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Haworth Hodgkinson's Review of 2016

Winter Solstice Again

Winter Solstice Again
from Dundee Ambient
Cover from a photo by Jeni Reid

Recording

2016 has been another year in which music has featured more prominently than poetry for me, and solo projects have been more predominant than collaborations. My biggest project of the year has been Dundee Ambient, a six-hour long piece of very slowly evolving music. This was composed in several stages during 2015 and 2016, and released in five parts on five separate albums from the winter solstice of 2015 to the winter solstice of 2016. The five parts can be listened to as five separate pieces reflecting a landscape changing with the seasons, or as a whole, following the course of a night's sleep, or indeed in any other way the listener chooses, as I think the music transcends limitations of time and place. Each of the five albums comes with a distinctive cover photo by Jeni Reid.

In addition to the Dundee Ambient series, High Moss has released three further albums of my music in 2016. Year's Embers brings together new pieces from 2015 and 2016, all related to the darkening months towards the end of the year. The other two albums are based around archive recordings from the 1980s. The main piece on Pianos of the Night is a piano solo I recorded in 1983, and it is coupled with two short recent pieces that are connected with it. Barn Dances presents two pieces reflecting on the bleepy dance music of the 1980s, one piece presented in its original 1984 form and the other re-imagined from the rose-tinted vantage point of 2016.

Performing

My performances this year have been fewer and farther between than in some years, and have included performances with organist Mark Spalding, poets Catriona Yule and Richie Brown, and theatrical productions with Fiona-Jane Brown's Hidden Aberdeen Tours and Graft Theatre Company. Venues have ranged from St Andrew's Cathedral in Aberdeen to Verdant Works in Dundee, and from a marquee at the Loch of Strathbeg RPSB reserve to Aberdeen's Tea Zone.

Intuitive music ensemble Mars in Aquarius gave its final performance in its 2015/16 form in February, before re-grouping and embarking on a period of repertoire development that should lead to public performances under a new name in the second half of 2017.

For the National Theatre of Scotland Granite project I provided music for an evening in which actors performed poetry and stories by North-East writers. This included two of my own poems, so I had the curious experience of accompanying others performing my words.

Graft Theatre Company is a new venture from the Hidden Aberdeen Tours stable, and its debut performance was a Halloween show, Burkers, Bodysnatchers and Bloody Surgeons, which took place in the Anatomy Rooms of Marischal College, now one of Aberdeen's most interesting arts venues. I used electronics to fill the building with an atmospheric sound backdrop – an extended version of Healer, which appears in its shorter version on the album Year's Embers – and percussion interludes to link some of the scenes.

Listening

Listening to the music of others is of course a vital inspiration, and in 2016 I listened to much more recorded music than live. Indeed I spent a lot of the year re-discovering CDs that I had bought many years ago but not listened to for some time. Amongst newly released material, a highlight was Claire M. Singer's album Solas, a collection of gentle drone-based music for cello, organ and electronics showing a sensitive ear for intonation. It is slightly curiously presented – two CDs when all the music would easily fit onto one – but this does mean that the 26-minute piece The Molendinar gets a disc to itself, which it well deserves.

Haworth Hodgkinson, 1 January 2017


Some Facebook pages to like and follow...

Haworth Hodgkinson (writer & musician)

My own public Facebook page

High Moss

The record label that releases my music

Hidden Aberdeen Tours

The company for which I have provided music for a number of productions

Claire M. Singer

Composer and performer of the album Solas

North East Writers

Network supporting writers and new writing in North-East Scotland

HH0

...and, last but not least, the brand under which I maintain websites for several arts organisations and individuals


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