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#1564721 11/26/10 07:20 PM
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I just searched the forums, and only found one reference to this fine composer (about 3 years ago, in Pianist Corner, as one of a long list of names), so thought it was time to start a thread and hopefully get some people interested in his work and playing his music ! He is a very interesting composer for AB's (IMHO) and his music should appeal to people who are interested in minimalist composers such as Glass, Einaudi, Nyman etc.

Howard Skempton is an English composer. He's fairly well known here in the UK (at least you will come across his music reasonably regularly if you listen to Radio 3) but maybe not so well known elsewhere. His work is characterized by an extreme economy of style, and although he doesn't consider himself a 'minimalist', his works are often extremely minimal in scale. His work is more about taking a musical idea and distilling it down to its bare essentials, generally without using repetition, often resulting in pieces which are seconds rather than minutes long.

I think he is an interesting composer for adult beginner pianists mainly because his work is often quite easy to play, yet still very musically satisfying. However, these pieces aren't specifically written as beginner's pieces - they just happen to be quite easy as a consequence of the simplicity and economy of Skempton's musical language. To play them very well is difficult but they are great fun to experiment with.

To give you a flavour of his piano music, I've recorded a few pieces here, all taken from his "Collected Piano Pieces" (published by Oxford University Press). First up is "Saltaire Melody". This is a very simple, song-like piece in 6/8 time, which is quite chromatic but manages to somehow hide that fact and remain very tuneful

Saltaire Melody - http://www.box.net/shared/27dkphd46z

Next is "Surface Tension 3". This is a very short piece, which uses the three-against-two polyrhythm which you find a lot in Philip Glass. Skempton throws in a few 5/4 bars amongst the 4/4 bars, and consequently it makes a really nice rhythmic study.

Surface Tension 3 - http://www.box.net/shared/z9xyazerki

"Piano Piece 1969" is typical of many of Skempton's piano pieces in that it is a slow chorale-like piece, basically a sequence of chords. Sometimes, he gives rough tempo indications for these (in this case "very slowly"). sometimes very specific (e.g. semibreve = 2 seconds) and sometimes no indication at all, with no bar lines and all the notes notated as crochet heads. These are really hypnotic, contemplative pieces to play, and great sight-reading practice as there are lots of notes notated off the stave, and usually plenty of time to get to them !

Piano Piece 1969 - http://www.box.net/shared/ptrc264f7d

Finally, a piece called "Campanella 3". This is slightly tricky (for me at least, as you will hear as I stumble through it) but a nice piece which is reminiscent of bell-ringing pattern changes. I played this one mainly because the score is available on the web (see below).

Campanella 3 - http://www.box.net/shared/ts7a17tvaj

There is a CD of Skempton's piano music played by John Tilbury (on Sony). It has been released under various names ("Pianoworks", "Well Well Cornelius" and maybe some others) but it is always the same CD.

Also, if you're interested, you'll find plenty of info about Skempton on the web, but the following article is particularly nice because it includes some scores (including Campanella 3).

http://www.users.waitrose.com/~chobbs/ParsonsSkempton2.html

OUP publish two other books of Skemptons piano music as well as the Collected Pieces - "Images" (which is a set of pieces written for a TV documentary series, and more like 'pattern' music), and "Nocturnes and Reflections" (which I have yet to see but is on my list!)

Skempton has also written a lot of very fine choral, chamber and orchestral music. One piece in particular, his "Lento" for orchestra is to my mind an almost perfect piece of music. It's on youtube (it probably oughtn't to be, but there you go).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8fTD8SigAs

you should find the link to part 2 on there too. Better still, buy it - you can download the whole thing for 99p on amazon uk !

If you have got this far, thanks for reading, and if you listened, thanks for listening. I hope some of you enjoy discovering this music as much as I have !

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I'll get me coat.



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I read and listened to all of the links. Thank you for sharing Skempton with us. I had never heard of him. I don't think he sounds much like Glass, actually. I am not sure how I would characterize the large difference I hear. Perhaps others with more sophisticated musical vocabularies could describe the difference. Or, one might even tell me that my ear is lacking in sophistication because I cannot hear the similarity. I do find Skempton far less melodic than, let's say, Einaudi.
So, don't get your coat.....thanks for teaching me something.


Christine










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Sorry, that was just me being silly. I had a look to see if there were any replies and it so put me in mind of my favourite "Fast Show" sketch I couldn't resist ! Gave me a good idea for my signature quote anyway. I'm not too bothered - it won't stop me putting stuff up, although I now know the Piano Bar is a better place for this kind of random stuff so will go there in future. I'm still finding my way round here.

No I don't think there is a lot of common ground with Glass but I thought people who like minimalism might like it because it can have the same kind of hypnotic quality. I think it may be an acquired taste though. And also, it is probably much more fun to play than to listen to (like heavy metal guitar, or harpsichord).

Anyway thanks for your comments.

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Hi KeemaNan, I'm a big Einaudi/Glass/minimalism fan, so I appreciated your thread a lot. I had never heard of Skempton before. Rhapsody has one of his choral albums but not the piano recordings, as far as I can tell. I listened to your recordings, and while I don't think they're going to replace Einaudi in my heart (I agree with GlassLove that Skempton's work doesn't share the melodic beauty if Einaudi's), I enjoyed them. I think I liked the Campanella 3 the best, and I'm tempted to try to learn it just so that I can tell people I'm learning Campanella. ha "Surface Tension" possesses all the rhymthmic challenges I found in Glass's "Opening", so I don't think I'm going to tackle that one any time soon. eek



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