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 —
History is what it is
Music by Peter Hatch
Performed by the Blue Rider Ensemble
Catalog: CMCCD 18413
This compact disc brings together a diverse group of compositions written over the past dozen or so years. The CD’s title History is what it is is taken from a text by Gertrude Stein and used in my piano work One Says. History Is., a work that questions the role of the individual in relation to large historical contexts. The writing of another great 20thc literary genius, Italo Calvino, was the inspiration for Five Memos. The work does not use any of Calvino’s texts but is based on a set of lectures he developed outlining his conjectures of the future of literary writing. The remaining two works are more about history-making in the moment: Music is a Beautiful Disease is an exercise in intuitive composing inspired by dream states and Cantabile, with grace is a structured improvisation by the Blue Rider Ensemble based on a simple sketch I generated for them. Both works stress the act of creation, the impulse that generates both art and, perhaps, the making of history as acts of individual decisions and motivations. From Stein again: “They make history. They are in the place of it.”
Although two of the works on this CD were commissioned by other ensembles (Vancouver’s Standing Wave and Toronto’s Continuum), it was a workshop and concert by the Blue Rider Ensemble in Waterloo in 2007 that galvanized this collection. My connection to the Blue Rider Ensemble goes back to 1993, when I collaborated on a full evening instrumental theatre piece called Mounting Picasso that involved the performers not just performing musically, but speaking and moving as well. Our 2007 Blue Memos concert was an “expanded” chamber music evening in which lighting and simple theatrical gestures enhanced the music of the evening - much of it composed, some improvised. Both Five Memos and Music is a Beautiful Disease include directions for simple theatrical movements (to be performed by the instrumentalists) in them - obviously not represented on this disc and intended to supplement the musical material while not supplanting it. The work that ends the disc is a testament to the fine musicianship and improvisational skills of these musicians.
Peter Hatch, November, 2012
Blue Rider Ensemble
Since its inception in 1990, the Blue Rider Ensemble has worked on a project-by-project basis, gathering several times per year for intensive work sessions lasting from one week to one month. Although the ensemble has concertized, the heart of its identity lies in the bigger, long-term projects and in its collaborations with artists from other disciplines.
The first of these projects was centered around Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire, a staged production that toured internationally and was released on CD (Eclectra & Marquis Classics). In 1993, Blue Rider premiered an instrumental theatre work, a genre championed by composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Mauricio Kagel. Mounting Picasso by Peter Hatch with text by Gertrude Stein, is an 80 minute fully staged work with video and dance where the musicians are also the actors who carry the dramatic action. It premiered at NUMUS (KW) and the DuMaurier Theatre Centre Series (TO). Blue Rider’s unique process has drawn other artists to work with them, from Québec poet and playwright Michel Garneau’s Blue Rider Marmelade to choreographer David Earle’s beautiful staging of Blue Memos, a concert of structured improvisations and works by Peter Hatch, which was the genesis of this CD recording.
The common thread for the Blue Rider members is a desire to reexamine our approach to music making, interpretation, performance and ensemble. We have learned to use extra-musical and nonmusical tools as an integral part of our process. In the scope of this exploration, we recall the community of artists who formed Der Blaue Reiter in 1911 to promote the cause of Modernism and a synthesis of the arts.
Blue Rider Ensemble
1. In Which an Image Is Formed
2. In Which Things Happen Quickly
3. The Removal of Weight
4. Which Gives Speech to That Which Has No Language
5. Involving a Well Calculated Plan
6. Music is a Beautiful Disease
One Says. History Is.
Blue Rider Ensemble
1. How do you like what you have heard
2. History Leaves No Place
3. Which it is as they do
4. Cantabile, with grace
Released January 1, 2013
℗ 2013 Centrediscs
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