Buchan Fields II

Buchan Fields II

Music by Haworth Hodgkinson

High Moss HM 024 (73:31) • Released 26 August 2019

Music composed, performed and recorded by Haworth Hodgkinson in 2017

Cover from a photograph by Haworth Hodgkinson

Album © Haworth Hodgkinson 2019

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Buchan Fields II (2017)

Buchan Fields I and II are in fact the second and third parts of a triptych of related pieces I made in 2017, the first having been discarded. Buchan Fields I begins with rough percussive sounds, which are gradually substituted by sounds of clearer pitch, eventually reaching euphonious harmony. Buchan Fields II takes that euphonious harmony as its starting point and expands it upwards and outwards.

The origin of the project was a set of samples of a bowed psaltery made by Colin Edwards. For the purpose of these samples, Colin had tuned all the strings of the instrument to the same pitch, or harmonics of it, to create sounds of a particularly resonant character.

My first attempt at using these samples was to devise a process in which each of the 80 sound samples would occur 136 times. As I put the process into practice I realised I was going to end up with a piece two hours long, so I made some strategic adjustments to reduce the length to that of a CD, each sample now appearing only 114 times and at a slightly faster rate. I liked the result, but I decided it was perhaps quite a tough listen as nothing very obviously changed over the course of its hour and a quarter duration. Ultimately I discarded this version as merely a trial run for what came later.

For my second version I modified the process so that there is a slow progression from unpitched to pitched sounds. Each of the 80 sounds still appears 136 times, but with the tapping and knocking sounds biased to appear mostly in the early stages, rubbing and scraping sounds in the second quarter, strumming sounds in the third, and finally bowed string sounds towards the end. There is thus a feeling of a journey during the whole span of the piece, although the transitions are so gradual as to be barely noticeable. Once again I ended up with a piece two hours long, so I curtailed the process to CD length by using only 114 instances of each sample. Yes, I should have learned that lesson the first time... but I didn't. This version, with the gradual progression through tapping, knocking, rubbing, scraping, strumming and finally bowing sounds, now bears the title Buchan Fields I.

The process of Buchan Fields I comes to a final resolution on a consonant chord of stacked harmonics, and I took that same chord as the starting point for my third piece, now called Buchan Fields II. This time my process involves only the most clearly pitched bowed string sound, and instead of working with 80 different samples I work with 128 harmonics of a low pitch produced by slowing down just one of the samples. These 128 harmonics are distributed in a similar way to the samples in the previous piece, with higher harmonics favoured towards the end, and prime harmonics and their multiples allowed to cluster around certain resonant points.

These pieces were completed in August 2017, but at the time I intended to work on them further. I had thoughts of producing accelerated versions of each process, so that all three pieces could fit on one album, but when I tried this I was dissatisfied with the results. Each process seemed to demand the time to unfold at its own leisurely rate. I also knew that the first piece was just a trial of the concept and not something I wanted to put out in public, so I had ideas of replacing it with a different third piece, but didn't come up with anything satisfactory. Eventually in August 2019 I decided that these pieces were what they were, that a two-part cycle instead of a three-part cycle could be complete in itself, and that the two parts could be released as a pair of complementary albums.

It seems fitting that the two albums should bear photographs I took at either end of the gestation of this project. The cover of Buchan Fields I, taken in August 2017, shows the stubble after oilseed rape has been harvested, whilst Buchan Fields II features a field of phacelia (purple tansy) captured in August 2019.

Notes © Haworth Hodgkinson 2019

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