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Music & Media

Alexander Chapman CAMPBELL (b. 1988)
Ten Sketches of Light:First Light [2:37]; Light in the Morning [4:42]; Light through the Day [2:39]; Light on the River [3:45]; Light on the Sea [7:19]; Light on the Clouds [4:09]; Land and the Breeze [3:17]; Light on the Fields [4:43]; Light in the Storm [2:39]; Light in the End [4:28]
Alexander Chapman Campbell (piano)
rec. St George’s, Bristol, October 2012.
MMC 105 [40:18]

I had been listening to Sorabji a few minutes before this CD arrived on the doorstep. Playing the Campbell CD an hour or so later provided the greatest possible contrast. Sorabji’s music is overburdened with sheer technical complexity. He made use of polyrhythms, he juxtaposed tonal and atonal elements, he appealed to a wide range of historical formal devices and created his own. His music is highly structured, involved and technically problematic. No one has followed in his footsteps: it is hard to find his precursors and his successors.
Alexander Chapman Campbell’s music, on the other hand is simple, approachable and technically straightforward. I do not know, but I imagine, that he has used the piano styles of Ludovico  Einaudi and Phamie Gow as exemplars. His is a post-minimalist style that crosses over into the world of ‘pop’.
The Ten Sketches of Light were written over a number of years. In their present form they are not just individual pieces that can be excerpted: they demand to be played together, they form a whole. It is one work divided into ten movements. Campbell declares that the names of the individual tracks are of ‘limited importance’: he wanted to give the listener ‘something to hold onto’. This is not impressionistic or programme music: each episode could just as easily been entitled ‘Movement 1’ or ‘Study 5’. I believe that the present title is a good choice: it certainly makes the disc more marketable and liable to be played on Classic FM. The pianism is largely based on repeated figures, subtle changes of melodic pattern and wide-ranging arpeggiated passages. There is an improvisatory feel to much of this music.
The presentation of the CD is problematic. On the positive side, the sound quality is excellent. Campbell’s playing is both confident and expressive. The CD cover is illustrated with an attractive drawing by the composer/pianist of himself playing music in a field with the breeze blowing leaves from the tree. However there is a down side. Firstly, this is a soft cover gate-fold CD with a plastic insert. Already the cardboard on my copy has begun to show signs of wear. Secondly, only four paragraphs of text explain the genesis of this work. Apart from a single sentence there is no biographical detail about the composer. I guess he expects the listener to look him up on the Internet. Thirdly there is no date given for this work. I assume that it is fairly recent. The notes imply that the ten pieces were assembled from a portfolio of compositions. This is information that the serious listener/reviewer needs. Lastly, the price of this CD is £7.99: a mere 40 minutes of music is a little mean. Naxos often push toward 80 minutes at a cheaper price. Is there no other work he could have presented here?
That said, this is attractive music that will appeal to enthusiasts of Einaudi and Gow. Nevertheless I hope that Alexander Chapman Campbell will continue to write music and will explore far beyond what may be regarded ‘popular’.
John France