Paul WHITTY (b.1970) Seven Pages1 [3:51]
James DILLON (b.1950) Birl [1:05]
Roger REDGATE (b.1958) Residua [9:00]
Paul DIBLEY INV III [7:55]
Paul NEWLAND 1-2 [6:07]
Mike VAUGHAN In Memoriam … (layer 6) [10:36]
Paul NEWLAND 3-4 [6:49]
Paul DIBLEY INV I [5:45]
Sohrab UDUMAN (b.1962) Breath across autumnal ground [7:32]
Sam HAYDEN Scintilla [4:20]
Paul WHITTY (b. 1970) Seven Pages2 [4:06]
Jane Chapman (harpsichord)
rec. July, November 2007, Oxford Brookes University; September 1998, City University, London . DDD
NMC D145 [67:06]
Jane Chapman is a harpsichord virtuoso who gives new life to her instrument through commissioning contemporary repertoire. This selection of works for harpsichord and electronics is far removed from the music of the baroque era, demonstrating a new dimension to the instrument and revealing its relevance to the contemporary world.
Paul Whitty’s machine-like Seven Pages1 and 2 begin and end the disc. Based on Ligeti’s Continuum, Whitty has intervened in the original music to create something which sounds entirely new. The strings have been removed from the instrument so that only the sound of the mechanism is heard; this is a fascinating sound and one which has powerful effect. Both pieces are extremely effective and encourage us to see the harpsichord in a new way.
Next comes birl, a short, complex toccata-like work by James Dillon, which blasts onto the scene and disappears almost as abruptly as it begins. Roger Redgate’s nine-minute work, Residua is a six movement piece, based on the writings of Beckett. Material is shared between the movements and some of the ideas themselves come from Redgate’s earlier works. It would take multiple hearings to perceive the connections between the movements, but even without a conscious awareness there is a feeling of coherence and overall direction which is highly effective.
Paul Dibley’s INV III is described as for ‘harpsichord and pure data’, using an interactive computer system to process the harpsichord sound. The live instrument is heard alongside generated sound based on its own materials, resulting in a magically developing resonance. The effect is remarkable. This eventually breaks away into a section where the live and computer-generated sounds are clearly defined, providing a stark contrast in texture. Here the electronic sounds are less convincing, but the music builds up again and some eerie effects are created which are both atmospheric and memorable. INV I is for harpsichord and tape, and the two layers of sound are clearly defined, despite timbral similarities and some live processing. This is a highly effective work which seems to take the harpsichord into an extended version of itself through the electronic material.
1-2 by Paul Newland provides a welcome contrast, with space around each of the pitches to hear subtle nuances. The piece requires retuning of the harpsichord’s strings, creating pitch bends; other sounds are made from the inside of the instrument rather than the keyboard. An EBow is used to produce continuous sounds as a drone effect. The apparent simplicity of this work is extremely effective, and one has the sense that the instrument is being explored in new ways. 3-4 has a similar effect, making wider use of the EBow and once again providing a contrast with the works around it.
Mike Vaughan returns us to more traditional use of the instrument, but accompanied by some interesting electronic sounds in his work, In Memoriam….(layer 6).A tribute to Eric Dolphy, the music is part-improvised and part-composed. The live electronics respond to a pre-determined set of sounds played by the live harpsichord. The overall effect is complex but imaginative, with new sounds emerging in the electronics part and creating a coherent whole with the live instrument.
Sohrab Uduman, like Mike Vaughan, is a professor of composition at Keele University. Using harpsichord and live electronics, Breath across autumnal ground describes seasonal transformations in colour, using musical means to explore a changing landscape. The transformations work well, and the opening simplicity develops into more complex textures of trills and building resonances.
Sam Haydn’s Scintilla is a set of three short and explosive movements for solo harpsichord. Based on the analysis of sound samples, the musical material is bright and sparkling, and the brevity of each movement adds a certain charm, leaving the listener wanting more.
Jane Chapman’s playing is excellent throughout, and her work developing new repertoire for her instrument is worthy of recognition. Through this disc, she has proved that the harpsichord is as valid an instrument for contemporary composition as any other, and demonstrated some of the new sounds available to composers for exploration. Thoroughly fascinating.