The universe is making music all the time

Chosen One: Sophie Hutchings

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Interview with Sophie Hutchings.

“For me instrumental music doesn’t always tell a definite story but expresses a definite feeling that words don’t have to define.”

—Sophie Hutchings

Words: Mark Carry

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White Light’ is the latest collection of mesmerising piano music from Sydney-based composer and pianist Sophie Hutchings. Beginning with 2010’s debut ‘Becalmed’, the gifted composer has crafted her unique blend of neo-classical, piano-based compositions that transports the listener to the further reaches of the barely attainable as endless moments of fragile beauty and infinite solace ascends into the surrounding atmosphere. To date, the full-length releases of 2010’s ‘Becalmed’ and follow-up ‘Night Sky’ (2012), released on the Australian independent label Preservation reveals an artist’s rich devotion to one’s chosen craft where fleeting moments of majestic beauty unfolds with each meandering piano pattern and ripple-flow of transcendence.

White Light’ is a collection of improvisational pieces recorded alone in an old church hall in Sydney. In the words of Hutchings: “These compositions come from nowhere”, reminding us just how special and resolutely unique the art of music can be and why music is indeed a universal language. The sublime opener of ‘Anchor’ feels a distant companion to ‘Night Sky’’s opening ‘Shadowed’ as the ethereal sounds of field recordings, strings and woodwind percussion (elements dotted beautifully across ‘Night Sky’’s rich sonic canvas) fade away beneath the lyrical and poignant solo piano melodies. ‘White Light’ exists in a parallel universe to the jazz piano of American jazz pianist Bill Evans; the hypnotic piano motifs of Australian trio The Necks’ Chris Abrahams and the modern neo-classical composers of Max Richter, Nils Frahm, Dustin O’ Halloran et al. It is this unspoken connection and innate ability to elicit human emotion to which Hutchings’ compositions are forever steeped in revelry and wonder.

The six compositions recorded in the sacred church space transcends both space and time as a deeply immersive and contemplative experience is effortlessly forged. As I listen to the heartfelt lament of ‘Stray’ or the rich textures of ‘The Vanishing’ and burning embers of ‘The Carriers’, my thoughts and feelings become synonymous with the music; buried deeply within the magical realm of music’s endless possibilities. Just like the stillness of night, the solo piano works of Hutchings captures a moment neither here nor there; belonging to the horizon of an approaching sun-lit sky.


‘White Light’ is available now as a free download via Bandcamp HERE.

‘Becalmed’ and ‘Night Sky’ are out now on the Preservation label.


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Interview with Sophie Hutchings.

I was very interested to read these new piano improvisations were performed in an old church. Please discuss for me the space (and time) itself and how you feel this setting, in effect shaped the music?

Sophie Hutchings: The space is not like the beautiful old European churches. It’s kinda like a Wealthy Grandma’s big lounge room. Big white arched windows, the classic high ceilings but with lots of lounges, lamps & candles everywhere. The space is actually used as a unique music venue. They have a really nice Grand Piano and I asked if I could take my mic’s in late one night and set up camp. You get the odd bus or car off in the distance and a bit of street noise but apart from that you feel pretty alone & the openness of the room carries the piano nicely which is what I wanted.


Please discuss the process of improvisation? Is it a case of beginning with a blank canvas and seeing where the music takes you, so to speak? Also, I imagine would a lot of your compositions (contained on your full-length releases) start off as solo piano improvs with the spark of an idea? 

SH: The pieces on this gift release are a mixture. Some of them started as a blank canvas others were musings I started at home and developed on the night….This time I wanted to learn just to let go and not think about it which many artist would relate to I’m sure. I wanted to press the record button and nothing else. Not overly listening, overly critiquing, scrapping and re-starting (though I admit I scrapped some from the night I didn’t like!) Just some of the things that happen when you’re doing an official album.


Is there a narrative that you feel forms this collection of new music, Sophie? It is clear with your captivating music that indeed something very lyrical and poignant lies at the heart of the piano works.

SH: A lot of feelings and thoughts lie at the heart but really the best therapy when playing for me is thinking of nothing. I don’t really remember what I’m contemplating at the time. You definitely feel strongly and you re-connect when you listen back to them. For me instrumental music doesn’t always tell a definite story but expresses a definite feeling that words don’t have to define…. That’s what I love about it (kind of cheating really!).


Please shed some light on your forthcoming record and follow-up to the spell-binding ‘Night Sky’? 

SH: I’m doing it in small increments whenever those involved can spare the time. e.g. Strings, My Engineering friend Tim Whitten…In my spare time I’m working on ideas from home but I tend to focus more and get creatively spontaneous when I’m in the studio. I guess it’s an extension of perhaps the flavour of what I’ve done previously only I hope it’s better and well there will be some different elements for sure!


What records and artists have you been obsessed with of late? 

SH: Gamelan music… though I don’t know all the names of the artists I’ve been listening to of lately I absolutely love it and trying to build a collection.

A bit of African Jazz -Tche Belew gets a good spin over dinner and wine.

The Necks release early this year – Open and the new A Winged Victory for the Sullen album – Atomos are on high rotation.



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‘White Light’ is available now as a free download via Bandcamp HERE.



Written by markcarry

November 3, 2014 at 1:00 pm

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