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An Anthology of Occasional Pieces, Pt. Seven

Simon Rackham

Various pieces for piano composed between 1988 and 2020.

‘Head’ was originally composed in 1999 for solo piano, but I added a second pianist in 2020, so is presented here in the new version for piano four hands. 'The Leap!' was originally composed in 1988 for piano and string quartet, commissioned by Bill Hopkins for a film adaption of his novel (originally published in 1957 under the title 'The Divine and the Decay'), which never got made. This is a reworking of the 1988 piano part with additional new material composed in 2020. 'Another Piano Piece' was composed for solo piano in 2003. (It was written on the 1st June and 'Are You Dreaming Now?' was written on the 3rd June, which is mildly interesting as they are almost opposite in all ways). 'Are You Dreaming Now?' was composed for solo piano (it may originally have been intended as a song, but I've lost the words) in 2003. I recently found the score and have reworked it a little bit. It seems to me to be the most 'normal' thing I can remember having written...a tune, with simple harmony. It is dedicated to (now my wife), Paola Paoletti. 'The End of The Line' was composed for piano (three hands) on 21st January 2020, ten days before the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union. I believe 'Brexit' to be an absurd self harming decision and wanted to use this opportunity to publicly proclaim my profound opposition to it. One may think I should write something sad, as sadness is easily expressed musically, (and it does make me sad) but how do you musically represent being ashamed of your country's collective decision? 'Double Bind' was composed in 1997, for solo piano. Double bind is a situation where someone is giving or receiving conflicting signals or messages. 'Art Music (for The Information Tango)', was originally composed in collaboration with John Miller under the title 'Trev' in 1994. We were commissioned by the Australian actor and performance artist Trevor Stuart to provide music for an installation he was making called 'The Information Tango'. John and I worked together to produce a structural framework for the piece and then separately I wrote this music and he produced a drum track, then the two independent pieces were put together. In this extended version of the piece I've omitted the drum track and original vocal part (that recited a list of artists), and have written another piano line, making it now for piano four hands. 'Drone Music (in Memory of a Bee)' was composed in January 2020, and is dedicated to a drone bee (a male honey bee) that we looked after for a couple of weeks when my wife and I found it with a broken wing. A drone in music is usually a long sustained note or tone (for example as used by La Monte Young), so here I have used a continuously repeated low B, (as our bee couldn't fly!). 'Absolute Zero' was composed in 1991 for solo piano and two drum kits, (playing in different time signatures).

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Monologue

Simon Rackham

Four pieces for piano composed in 2019 and an arrangement of a work from 1990.

‘The Process of The Process (For Robert Ryman)’ was composed in the autumn of 2019 for solo piano. Robert Ryman (1930-2019) was an American painter, best known for his series of white on white paintings. The piece is composed only using the white notes of the piano. ‘Monologue’ was composed in 1990 for viola, double bass and organ. This version for piano and organ was arranged in 2019. ‘Falling’ was composed in the autumn of 2019 for solo piano. From the beginning of each phrase the notes always go downwards. ‘Afternoon Tea in Valentines Park’ was composed in the autumn of 2019 for solo piano. In the summer of 2019 I spent a pleasant afternoon with my wife in Valentines Park, Ilford, Greater London. ‘Farewell Music (For Pattie)’ was composed in November 2019 for piano three hands on hearing the news of the death of my great aunt Pattie Orlandini.

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Alternative Arrangements

Simon Rackham

A series of pieces written in the 1990's for various instruments, arranged for piano or two pianos in 2019.

‘Alternative Arrangements’ comprises a series of pieces written in the 1990's for various instruments, arranged for piano or two pianos in 2019. In arranging the pieces I have occasionally changed the octaves in which notes appear and made other slight modifications. Originally composed for four ‘Cellos in 1990 under the collective title 'Call it Wildman'. This arrangement is for 2 pianos, with the subtitles: Pt. 1 - Call It What You Will, Pt. 2 - Call It How It Is, Pt. 3 - Call It How It Was. ‘Hourloupes’ was composed in 1991 for violin (or viola) and ‘cello, this arrangement is for solo piano. It is dedicated to Jean Dubuffet (1901 – 1985) who did a series of works called Hourloupes. 'Sfoggiando Albertina' was composed in 1997, originally for violin and piano, but here arranged for piano three hands. The piece is dedicated to Davide Minotti. ‘Even Stones’ was composed in 1991 for Violin, ‘Cello, and Piano under the original title of ‘An Arrangement of Even Stones’. Even stones is an anagram of seven notes, and all the music on this album is diatonic. This arrangement is for two pianos. In the original work the movements are joined together, but here I have separated them.

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Waves and Stillness

Simon Rackham

Two pieces of very clam meditative piano music.

‘Waves’ was composed in the late spring of 2019 for piano (one hand) and electric organ (one hand) and is intended to be played by one performer. The piece was inspired by sitting watching the waves lapping the shore on a day with a very light breeze. My music generally uses a lot of repetition, but with this piece there is no direct repetition, as each phrase is unique in the way every wave is unique. The organ plays very quiet sustained notes and over the top the piano plays (what is intended to sound as) a very improvisatory line. After the constant movement and undulations of 'Waves' comes 'Stillness', also composed in the late spring for solo piano.

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A Handful of Notes for Guido of Arezzo

Simon Rackham

Seventy one minutes of music for two pianos dedicated to the medieval monk who invented musical notation.

‘A Handful of Notes for Guido of Arezzo’ was composed in late February and early March 2019 for two pianos. One piano has the sustaining pedal held down throughout and plays longer notes while the other piano uses no pedal and only plays very short notes. The piece explores the relationship between these two piano sounds. It is composed using a hexatonic scale (B, C#, D#, F, G, A). Guido of Arezzo, (also known as Guido Monaco) was a medieval Italian Benedictine monk and music theorist thought to be the inventor of musical notation using a stave. Guido also gives his name to the ‘Guidonian hand’, a system to aid singers to learn new music.

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One Hundred and Two

Simon Rackham

Eleven piano pieces with titles reflecting a positive outlook on life.

'A Hundred and Two' was composed in January and early February 2019 for solo piano. The pieces are all diatonic and use various key signatures but all begin and end on an A. Following the daily news one gets a feeling that the world is in constant chaos, with one terrible event swiftly following on from the last, but this is a distortion, as the reality of life for most people also contains moments of pleasure and joy. I decided to write a series of pieces with positive sounding titles, and hope that they offer a little resistance to the prevailing doom and gloom of the news. The album is dedicated to my sister Helen Gould, who when faced with difficulties of her own maintained a resolutely positive outlook.

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Singularity

Simon Rackham

New music for solo piano and piano three hands.

'Singularity' contains new pieces composed in five days in early January 2019, except 'Elegy, (For Albina)' which was composed in December 2018 in memory of Albina Landini. The title track 'Singularity' is for piano three hands and starts with all the white notes being played at once, (as a one off unique event) and from the dense sound the piece gradually emerges. 'To Fill a Hole in Time' is also composed for piano three hands and is dedicated to the composer and mathematician Dennis Johnson. All the music was composed using the 'Finale' notation program then a midi file from there was 'performed' by the 'Pianissimo', virtual grand piano for the recordings.

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An Anthology of Occasional Pieces, Pt. Six

Simon Rackham

A selection of music for solo piano (and piano three hands) with pieces from 1988 to 2018.

An Anthology of Occasional Pieces, Pt Six, (the final CD in this series), contains recent music interspersed with some much older pieces. 'The Centre of Narrative Gravity', was composed in 1992. 'Morsel', was composed in 1993. 'A Running Start at Silverstone', (composed in early 1989) and 'The Daughter of a Competitor at Goodwood', (composed in late 1988) are both from 'Motors, The Golden Picture Book' and were first performed by Helen Ottaway. 'Molly McGredy (Floribunda)' was composed in 1988 and premiered by Helen Ottaway in a '3 or 4 Composers' concert at the I.C.A. in London. 'Hills in the Rain', 'From The Top Again' (for piano, 3 hands), 'Reflections' and 'Minimized' (for piano, 3 hands) were all composed in the autumn of 2018. All of the music was made using the 'Finale' music notation program, then a midi file from there was played through the Virtual Grand Piano program 'Pianissimo' for the recordings.

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Slower Than Time

Simon Rackham

Seventy four minutes of solo piano music slower than time.

A second is the SI base unit of time, i.e. the accepted standard division of time that all calculations are based on, from measuring the time elapsed since the beginning of the universe (c. 13.7 billion years ago) to the speed of light (186,000 miles per second). A metronome marking of crochet equals 60 would give 60 beats per minute. This piece uses a metronome marking of crotchet equals 48, with a constant pulse throughout. The piece was composed in the early autumn of 2018 for solo piano, utilising a diatonic system based on the notes of the F major scale. (Incidentally, if the piece were to be played at one beat per second, it would last about an hour.)

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