CDs > Reviews of "kinkh"
kinkh : Music by Jean Hasse : VMCD-101
BBC Music Magazine, March 2000
The American composer Jean Hasse here presents her own work principally on the piano but also on the flute. With a percussion ensemble and even with the voice of composer David Matthews. She has a distinctive compositional voice herself, complemented by her strong piano playing. It's rhythmic but hypnotic, including, for instance, lots of open fourths, tone clusters (try the second piece, Silk Water), wide space between clear, intertwining lines, lots of long, echoey pedalling, and a beautiful use of silence, which, in the opening piece kinkh is used every bit as rhythmically as the notes. Influences are many and varied, from Earle Brown to contemporary jazz, and certain timbres are reminiscent of medieval sounds.
The ideas are both simple and strong, well worked-out and engaging to the ear, as in Tremolo Piece, for 'pianos', which builds up harmonies slowly in an unchanging but ever-richer texture. The short pieces which complete the disc range in length from just eight seconds to no more than two and a half minutes. According to the booklet notes, they are to be published in a series of graded volumes for children and adults: an excellent prospect, as their variety of approaches and quirky titles will be enjoyed and there is an unquenchable need for high-quality material for this market.
- Jessica Duchen
Musical Opinion, Summer 2000
This is the first CD devoted to Jean Hasse's music, and a fascinating compendium it is. The first thing to say about her music is that it is immediately communicative; she possesses a clarity of expression which is rare in modern music ... All in all this is one of those rare records - unusual pieces from an original and musical mind.
- Robert Matthew-Walker
Piano Journal, Spring 2000
... excellent recording ... piano teachers and enterprising pupils should acquire it, but it should give considerable pleasure to others too ...
- Peter Grahame Woolf
The Guardian, 15 September 2000
Hasse, an American composer based in England, has used the relatively affordable medium of a solo piano album (give or take a few flutes and percussion) to present a rewarding compilation of her work over the past 15 years. Hasse's musical language owes something to the US minimalists, but there's another sensibility at work that equips the best pieces with melody, grace and a steely foundation. Tremolo Piece and As seen from the sky are reminiscent of Somei Satoh's Incarnation II; Never Fail Fudge and Maybe are consonant piano miniatures with an intelligent twist.
- John L Waters
Village Voice, New York, 29 May 2001
Remember Hans Otte's Book of Sounds? If you liked that, you might also like Hasse's slightly jazzier, less dryly conceptual Pocket Pieces for piano. She's fortyish, American, living in England, and her post-minimalism is dreamy but not without backbone; she ups the tension before you can settle into anything. There's a little improv, a lovely piece for reverbed and echoed flutes (Pulling), and a gentle, Earle Brown-inspired percussion piece, but most of the disc is small, thoughtful piano pieces of often Satie-esque melancholy.
- Kyle Gann
Women in Music Now magazine, August/September 2001
... Hasse dips into many different styles - jazz, impressionism, contemporary classical - and does it all with such originality and verve that I would like to hear more extended pieces, possibly along the lines of Pulling intended for many flutes surrounding the audience.
- Diana Harris
International Record Review, June 2000
Is there a musical equivalent of Cucumber with Jam? What sort of music might be inspired by Scrambled Eggs on Butter, Green Peas, or a piece of (presumably irresistible) Never Fail Fudge? And is the music of such encounters likely to sound any more gustatory than that of Tired Eyes, Across the Room, or You Said You Would Call? The invitation to ask such questions is among the pleasures of Jean Hasse's compositions presented on this disc. A fascination with articulating that space in our souls between language and music that is so elusive (in composer John Williams's description of her) is clearly one of the main sources of her work.
Born in 1958, Hasse grew up in the USA and has lived in England since 1994; this CD offers recordings of music she wrote between 1985 and 1999, almost all of it for solo piano (marvelously played here by Hasse herself). Characteristically, this is music of hard edges: exact, etched with precision and drawn to the possibilities of carrying melody within thick, often block-like textures. Hasse's rich, confident harmonic writing is what sustains these textures, and what, indeed, makes them one of the principal areas of interest: though her harmonic style is dense, each harmonic moment is precisely weighted, and successive moments release shifting colours of great clarity and definition. As an approach to the instrument - to its capabilities and associated repertory of gestures - this is piano writing of a conservative cast. Yet within these restrictions the pieces offer considerable diversity; and the music's lucidity, combined with the range of its references (which often include jazz), its improvisatory flair and its sheer quirkiness, make it a source of continual surprise.
Most of the compositions here are tiny. From the collection that constitutes the Pocket Pieces, 35 are presented, and most last less then a minute. Many of these are hardly more than fragments, inasmuch as they end just when one wishes they would go on; when heard in relation to their titles, however, the curtailments usually make at least some kind of programmatic sense. In truth, these pieces are less for the stage than the home and the piano teacher's studio. Hasse has arranged them into five graded volumes, with both children and adults in mind; she plans to complete the series by writing another 40 more such pieces. The nine other pieces on the disc are generally longer and more substantial, and include what I think may be the best ones: the jagged, flint-like kinkh and the lovely, jazzy Purple Blues, You're Like a Sunny Day, and The Fantastic Vacation.
Only two pieces are not for piano. Pulling is an innovative textural work designed for at least four flutes; here the parts, played by Hasse herself, are overdubbed, and the effect (idiomatically quite different from almost everything else on the disc) is rather like that of a strong, constant wind blowing through tall reeds. The other non-piano piece - a realization of a graphic score after Earle Brown - is a slight, gentle work for percussion ensemble, and the only moment on the recording where the composer is not also the performer. Though situated to provide some respite from the sound of the piano, there's a sense in which these two pieces are oddly out of place. According to the helpful booklet notes, Hasse herself believes the Pocket Pieces are the main reason for the CD's existence. That may be too narrow. But I do think the disc will be of interest primarily to pianists - especially students and non-professionals - looking for new music for the instrument that is fresh, lively and attractive, and yet not impossibly difficult to make sense of or to play. In both Jean Hasse's compositions and performances, they are likely to find a rewarding harvest.
- Christopher Ballantine, Professor of Music, University of Natal