggles with and eventual overcoming of mental illness better than any self-disclosure could; A Channel reminds us that small moments add up in ways that surprise us. And obviously you could also say that it serves to remind us that before email and text-messaging became the main channels of communication in everyday life, people were expected to use this less-impersonal form of getting in touch far more. Amid the (sometimes gradually revealed and at first indirect) sympathies of concerned friends and family, there are some admittedly wistfully funny moments here, from a grouchy landlord to apprehensive follow-ups from prospective employees. Put in this position, it is tough not to care for the subject in question as much you understand the sentiment behind the phrase “our friend Eric” (the nickname Michael and a few others came to know him by for a phase). And yet, it isn’t until you finally hear that genuine note of pride in Eric’s father’s voice on a final 25th birthday message that you grasp the gift you have been given by being included in this project in the role of listener. This is a special one, to be sure.

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