Changes

Simon Rackham

(to be released as a single on 15th April 2021) ‘Changes’ was composed for solo piano in March 2021. The title refers to the modulations that (very unusually for my music) occur through the piece. It starts in C then goes through G, D, A, E, B, F sharp, C sharp and then back to C at the end. There is a constant 3 against 2 pattern throughout the piece.

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Into the Blue (For Yves Klein)

Simon Rackham

‘Into the Blue’ is created out of two main elements; the first comprises a soundscape of four harmonium notes (spread over four octaves) and a very low organ note all playing a C. From these sustained notes I recorded a long, very quiet overlapping soundscape with each note gradually entering and disappearing. A similar technique to that I used in the construction of my album ‘Harmonium Music, A Soundscape for Empty Churches’ released in 2012, and a nod of appreciation to Klein’s ‘Monotone-Silence Symphony’. The second element is a quiet piano music composed with the scale of C minor. As in my 2019 piece ‘Waves’ there is no direct repetition, and the music is intended to somehow float in the ‘soundscape’ without a constant pulse, to achieve a sense of the immaterial that Klein was looking for as in his celebrated 1960 photo ‘Leap into the Void’.

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Meditations for Dennis Hartley

Simon Rackham

(To be released on 1st March 2021) ‘Meditations’ were composed for piano three hands in late January and early February 2021. I was working on a painting and suddenly thought it reminded me of something. After a while I realised it was rather similar to some work I’d recently seen by the American painter Dennis Hartley. On revisiting his website, I saw that the paintings were called ‘Meditations’, so I decided to write these pieces and dedicate them to him. His work can be seen at: https://www.dennishartleyart.com/ Hartley’s paintings seem to have a similarity to my music as he generally employs a very limited palette, often using only three colours so all the pieces are composed for piano three hands. ‘Meditation One’ uses a constant repetition of 12, 123, 1234, etc. up to 7, which can be heard throughout the work. ‘Meditation Two’ is a slow canon, with each part following one bar behind in a higher octave. Like the other pieces ‘Meditation Three’ is diatonic but uses a slightly unusual scale of C, D, E, F, G, A flat, & B flat. In ‘Meditation Four’ the three hands are playing in different times. The top part is playing groups of three quavers, the middle in four, and the lower part is mainly in five four time.

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Shadows

Simon Rackham

Music for solo piano composed in December 2020 and early January 2021. ‘In The Pieve a Settimo,’ was composed in December in celebration of a nice little church in Scandicci, Italy. Dedicated to San Giuliano, it is the oldest church in the Scandicci area going back to 866. ‘Shadows,’ was composed in early January. ‘Stop All The Clocks, for David Rackham,’ was composed in December after hearing news of the death of my father. ‘Fragments of a Waltz,’ was composed in early January, after watching the annual New Year’s Day concert from Vienna. The music evolves gradually by adding notes until the whole waltz is heard, and then notes are gradually subtracted. ‘Memories of Significant Moments,’ was composed in January while contemplating all the small moments in life that remain important in the memory. ‘Moving Music for Mum,’ was composed in January as a cheerful little piece dedicated to my mum. ‘Melancholy Music (December 2020),’ was composed in December, and is also related to the death of my father. The piece is different from most of my other music in being freely chromatic.

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In Different Times

Simon Rackham

‘In Different Times’ was composed for solo piano in October 2020. Throughout the piece both hands are playing in different times, 5 against 4, 3 against 4, and then 2 against 3. ‘For Mirella’ was composed in remembrance of Mirella Mecocci, my mother in law. ‘On Saturday’ and ‘On Sunday’ were composed in November 2020 for solo piano. 'Filtristic Music, for Daniela Corsini' was composed in November 2020 and is dedicated to the Italian digital artist and founder of ‘Filtrismo’. Her work can be seen at http://www.danielacorsini.it/ ‘Sunset Over Monte Cascioli’ for solo piano is composed using the diatonic scale of A flat major, with the right hand moving gradually step by step down the scale and the left hand gradually up the scale. Monte Cascioli is a medieval castle in Scandicci, Italy. ‘November Music’ was composed in late November for solo piano.

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Turbulent Times

Simon Rackham

‘Turbulent Times’, was composed in the early autumn of 2020, for two pianos. At the moment of writing the world was facing increasing Covid 19 infections, the US election was just around the corner and Brexit negotiations were entering a critical stage, so there was a high level of uncertainty both politically and from the point of view of health. The first piece could be subtitled ‘Spring’ where Covid 19 started introducing a new uncertainty. The second piece could be ‘Summer’ where for a while there was more optimism, and part three could be ‘Autumn’ with the problems caused by the virus rising again. The pieces are composed diatonically in B flat major, and all are in the same time signature of ‘six four’ (though with different tempo markings). Six four allows for many different divisions, for example 4 against 3, and in the third section the second piano is really playing in bars of five eight and seven eight against the first piano’s more regular beat. Throughout the music there is a constant interweaving of the material between the two pianos, and some elements are used across the pieces.

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One Equals One

Simon Rackham

‘One Equals One’ comprises two pieces for solo piano composed in the summer of 2020 with both pieces addressing the use of seconds, and both lasting the same time. The first piece is composed with one bar of music lasting one second, and the pulse is constantly present, though the bar may be divided in to one, two or three notes per second. The music is written diatonically but with an unusual scale of B, C sharp, D sharp, E, F, G, and A. The second piece ‘One Equals Sixty’ is composed with a beat of one second per note (60 BPM metronome marking), but the beat is not always audibly present which gives more sense of uncertainty about time. The piece has the subtitle ‘With Fairly Functional Harmony’, as although the piece is composed using a standard E flat major diatonic scale, I have (very unusually for me) used conventional chord progressions, though standard modulation into other keys doesn’t occur.

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Lockdown

Simon Rackham

‘Lockdown’ contains new music for solo piano composed in the period of the lockdown due to Covid-19 in Italy in March and early April 2020. ‘Sunday Every Day’ represents the feeling that every day now sounds like a Sunday with the general lack of familiar urban activity. ‘Waiting and Hoping’, expresses the longed for good news that things are gradually improving. ‘Only birds in the Sky’ is a reflection on the absence of aeroplanes from the skies. And ‘Lockdown’ is the overall feeling of the general restrictions on normal activities. While all the music is diatonic (using only seven notes), a couple of the pieces use slightly unusual scales, ‘Sunday Every Day’ uses a scale of C, D, E flat, F sharp, G, A, B, and ‘Only Birds in the Sky’ uses a scale comprising of C, D, E, F, G, A flat, B.

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A New Silence in the Cities

Simon Rackham

‘A New Silence in the Cities’ was composed for electric piano during the first week of the ‘lock-down’ due to the Covid-19 virus in Italy. Like everyone I was struck by the incredible silence of places normally thronging with people, and seeing pictures of cities across the world suddenly empty as each country imposed measures to tackle the outbreak was surreal. I look forward to the time when this doleful new silence of the cities is drowned out by the return of the usual sounds of the city with all the regular bustle and activity.

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