Pianos of the Night

Pianos of the Night

Music by Haworth Hodgkinson

High Moss HM 010 (73:13) • Released 27 July 2016

All music composed, performed and recorded by Haworth Hodgkinson in 1983 and 2016

Cover from a photograph by Haworth Hodgkinson

Album © Haworth Hodgkinson 2016

Downloads: Album CD booklet (PDF) CD inlay (PDF)

Links: Haworth Hodgkinson

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Pianos of the Night

The sound sources for the music on my previous albums have ranged from the human voice to electronic synthesis and from balloons to blackbirds. On this album, the piano is the source of every sound you hear.

Piano Machine (2016)

Colin Edwards gave me some sampled piano sounds to play with, and this is the result. I took the basic sounds, looped them, and built them into a wonky machine of many loosely synchronised working parts.

Tulloch House Night Vigil (2016)

Working with the sampled piano sounds in Piano Machine set me thinking about some of my own work with pianos many years ago, in particular a piano piece called Oneirospheres VI dating from 1983 that I remembered being particularly pleased with at the time.

I found the old recording, cleaned it up as much as I could, and sampled some isolated sounds from it. These samples were then looped and treated as in Piano Machine. This piece could equally well deserve the title Piano Machine, but, perhaps because I had a closer connection with the original sounds, I felt it had more the feel of a human ritual to it. At the time I recorded the original sounds I was living in Tulloch House, the remotest and most unloved of the ten blocks that made up David Russell Hall, itself the remotest and most unloved hall of residence at the University of St Andrews. It was a place of many long night vigils, and since Tulloch House is long demolished, along with the rest of David Russell Hall, I decided to let its memory live on in the title of this piece.

Oneirospheres VI (1983)

Here, to complete the album, is the piece that was the source of all the sounds in Tulloch House Night Vigil.

I applied the name Oneirospheres to nine pieces, all dating from 1983. These were the first extended pieces I had conceived to be played and recorded live in a single take – most of what I had done before then was edited together from fragments. They are also my first pieces to use a rule-based approach to composition. The rules and the basic form of the piece are worked out in advance, but the detailed implementation of the rules takes place in real time during the performance.

The Oneirospheres pieces all share a sense of slowly unfolding dream-like rituals or landscapes, and this one in particular reflects on my impressions of Uzbekistan and Russia, both of which I visited in October 1983. Listening after so many years I hope it's not too fanciful to say that I sense again the dusty grandeur of the Uzbek cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Tashkent in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake, as well as the obsessive chiming of Russian bells in Moscow and Leningrad. (Forgive me if I use the names and spellings these cities had at the time – no political implications are intended; that's just the way I remember them!)

This is my original recording, made on a dark autumn night in St Andrews. I've applied some digital noise removal software to try to cut down on tape hiss, and performed some manual suppression of a few bad cases of tape print-through, but essentially it remains faithful to the music I was trying to make in 1983.

Notes © Haworth Hodgkinson 2016.

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