A Birthday Sequence

A Birthday Sequence

Music by Haworth Hodgkinson

High Moss HM 021 (75:18) • Released 24 February 2019

Music composed, performed and recorded by Haworth Hodgkinson in 1989

Cover from a photograph by Haworth Hodgkinson

Album © Haworth Hodgkinson 2019

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A Birthday Sequence for Hazel (1989)

[00:00] Chorale I
[00:49] First Dance
[02:40] Chorale II
[03:51] First Analysis
[11:32] Chorale III
[13:05] Second Dance
[16:44] Chorale IV
[18:50] Meditation
[37:42] Chorale V
[40:03] Third Dance
[45:39] Chorale VI
[48:23] Second Analysis
[60:00] Chorale VII
[63:07] Fourth Dance
[70:34] Chorale VIII

The fifteen sections of A Birthday Sequence for Hazel play continuously without pause, so I have presented them as a single track to avoid the playback interruptions that would be caused by track breaks on some popular audio formats. The timings above give a guide to the beginning of each section.

This music began with the idea to produce a short piece to celebrate a friend's birthday on 24 February 1989, but it rapidly grew to something much bigger than that original plan. I began with a melodic phrase based on the musical letters of Hazel's name, presenting this phrase always complete but at different speeds and with different rhythms, overlaid on top of each other in a cumulative minimalist way. This was the basis of the two sections for synthesisers alone called Analysis. Between these I placed a much less rigorous section for percussion, still based on the same notes, but not necessarily presented in order. This is the Meditation section.

Version 1: First AnalysisMeditationSecond Analysis

I felt that these three sections had a rather dark and serious feel about them, too dark for a birthday celebration, so I decided to surround them with four Dance sections for percussion and synthesisers, using a different and brighter mode, as well as an 11-beat rhythm.

Version 2: First DanceFirst AnalysisSecond DanceMeditationThird DanceSecond AnalysisFourth Dance

This seven-part sequence seemed a bit disjointed, so I set about creating the eight Chorale sections to tie it together. I used a piece of software I had been developing at the time to generate sequences of chords that would modulate between the two modes. These chord sequences are presented on synthesisers, with added percussion.

Version 3: Chorale IFirst DanceChorale IIFirst AnalysisChorale IIISecond DanceChorale IVMeditationChorale VThird DanceChorale VISecond AnalysisChorale VIIFourth DanceChorale VIII

I thus ended up with a notional sequence of fifteen sections that would run to about an hour and a quarter in total duration. By the time I had worked this out I had only a week to complete the composition and recording before Hazel's birthday. It was a week of intense working in a small cottage in Udny in front of an open fire, the computer running overnight each night to generate the chord sequences as the processing power available at that time was such that it might take several hours to generate a few minutes of music.

I structured the sequence such that each of the four strands, Chorale, Dance, Analysis and Meditation, would total a little under twenty minutes, with the individual pieces in each strand getting gradually longer and more developed.

At the end of the week the sequence was finished, and I took the bus into Aberdeen to deliver a tape copy to Hazel, only to find she was not there. She had gone away for a long weekend to celebrate her birthday. I got a copy to her a few days later though, and I think she was at least as bewildered as I was at the size of the thing I had created.

This monster was then set aside for many years, until in 2017 I made a digital copy, remastered and cleaned up from an old cassette tape, and this is what I now offer to the wider public, exactly thirty years on from its creation. Hazel, wherever you are now, happy birthday!

Notes © Haworth Hodgkinson 2019

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