Domestic Geographies

Domestic Geographies

Music by Haworth Hodgkinson

High Moss HM 028 (69:20) • Released 27 December 2022

All music composed, performed and recorded by Haworth Hodgkinson in 2021 and 2022

Cover from a photograph by Haworth Hodgkinson

Album © Haworth Hodgkinson 2022

Links: Countess d'Azure Intuitive Music Aberdeen Haworth Hodgkinson

Buy album via Bandcamp (secure)

Domestic Geographies

This is not my covid album, my pandemic album, my lockdown album. The impact of the new coronavirus strain that emerged in 2019 has been too profound to sum up in a single album, and I'm sure its influence, direct and indirect, will be felt for years to come. This is, however, my first album of music created since the beginning of the pandemic that caused us to limit our travel and to come to a new appreciation of our immediate domestic surroundings. All the pieces were made from sounds recorded at or close to home, mostly my own home, but there are also sounds sent to me by my colleagues in Intuitive Music Aberdeen, Mandy Macdonald and Colin Edwards, sounds that they recorded at or near their homes. All these pieces are made from real-world sounds, both instrumental and environmental, and whilst electronics have been used to modify some of them, there are no synthesised sounds. There are two pieces made in 2021 under lockdown or semi-lockdown conditions, and two from 2022 after I had suffered a nasty attack of the virus myself.

A Throstle's Tale (2021)

The song thrush (or throstle) appeared to become more common during lockdown, and the blackbird perhaps less so, at least here in Central Buchan. The first few minutes of this piece are a snapshot of a spring morning in March 2021 as recorded from my own back door on a day that happened to be my father's 90th birthday. It's a typically noisy spring day in the Aberdeenshire countryside. The song thrush sings loudly and variedly from the top of my tallest tree, with crows and pigeons in the background. A tractor ploughing the adjacent field passes, followed by the flock of seagulls that always accompanies the plough. An aircraft flies over. None of this seems to disturb the song thrush, but then a pigeon comes close and the thrush falls silent. By this point, I have started to feed back altered versions of the bird's song, modulating it with a drone made from the sound of a bowed string. A tenor recorder also makes a contribution. Recorders, especially the tenor, are the instruments I play most often in public performances, and yet they appear very rarely in my recorded music.

Wheeze-Box Trance (2022)

Two instruments belonging to other musicians but currently in my possession provide the sound sources for Wheeze-Box Trance. One is an old battered hand-pumped harmonium that Countess d'Azure spotted in an antique shop in The Hague – she didn't buy it at the time, but later she sent another musician to look for it... it's a long story! The other instrument is a large Turkish cymbal that I was asked to look after some 30 years ago by a friend of a friend, and by now I can't even remember who really owns it.

This particular harmonium seemed to suffer some kind of lung deficiency, and the only way I could get it to produce anything like a continuous sound was to pump the bellows so vigorously that after a while I found myself entering a trance-like state. This fast and furious effort to keep the instrument sounding seemed to me to parallel my own struggle to keep breathing whilst suffering from covid in the early part of 2022, and this piece became a reflection on the covid experience. This may explain the desperate straining against mounting dissonance in the first half of the piece, during which the harmonium dominates. In the second half, the harmonium weakens and subsides, revealing the cymbal, which has in fact been present all along. Whether this represents a triumph over covid or resignation to it, I leave for the listener to decide.

Prime Measures (2021)

Prime Measures is something of a conceptual piece, with 25 sound events each set to repeat at time intervals controlled by prime numbers so that the events will never recur in the same combinations, or at least not within the conceivable duration of the piece. This is a short portion of one of several realisations that I made in 2021, using sounds recorded in lockdown by me and my Intuitive Music Aberdeen colleagues Mandy Macdonald and Colin Edwards at our separate homes in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. Most of the sound events are single notes – Mandy plays harpsichord and melodica, Colin various string instruments and the percussion sounds are from me. There are also some more complex sounds that we collected as we explored our local geographies – Colin found a woodpecker and a rusty sheet of metal, Mandy a rainstick and some wind chimes, and I found a chaffinch and some black plastic sheeting that had become caught on barbed wire and was vibrating in the wind. These events are all presented as found, with no pitch manipulation, but I carefully chose sounds that I thought would sound well together in terms of harmony.

All Souls to Cecilia (2022)

November 2022 in my part of Central Buchan seemed to be characterised by strong and unceasing winds. I recorded the wind blowing across the exposed landscape on 2 November (All Souls' Day) and finished this piece on 22 November (St Cecilia's Day). I filtered the sound of the wind to bring out certain frequencies, using harmonic processes similar to those in Wheeze-Box Trance, but whereas in that piece the harmonium was struggling for breath, here the wind seems limitless in its lung capacity. I also added a few tam-tam strokes as punctuation. As I worked on this piece I began to imagine human voices in the sound of the filtered wind, and I decided these voices were perhaps the souls of all those people who were lost to us during the pandemic, to whom we never got to say a proper goodbye.

Notes © Haworth Hodgkinson 2022

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