Music by Peter Hatch (Texts by Gertrude Stein)
Performed by NUMUS. Catalog: ART-011
The story so far...
by Christopher Fox
For the last fifteen years Canadian Composer Peter Hatch has been steadily generating a remarkable body of work, remarkable not only because its good to listen to but also because it's capable of stimulating our intelligence as well as our ears. This is the first disc to be devoted exclusively to this music.
Two things become clear about Peter Hatch from this disc: one is his delight in the very stuff of music, the pleasure he finds, and wants us to share, in listening to sounds rubbing together, or stretching out, or bouncing off one another; the other is his fascination with the words and ideas of Gertrude Stein. Of the five works recorded here, three are specifically connected with Stein: in A Chopsticks Fantasy and Reflections on the Atomic Bomb, texts by Stein are spoken during the music (something Hatch does elsewhere in his When Do They is not the same as Why Do They , one of the most striking recent additions to the solo percussionist's repertoire); in And As He Stein's words are sung. And As He is the middle movement from Hatch's largest work to date, Mounting Picasso (1993), which projects Stein's "If I told him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso" into an evening-long piece of music-theatre.
It's hard to think of a composer (certainly not since John Cage in the 1940s) on whom the writing of Gertrude Stein has had such a profound influence. But Hatch's work was Stein-ish even before it began to make specific reference to her; indeed if Gertrude Stein hadn't existed Peter Hatch would probably have had to invent her eventually.
Blunt Music is an example of Hatch's pre-Stein Stein-ish-ness. In the north of England (my home), the expression 'to put it bluntly' is not so much an apology for a lack of verbal precision as a promise that what is to be said will be said clearly, without affectation. This it seems to me is part of what all Peter Hatch's work (and not just Blunt Music) is about. Hatch is not afraid to appropriate musical figures and forms with which we are already familiar, like the simple tonal harmonies which form the materials of Blunt Music or the folk-clarinet figures ofEurhythmy. What Hatch recognises is that the very familiarity of these sounds breeds the ambiguities on which his music thrives. Again there's a debt to Stein; as in her work the words may be simple, but combined they form complex ideas. Or as she said herself, 'sentences are not emotional and paragraphs are;' in Stein and Hatch's art expression lies not in the formation of bon mot but in the twisting and turning of gathered evidence.
What are the notes F and G when they're sounded together on a piano? Sometimes they're the sound of a piano, sometimes they're a major second, sometimes they're the first two notes of the third inversion of a dominant seventh chord in root position, and sometimes they're the beginning of Chopsticks. In A Chopsticks Fantasy Peter Hatch makes his music in this space between the signifier and the signified and the result is both exciting and witty. (I particularly like the moment where the piano idiom veers sharply towards avant-gardiste chaos, the sort of piano writing of which conservative listeners say, 'A three year old could do better' -- But three year olds like to play Chopsticks too!)
The moment when things turn out not to have been what we thought they were is a moment that Peter Hatch is fond of visiting. On this disc there are at least three examples, none more spine-tingling than that at the end of Reflections on the Atomic Bomb when Stein's chillingly acute observations, not so much about the atomic bomb as about humanity's capacity for disinterest (if it's not The Bomb then it's Bosnia, if it's not Bosnia then it's a bomb in a building full of children) are spoken over music whose components we thought we knew. Until this coda begins , we believe that we are listening to a beautifully crafted piece of ensemble music. There is much to enjoy: the unfolding of long-legged melodic lines, subtly graded harmonies and a sophisticated two movement form which nests disruptive elements of each movement in the heart of the other movement. None of this prepares us for the sting in the tail, but that story is best told by the music itself...
Christopher Fox is a composer/writer who lives in York, England.
�1995 Christopher Fox
About Me —
About Me —
As a composer and music curator I build time-based structures in sound.
I construct frames as well as things to fill them: I am interested in creating a context for listeners to hear things they haven’t experienced before. My work is motivated by the experience of attending to the world ears-first. Listening, as my primary sense, leads to an openness and curiosity that characterizes aural space, not just to what is in front of me but also to my surrounding environment. Collaboration is also at the heart of my practice – most of my work reaches a public through performers, and I have had the great experience of working with some of our country’s finest - both as performers of my compositions and in my practice of artistic curation. These collaborative experiences extend to the various publics who care to listen. My key goal is the search for "resonance": how the sounds and actions I initiate interact with the environment in which they are received – what is more important than other the sounds/actions or environment is where this interaction is fruitful.
I have explored an open, aural approach to social space both in my work as a composer and as an artistic director of new music and sound events. In 1985 I established Kitchener-Waterloo based NUMUS Concerts, and in 1998 the Open Ears Festival of Music and Sound. In 2012 I worked as a music curator at the Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics, inspired by some of the world’s most respected theoretical physicists.
I have incorporated theatrical and multi-media elements into many of my works, an interest that has grown from extending traditional concert music performance practices and from collaborations with director David McMurray Smith, architect Dereck Revington, theatre artists Andy Houston and Paul Cegys, and choreographers David Earle and Bill James. In my concert work I have explored the idea of instrumental theatre, in which the theatre inherent in the performing rituals of the post-classical music world is enhanced through simple extensions.
I am intrigued by our experience of time, and of music’s ability to shape this experience. My obsession over musical form has me frequently using golden section relationships with proportional durations but also drawing inspiration from other sources, such as the I Ching. I have a long-term fascination with the writing of Gertrude Stein, whose concept of the ‘continuous present’ is an on-going inspiration to me. Stein's “space of time filled with moving” is, for me, a very accurate description of the musical experience.
(see shorter biographies below)
Composer and music curator Peter Hatch has composed works in a large number of genres, from orchestral and chamber music to instrumental theatre, electroacoustics and installations. Known for his interest in revitalizing the listening experience, Hatch's compositions are both heady and playful, profound and humorous. His works are performed and broadcast internationally and has been featured at festivals such as the ISCM World Music Days, the Darmstadt Ferienkurse fur Neue Musik, Montreal's Espaces Improbable, the Vancouver New Music Festival, the Vancouver Early Music Festival, and by organizations such as Aventa, Soundstreams, Arraymusic, the Winnipeg, Vancouver, Edmonton, Windsor, Victoria and Kitchener-Waterloo Symphonies and by members of the Berlin Philharmonic. Hatch's music been recorded on numerous compact discs under the CBC Musica Viva, CMC Centrediscs, Conaccord, CBC and Artifact labels.
Theatrical and multi-media elements have been incorporated into many of his works, an interest that has grown from extending traditional concert music performance practices and from collaborations with director David McMurray Smith, architect Dereck Revington, choreographers David Earle and Bill James and writers John Sobol and Adam Cowart. The writings of Gertrude Stein have played an important role in his compositions and this influence has resulted in compositions ranging from the full evening instrumental theatre piece 'Mounting Picasso' to his very short opera 'Asks Alice'.
As well as his compositional work, Peter has been very active as the artistic director of new music ensembles and festivals. He founded NUMUS Concerts in 1985, and the Open Ears Festival of Music and Sound in 1998, two organizations that have continued to thrive years after their beginnings. Peter was Composer-in-Residence with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony from 1999-2003 and Arts and Culture Consultant with the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics from 2011 to 2013. From 1985 to 2017 Peter was a Professor at the Faculty of Music, Wilfrid Laurier University, where he was University Research Professor for the 2006-07 academic year and is now Professor Emeritus. Peter now makes his home in the Gulf Islands on the west coast of Canada.
Composer and music curator Peter Hatch has composed works in a large number of genres, from orchestral and chamber music to instrumental theatre, electroacoustics and installations. Hatch's compositions are both heady and playful, profound and humorous. Peter has been very active as the artistic director of new music ensembles and festivals. He founded NUMUS Concerts and the Open Ears Festival of Music and Sound, served as Composer-in-Residence with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony and as Arts and Culture Consultant with the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Peter is Professor Emeritus at the Faculty of Music, Wilfrid Laurier University, where he was Professor from 1985 to 2017.
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You will not find me on social media but I will respond to emails.
Scores, parts, and recordings of my music are available at:
You can find my music on:
'Boy and Moose'
by Kevin Hatch (age 4-ish)
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