Posts Tagged ‘Becalmed’
We are delighted to present an exclusive video album teaser and track premiere from the eagerly awaited new solo full length release from Sydney-based pianist and composer Sophie Hutchings. “Wide Asleep” will be released on the Preservation label on 22nd July 2016.
The Preservation label presents “Wide Asleep”, the third album from Sydneyʼs Sophie Hutchings, which is due for release on 22nd July 2016. “Wide Asleep” is the much-anticipated follow-up to 2012’s much-loved “Night Sky” album. Watch the official video for “Wide Asleep” below:
Listen to the Sophie Hutchings’ track “Memory I”, taken from “Wide Asleep” via Soundcloud below:
Sophie Hutchings is a pianist and composer from Sydney. She began teaching herself piano at an early age before any tuition, developing her unique style through countless hours of secret practice. Hutchings has released three instrumental works to date, ‘Becalmed’, ‘Night Sky’ and ‘White Light’, receiving fine recognition internationally for elegant and beautiful music compared to the likes of Nils Frahm, Max Richter, Peter Broderick and Dustin O’Hallloran.
With ‘Wide Asleep’, Hutchings has taken her compositional scope into larger realms of sound and feeling. It is her most searching work, based on ideas on consciousness between sleep and wakefulness. In her most dazzling and poignant pieces to date, Hutchingsʼ piano lines extend with both electricity and elegance, winding through strings, textured ambience and choral voices through beauty and vitality.
Reaching further with her music than ever before, Hutchings is in great company, recording Wide Asleep with Tim Whitten, best known for his nuanced and dynamic work with The Necks.
‘Wide Asleep’ will be released via Preservation on 22nd July 2016.
Pre-order the “Wide Asleep” ltd. edition boutique vinyl & CD at the links below:
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.”
Words: Mark Carry
‘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.
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.
‘White Light’ is available now as a free download via Bandcamp HERE.
The Sydney-based pianist and composer Sophie Hutchings shares with us her feelings on the album which had the greatest impact on her life as a musician. To date, Hutchings has released two solo albums, ‘Becalmed’ and ‘Night Sky’, both available now via Australian independent label Preservation.
The Necks ‘Sex’, by Sophie Hutchings.
From a young age I became fixated with repetition… during practice or mooching around on the piano, even if it were a simple melody I’d made up. I’d enjoy the process of playing it in circular motion. There was a contentment in performing the same thing over and over again — although I’m sure my family didn’t experience the same form of contentment at the time! However, come my energetic teens it was the compelling and emotionally charged power of indie rock music that began to take precedence in my life, and although I continued to improvise at home with the kind of music I generally do now, I wasn’t exactly searching for anything outside of the more aggressive music I was listening to. I was spoilt by the records my two older brothers would bring home, and it was exciting to rummage through their collections and new finds. I felt I was discovering great and interesting music and I was! But when bands like Rachel’s came along, another sense in me awakened.
The first groundbreaking discovery for me was The Necks album ‘Sex’. Tim Whitten — who has been involved with the recording process of both my albums and a long-standing family friend — gave it to me saying: “You will totally dig this album”. I immediately fell in love with the purity, as well as the endlessly repeated motifs of the drums, bass and piano.
Repetition in music for me — be it ambient, instrumental or indie rock when done well — kind of transports you away from what’s going on around you. It holds you in a nice little pocket of time, hypnotic inflections drag you into a musical undercurrent and that’s what The Necks do to me. They manage to calmly hypnotize you without dissecting your emotions. They take you to a pensive place whilst also managing to uplift you at the same time. I chose this record, as it was a huge turning point in my life and it was the foundation of what I was then to build from. To this day I still hold onto it as a very special album. It’s one of those nostalgic numbers in your collection that you put on again, and again, again and again… and again. I never tire of it.
Artist: The Necks
Label: Spiral Scratch
Tracklist: Sex (56:08)
Personell: Chris Abrahams (piano), Tony Buck (drums), and Lloyd Swanton (bass)
Sophie Hutchings is currently recording her third album and follow-up to ‘Night Sky’ (Preservation, 2012) alongside The Necks’ producer Tim Whitten. Both ‘Becalmed’ and ‘Night Sky’ are available now on the Preservation label.
Sydney-based composer and pianist Sophie Hutchings recently toured Japan for the first time where she recorded her impressions and thoughts on her voyage which included performances in Tokyo, Nara and Kobe. The trip also featured musical guests including the sublime talents of guitar/violin duo Ryan Francesconi and Mirabai Peart as well as the Japanese artists Ikebana and Casio Tones. Hutchings’ piano based compositions are both personal and mysterious, all at once. It is divine instrumental music where the ethereal layers of sound shares an unspoken connection with the listener. Her two stunning studio albums, ‘Becalmed’ (2010) and ‘Night Sky’ (2012), confirm Hutchings as one of the most talented and inspiring of modern composers making music today.
Words: Sophie Hutchings
JAPAN TOUR DIARY: Nihon Ichi Ban
From gritty chicken gizzards, octopus balls, and crab’s brains to melt in your mouth sushi.
When stage fright in a public toilet becomes a thing of the past thanks to an automatic soundscape of running streams.
Where rubbish bins sometimes don’t exist but all is somehow immaculate.
Where getting naked for a natural osen soak is a must.
Flashing neon lights, a raving warren of streets, golden story book rural thatched roofed villages……
Welcome to Japan.
Shinjuku Station is one of the busiest train stations in the world, and when it’s near midnight it’s easy to become lost in the pandemonium. Finally we surface and meet the bright battle of neon lights. We’re hungry and it’s late, but the local Seven Eleven surprisingly serves its purpose; and satisfyingly so. We’re not talking greasy fries or hot dogs so preserved they’d survive WWIII. We’re talking fresh bento boxes and more. I get my first sushi fix here and discover the best snack ever – onigiri – a rice ball type hit wrapped tightly in seaweed, with a lucky dip treat embedded in the centre be it tofu, tuna, pickled kombu or whatever else and for approximately $1.50 it soon became a staple when hungry.
First Tokyo Show with Ryan Francesconi and Mirabai Peart
Eastern Tokyo is a largely residential and industrial area with very few tourist attractions. This only spurs the local experience. We make our way through a warren of streets luckily with the help of our friend Masami the Jedi behind Impartmaint.
Typically Japanese – you enter a nondescript building and head down a steep timber stair case to find yourself in the basement gallery of Nanahari. A casual vibe, and a mood set by some earthy 60’s Zaire traditional spinning on vinyl, plus a bit of Don Cherry amongst others. There’s a little upright sitting in the corner waiting for me; I thought Japan was full of Yamaha’s. This is an old masculine Kawaii.
It’s my first time in Japan, I’m not really sure what to expect but I’m told everyone is ridiculously respectful and polite. It’s true, but they’re not just ridiculously respectful and polite – they’re cute, funny and a bunch of individual groovers. Everyone sat attentively – huddled on little timber stools, lounges with some cosily packed up the stair case.
Ryan Francesconi and Mirabai Peart (partners and band mates in Joanna Newsom’s line-up) play a beautiful set. Watching Ryan and Mirabai weave in and out of each other’s musical movements is pretty special, with a fresh yet oldish nostalgic sound stemming from their fusion of Balkan/Bulgarian classical come folk compositions….
I catch up with the Charismatic Yas who has booked most of this tour. We all mingle and I write down a long list of the music that’s been spinning tonight.
Back on the train and following the bright neon lights and sky scraper buildings, Yas weaves us through the tiny ramshackle alleyways of the Golden Gai district navigating us back to wherever it was we came from. Streets almost wide enough for a single person to pass through, an area of tiny shanty-style bars and clubs where musicians, artists and the like gather. It’s a great little hub for food and drinks in a very rustic Japanese style atmosphere. Our first taste of Tokyo is good indeed!
Bullet trains and central Honshu:
We are heading for ‘nowhere’.
Tastefully minimalistic in style – walls covered in creative offerings and records from all around the world for sale – ‘nowhere’ is the perfect name for this tiny iconic venue as it literally feels like no – where. Surrounded by steep mountains and endless fields that embrace a deep bay.
We arrive at the small city of Toyama (in the northern centre of Japan). I meet the very charming venue owner Eiichi Yasukawa and his wife Aiko. Eiichi not only designed and built the furniture but is also seriously the finest chef in Japan, not to mention the possessor of a ridiculously copious music collection.
Eiichi starts out as your typically shy, polite and extremely accommodating Japanese host. However by the end of the night he’s dancing around the tables laughing and spoiling the dinner guests with his modern Japanese delicacies: morohay – a smoky tasting morsel of whisked up egg white, seaweed and goodness knows what else that you somehow have to manage to scoop up with chop sticks. The texture resembles things I’d rather not say… however it’s surprisingly tasty! Tofu okra salad, Japanese style beef pockets, radish and pickle green bean salad, jelly infused with an orange and milk coffee base…and on it goes. With such a generous supply of food and drinks, our ‘lost in translation’ zone doesn’t seem to matter. By now our dining conversation is led by weighty and animated role play.
Winding up the evening all sleepy and full bellied, with the heat of the summer’s day rising and the cold air sinking from the Toyama Mountains, a cracking thunder-storm hits. A beautiful and dramatic spectacle in light. Toyamas closing act for the evening…
NARA: City of Deers
We drop off our backpacks at Naramachi guest house. It’s an old restored calligraphy house and with the now familiar scent of bamboo and incense I’m feeling at home already. The rooms kind of remind me of an old wooden doll palace.
Nara is a place full of hungry deers and little historic treasures awash with long narrow lanes. Former residential merchant buildings and warehouses have been preserved, and now run as cute little vintage boutiques, shops and cafes. On one of these many narrow lanes you will find cafe taken; a small gallery cafe with a quarter of it taken up by a beautiful Yamaha grand piano I am to tinkle on. With rustic timber floors, a beautiful piano packed into a cute space and everyone tucked in around me; It made for a cosy loungeroom atmosphere.
We spend the next day walking through Kasuga woods, playfully fighting off the deers, temple hopping, grabbing another rice ball hit and then finally jumping on our next bullet train to Kobe.
Wedged in between the coast and the mountains lays Kobe’s cosmopolitan port city. We meet the Ikebana girls at the nearby train station who I’m doing a couple of the Japan shows with. Ikebana (meaning flower arrangement) are a local duo from Tokyo consisting of Maki and En. They create dreamlike minimalist shoe-gaze guitar tones over atmospheric drones and sweet distant vocal harmonies injecting a calm somnolent mood in the best kind of way.
Our group makes its way up the hill-side, there nestled at the top overlooking the sea is the beautiful Guggenheim house. One of the appealing things about Kobe is its unique historical, colourful array of European style architecture. Apparently this dates back to the large community of expatriates who arrived in the early 1940’s so its style stands out.
I’m slow to admit that my rice ball hits are getting a bit dreary so I could do with a good cake hit! Thankfully Guggenheim House is run by a half Belgian, half Japanese gent named Ali . Upon arrival we are welcomed with rich heavy Belgian cake goodness for afternoon tea before sound check. I’m a satisfied guest…
Playing at Guggenheim house is like playing in a big old ballroom and the audience as usual are an attentive delight. Ikebana play a beautiful set alongside the quirky opening electronica outfit called Casio Tones. Casio Tones are a concoction of six artists playing musical chairs over continual keyboards, loops and beats. I could only describe it as walking into a video parlour; but instead picture people playing musical instruments instead of games. Very entertaining stuff.
I feel at home, there’s a relaxing vibe crashing out here. Almost an elegant “Great Gatsby” feel combined with a family friendly, hippy commune-like element. The back-end of the property is occupied with full-time dwellers who all hang out together pursuing all things creative. After the show we all mingle over santori highballs and we become like family.
We spend the next day taking the cable car for a fine view of Kobe city, pottering about the funky area of West Tor and meeting up with our new-found friends who run spacemoth. Spacemoth is located in a cool old hospital building that now houses several clothing and music themed boutiques.
This place certainly lives up to its cosmopolitan reputation.
Back to Tokyo
Being based in the sweet little neighbourhood of Shimokitizawa this time around is a bit of a treat. It acts as a rewarding breather if you’re overwhelmed by Tokyo’s more hectic suburbs. Only three stops from the fun and bustling Shibuya – it’s the Japanese Greenwich Village with a laid back vibe full of funky cafes, vintage clothing stores, second-hand record stores, live music venues and groovy little bars and restaurants often arrayed with a mural type graffitied shop front..
The Last show is held here in Shimokita at the enchanting old Fujimigaoka Church. The church is often used for concerts and also affords a neat little view of Mt Fuji. I’m performing again with my newfound friends Maki and En of Ikebana. Playing at an old church always feels totally natural thanks to their naturally lush acoustics. To top off the evening Yas (who is as nutty and fun as the mad hatter) has booked a bunch of us into one of the local Izakaya – the Japanese version of a good pub all-you-can-eat-and-drink style eatery. Huge platters of sashimi salad, whole grilled fish, agedashi-dofu (deep fried tofu in a dashi broth) and the list goes on! Plenty of Asahi or Kirin beers go down nicely in the heat…
With plenty to do in Tokyo other highlights were the tranquil parks, six-seater bars and a long headphone session at Tower Records.
There’s often a notion of rigidity and conservatism attached to Japanese society. However its music and art scene is definitely a unique quirky hub all of its own, with the most polite and appreciative audiences you could ever ask for.
Thanks to Yas, Masami and my travel buddies Reuben, Charles and Nicolette as well as all those involved with the shows for making this a fun and memorable trip.
Go go gai daiski des!
‘Night Sky’ and ‘Becalmed’ by Sophie Hutchings are out now on the Preservation label.
Sydney-based composer Sophie Hutchings talks about what has inspired her life in music: from her father’s Jazz collection and fellow Australians The Dirty Three to Tom Waits and Eden Ahbez. Also revealed are the books and films that fueled the inspiration to Sophie Hutchings’s magnificently timeless ‘Becalmed’ and ‘Night Sky’ albums.
Words: Sophie Hutchings, Illustration: Craig Carry
Is there a particular record (or artist) that was the defining music for you to become a composer in your own right? I know it probably is impossible to answer, but it would be wonderful to hear you talk about a particular moment in your life – a trigger or spark that happened – where you said to yourself: “yes….music is the path I want to explore down.”
Defining a moment is impossible… I guess it’s a natural combination of your surroundings growing up & your personal interests..which was based very much around music. It was a war of the music kind of household … A family of musicians and a family piano always in the lounge room which I did gravitate towards. My dads musical interest was Jazz and Jazz and sometimes Jazz..! My brothers were into experimental and indie rock.. Growing up these heavily influenced my musical taste but the pieces I wrote always came out the same. I always loved instrumental music which is why I always stole my brothers dirty three albums, but it would be a while till I really discovered I guess the neoclassical scene. I fell in love and discovered The Rachel’s because of their connection to the indie scene, and also discovering the Necks was definitely a memorable moment. These albums were on high rotation. it was exciting to hear and relate to music that was coming from a similar direction as my own possibly and I think that was the beginning or at least encouraged my personal pursuit musically.. Not that I thought I would record and perform at that stage. It was purely a creative outlet. It wasn’t something I aspired to do as I was quite shy to express them to people publicly. It felt very personal and I guess still does……
Other influences included Brian Eno & Arvo Pärt & Terry Riley and then filtering in from the Jazz side Alice Coltrane Sun Ra other outfits that stemmed from the indie instrumental world like A Silver Mount Zion, The Dirty Three.. & it all grew from there.. I still feel like I’m catching up.. So much fantastic music out there.
Autumn – It’s a really beautiful time of year.. The ocean has had this continuous silver lining with the sky and air feeling so still you could imagine that time is stationary…embracing simple things like big walks are always an inspiration… Getting out in the open air. Simple things can fuel creativity.
I have a little Gamelan music and in the last year or so have grown very curious and interested in the traditional sounds. I love the tuning and textures that give that eeriness about it. The Rachels also produced some great atmospheric Bell Sounds and the like which kind of resounded in the rigging of boats clinking across the water late at night on their album.. “the sea and the bells” and also “handwriting”. I find those kinda ambient sounds my inspiration right now for just setting the mood at home.
When I can’t sleep:
Apart from feeling really sleepy or sleep deprived there is a certain enjoyment gained from having the night to oneself. Knowing everyone else is sleeping and you’re not offers a completely different mood. I wrote most of night sky late at night…… …. some of my favourite albums played during these periods have been…
Arvo Pärt – Alina
If these two movements don’t put a lump in anyones throat then I don’t know what will. This is one of my all time favourite albums and what Arvo Pärt does incredibly well is make silence or pauses in music more beautiful than almost the music itself or the kinship between the two. The simplicity tells you that what makes something so beautiful is like he says that it’s not how many notes are played but how beautifully a single note is played.. This piece is the personification of that and I think it’s almost more difficult at times to do that with conviction than it is to write something with complexity..
Gavin Bryars – Jesus Blood… I’m a fan of distant noises/ real life recordings in music. It can give it another level.. furnishing the imagination & affect the music has at times.. The first piece that swayed me in doing this was A Silver Mount Zion “He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms”. This piece by Gavin Bryars does the same thing. The doleful repetitive ballad of this man from a poor community along side the same repeated melody. (Some unused dialogue from a film he was Scoring at the time..) I love that Tom Waits unexpectedly creeps in towards the outro (on this version I have).. I first heard this piece years ago driving home early hours of the morning on a late night radio program and wrote it down on a scrap piece of paper and lost it and didn’t know who it was & rediscovered the piece a good few years later.. it’s a piece that is sorrowful but is so musically fixed that if you’re sad you kinda get taken away on the sadness of another…
A Winged Victory for the Sullen – This album offers all things pensive… one of those albums you never grow weary of….. Wraps you in nostalgia.
Windy and Carl – Antarctica… A Lovely Ambient Album my eldest brother gave me.. I never grow tired of this one either…The list goes on…
I love being woken up to the sound of birds….
At the moment my morning album is Day of Radiance by Laraaji… I love that Brian Eno just discovered him busking in washington square park.. the repetitive mood of this continual melody throughout takes you away but it’s kinda energizing at the same time. I also have Discreet Music on high rotation in the morning by Brian Eno. I’m pretty sure I eat my breakfast to side two about 3 times a week!
When I’m cooking or Pottering about the house….
In the past year Eden Ahbez is getting a good run. I’m also a massive Alice Coltrane Fan…. I grew up being force-fed jazz by my father but it paid off as when I left home and was traveling overseas I found myself diving into 2nd hand Jazz record stores and started building a foundation off the things I had grown up listening to… Some of my favourites are Pharoah Sanders, Sun Ra, Bill Evans,and then Last year When I thought I knew every Alice Coltrane Album I discovered one of her best albums ever – ‘Divine Songs’…..It’s a definite cooking and red wine come all things late night and road trips kinda album.. A nice spacey dreamy album..
A bit of Tom Waits never goes astray either… I listen to Bawlers from his triple album the most as I feel like it’s got a bed time story telling style about it.. Doesn’t all his stuff… Even his theatrical ones do.
Right now I’m cleaning the house to:
My Bloody Valentine, DJ Shadow, the knife and Bluebottle Kiss…….
All these artists offer a hook in the best left winged kinda way…
Most played album at the moment:
Charcoal by Brambles.. It’s got such a beautiful warm and open simplicity to it but also at the same time has so much movement … I love the recording sound… it’s very dreamy… and it creates this introspective mood about it…
I’d say a few books have possibly aimlessly wandered into the mood of my compositions non-intentionally whilst writing Becalmed and Night sky. Some were:
The Secret History – Donna Tart. A very compelling read and slightly plot driven that gets a bit suspenseful in a way about a bunch of tight-knit group of students… and….
Steppenwolf – Herman Hesse. I guess one of the classics about the reflections of a semi recluse character who doesn’t really fit into the everyday world struggling with his own conflicting natures set in a semi magical/ symbolic backdrop.
Cancer Ward – Alexander Solzhenitsyn one of the most powerful reads recommended by my Brother Jamie. Even more powerful is understanding the main character of the book is semi-autobiographical..
One of the pieces on Night Sky…… “By Night” was originally going to be called “the yellow sun had left him”… A description of a scene in the book…
Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
Since a young age I’ve had a bit of a fascination with the life of Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). Alice in Wonderland offers the best form of escapism as a child or an Adult… I have watched the cartoon over and over…
I love films… I can’t list the many I’ve enjoyed so the latest that comes to mind is Samsara by the Cinematographer Ron Frike. It was filmed over four years in 25 countries around the world. One of those wonders of the world type docs but the message unpretentiously seems to convey that we could do with focusing back to the simple things. We make everything so complicated and mass-produced and everything is done on such a huge scale that we forget about the small things in life that bring happiness..There’s some really amazing shots/scenes….
I love a good belly laugh and Woody Allen has done that time and time again.. He plays the idiot like no one I’ve known before.
Zelig & The Purple Rose of Cairo being two of my favourites.
“Becalmed” and “Night Sky” by Sophie Hutchings are both available now on the Preservation label.
Interview with Sophie Hutchings.
Sophie Hutchings is a Sydney-based composer and pianist. Her cinematic music belongs in the realm of modern composition, alongside neo classical composers like Nils Frahm, Dustin O’ Halloran, Peter Broderick, Rachel’s, Max Richter and Johann Johannsonn. Hutchings’ piano based compositions are both personal and mysterious, all at once. It is divine instrumental music where the ethereal layers of sound shares an unspoken connection with the listener. Her two studio albums, ‘Becalmed’ (2010) and ‘Night Sky’ (2012) have been lauded with critical acclaim.
Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry
On ‘Night Sky’, Sophie Hutchings has worked again with The Necks long-term engineer, Tim Whitten. The instrumentation of piano, harmonium, accordion, percussion, vocals, violin, cello, oboe, flute and saw creates a haven of otherworldly sound. As you listen to these pieces of music unfold, one feels an ocean of emotion pouring from the very heart of the composer. The eight instrumental pieces on ‘Night Sky’ are utterly captivating.
Endless moments of magic are revealed upon repeated listening to ‘Night Sky’. An incredible diversity exists within the pieces themselves:- the haunting vocal samples on ‘Shadowed’ towards the end of the piece; the Hauschka-esque piano and otherworldly sounds (saw) on ‘Between Earth And Sky’; the sombre accordion on ‘Saber’s Beads’. The moment the accordion and strings appear in the album opener ‘Half Hidden’ is one of my personal highlights. It’s almost as if the accordion itself is ‘half hidden’ and the effect once it’s heard amidst the piano and saw, five minutes in, evokes vivid emotion. My favourite piece is ‘By Night’. I can just feel the stillness of night in the meandering piano. The violin adds a certain darkness and sadness. The piano becomes more reflective alongside the strings. The sound of woodwind brings hope. The saw adds this realm of wonder. The voices heard later is akin to Julianna Barwick, bringing solace and hope, before descending piano notes brings the piece to a close.
Congratulations on your amazing new album ‘Night Sky’, Sophie. It is one of those truly transcendent albums that is filled with beauty and wonder. It’s a real pleasure to ask you some questions in relation to your music.
What was the recording process like for ‘Night Sky’?
The recording process was as relaxed as one can make it.. Being in a studio is not the same as when your writing pieces at home in your natural environment so it was really important to try and create an atmosphere to encourage and envelope the emotion of what you are creating.. You try to take it as it comes and you end up getting lost in it all in a good way….
The studios all had their little touch but I have to say Oceanic studios was a highlight as it was a adventure rummaging through all the different instruments and creating organic tones that I’d imagined being on the record which is why I wanted to try that studio…. Like the wind on beginning of Half hidden.. bits of percussive elements the tacked piano and harmonium. Things like that…
How did it differ from your previous album ‘Becalmed’?
I guess last time it was more of an unknown Journey.. I didn’t think of every piece in advance as much as I did Night Sky (though in general, when I write, the initial stage is always very vague and builds from there). I felt pretty strongly about how I wanted the end result to be with the instrumentation on Night Sky hence it was probably slightly more focused.
In terms of instrumentation, how do you decide which instrument to use for each piece of music?
I don’t like to over do things. I really wanted ethereal type layers but I also really like space so there is room for it all to breath… It doesn’t really feel like a decision making process to me. You write the piece and whilst connecting with it, it’s almost like it tells you, and once I hear the melody of another form of instrumentation it stays with me and you make sure you write or capture it in some way.
When composing music for piano, do you imagine other instruments being added at a later stage?
Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Half Hidden’s accordion riff came to the fore front of my mind straight away and the huge gaps with the intro to allow for the piece to start is a personal favourite in composition to me.. Other times it comes at a later stage when your bonding with the piece.
My favourite piece of yours is ‘By Night’. I can just feel the stillness of night in the meandering piano.
I’d love to have an insight into the instrumentation used in each section of ‘By Night’ and the process involved to bring it all together?
A finished product is different to when you’re in the thick of it.. I find it a difficult thing to break it all down really…That’s the beauty of instrumental music. People can feel & interpret it the way they want & it keeps it personal and mysterious though you can also share an unspoken connection.
What composers and musicians have inspired you the most to make music?
Like most people who love music I like a wide range… I grew up listening to a lot of Jazz because of my father and my brothers were very involved in the indie rock scene.. I loved shoe gaze and anything intense & repetitive. My record collection earlier on really consisted more so of that genre….Instrumentally I was listening to people like The Dirty Three, A Silver Mount Zion & also bands like The Necks, Brian Eno and Rachels a lot & from there I built on people like Arvo Part, Alice Coltrane, Johhann Johansson, Terry Riley… I also really love Ambient music. Murcof being one of my favourites.
At what age did you first play music?
We had a family piano that was free for all. I can’t remember the age exactly, I’d need to confirm with my mum…!
What are your current inspirations?
Space & the night..
Describe Sydney and the effect the place has on your music?
Sydney is beautiful city Surrounded by Ocean & Harbour with the city landscape weaved in & out of that… A wonderful place to get lost in your thoughts is on Road trips out of Sydney..
I think i would write the same music where ever I was though…. It’s more my own sense of mood that sets in when I’m playing that I think possibly affects where I’m placed in my music if that makes sense…
Are there any plans for a European tour? (I hope so!)
I hope so too! So yes if possible.
What’s next for you?
I’m not really sure.. We will see…
‘Night Sky’ is out now on Preservation.
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