Andrew Hamilton‘s Music for People, a new album on NMC, contains three works by the composer: music for people who like art, for voice and ensemble; To the People for soprano and percussion; andmusic for roger casement, a ‘quasi-chamber concerto’ for harmonium.
music for people who like art sets text from 25 Lines of Words on Art: Statement by American artist Ad Reinhardt. In it the singer repeats the line ‘Art is Art’ over a gradually evolving (‘micro-modifications’, as Liam Cagney explains in his excellent liner notes) musical landscape. Hamilton’s minimalist credentials are very much on display, then, though what is most striking is how wittily he deploys his material, with long pauses, unexpected interjections (‘Yeah!’) and plenty of throwaway postmodern musical gestures. The result is not exactly lacking in seriousness, but one has the impression that Hamilton composes with a barely suppressed grin. It is infectious.
One could write almost exactly the same of the music for roger casement, even though the piece is inspired by a serious event—Roger Casement was an Irish nationalist who was executed by the British for treason in 1916, not before they also blackened his name with allegations of homosexuality. The humour is still here though it has most definitely turned black—there is a sense of gothic horror to the whole proceedings, with the whining sounds of the harmonium and the gradual sense of disintegration that the runs towards the frenzied final peroration.
To The People sets excerpts from French philosopher Jean Baudrillard’s book America, the title being inspired by German artist Blinky Palermo’s abstract paintings To The People of New York City. The work is divided into seventeen movements, the longest lasting more than six minutes, the shortest just twenty seconds. It is surprisingly different in atmosphere from the other two pieces—sparse, straight-faced—even if it does share many of their stylistic fingerprints. What it lacks in immediate physical exhilaration, however, it makes up for in subtlety of inspiration. There also moments of sublime beauty, most notably in the hushed final movement.
Read an interview with Andrew Hamilton, here.