HAMILTON music for people who like art
The Irish composer Andrew Hamilton (b1977) writes what one might describe as informal process music, whereby very short musical fragments are repeated, juxtaposed and recombined in a manner reminiscent of sampling (though everything is done live). Most are tonally derived but the manner of their treatment deliberately decontextualises them, accentuating the impression of sampling. In a certain sense the materials themselves hardly matter, in that the music seems to be ‘about’ the observable processes brought to bear on them; but in another sense they matter as much as in any other music. The degree and quality of referentiality introduces an element of humour, which can be subverted when fragments are repeated to the point of obsession. This is most striking towards the end of music for people who like art, when the vocalist’s gasp (hitherto a single fragment) overwhelms the zany texture in a very disquieting way. Such moments make a piece, the following coda seeming almost superfluous except from a formal point of view – then again, one suspects that its very irrelevance is intentional. music for roger casement, written for the Ives Ensemble, sounds more straightforwardly like a ‘concert’ ensemble piece, though in many ways it is a twin of music for people who like art, minus the voice (the other difference being in the instrumentation, which gives the impression of an extended accordion and is reminiscent of later Donatoni). Between the two is To The People, a more extended duo for soprano Juliet Frasier and percussionist Maxime Echardour, in which similar strategies are played out more discursively. To my mind the ensemble pieces make the stronger impression, growing on one with each hearing.
The sound recording of music for people who like art has an audibly different quality from the others’, suggestive of electronic treatment of some kind, with the voice embedded deep in the mix and emerging only gradually. But the discipline required to suggest mechanisation at this level of rhythmic difficulty forces admiration. If only all composers were so well served.