KLARNT / IMPROV
KLARNT is my CD of solo Bb clarinet improvisations.
cat no ZRTH3, distributed by ReR, and widely available online for download.
The word KLARNT derives from the name of the Turkish Clarinet, the KLARNET.
The sound of this word then collided with sound of the English CAN'T.
The result : the sound of possibility impacting with impossibility.
It first got used as a title for a Konk Pack piece, but, refusing to be bound by the opposition of the sign, grew into something more inclusive.
Of course generally music is presented with an aura of positivism, for example I'm thinking of Barenboim's idea about the need to negate silence.
But a musician could also feel : I CAN'T do this, BUT...
And nowhere is this more fitting than in the work of pure improvisation.
Tim Hodgkinson's music could best be described as a study in the dichotomy between presence and absence. Unlike, say, the more recent work of Evan Parker, silence plays an equal role to sound, and what is not stated is just as important as the pithy fragments that comprise Hodgkinson's playing in these two very different environments. We find him solo on KLARNT, and in the company of Roger Turner and Thomas Lehn for another miles-deep contribution to the KONK PACK catalog.
KLARNT's title signifies the search for essence. This most recent disc of solo clarinet pieces feels as if - as the title suggests - a few elements have been stripped away, and we are left with essence, or with a very potent extract. Many of these 11 untitled vignettes are fairly brief, packing myriad gestures into each moment. Even on the longer pieces, such as the final track, each second seems ready to burst with ideas. Dynamics have little to do with impact, as many moments of the most concentrated energy hang barely above a whisper. Instead, there is a sense of heightened emotion as Hodgkinson plums every register and mood of which the clarinet is capable.
With these come opaque but palpable references. Consider the gemmy fragment opening the first track , conjuring some sort of Middle-Eastern or Pan-Asian gestalt before disappearing. Or, in the fourth piece, shades of long-gone gas-pipe clarinetists are channeled and then dispelled as Hodgkinson hiccups the track to life. Yet, despite being jam-packed, the playing never feels frantic, and there's always room to let each statement breathe. Beyond that, each moment of reflection cleanses the palette for what follows, giving each piece a sense of circular finality.
A similar description might be given to Hodgkinson's guitar work, but on the new Konk Pack, Turner and Lehn play the role of counterpart and doppelganger by turn. On "The Welcome", Turner and Lehn build a constant backdrop against which Hodgkinson emotes; the three occasionally burst into powerful blasts and gusts of what might adequately be called post-rock, as only its skeleton remains. It is almost a different band that emerges on "Saturn Bar", and that's mainly down to Lehn's absolutely unique synthesizer work, here choppy and sometimes rhythmic as the others join him in creating communicative detachment. Most surprising, however, is what occurs partway through "The Grave", when a crystalline unity takes shape; all three musicians emit belltones in different registers to mesmerizing effect.
If Hodgkinson's stunning diversity needed further documentation, these discs provide it. They speak to a mind in constant exploration, both alone and with collaborators willing to go on the journey with him.
Mark Medwin, http://www.dustedmagazine.com/reviews/6155, Jan 13th, 2011
Whatever context you find him in, Tim Hodgkinson always seems to be grappling with some knotty issue or circumstance. He's not a musician to rubber stamp the given in any musical situation. He'd rather unsettle it and challenge himself in the process. The clarinet is notoriously an imperfectly designed instrument; its history has entailed numerous physical adjustments. That's surely part of its appeal for this British musician. Negotiating flaws and faultlines can add grit to an improvisation and generate sparks. Splutter (1985), his multi-instrumental solo debut, was iconoclastic and provocative. His latest solo release Klarnt, 11 stimulating dialogues with a Bb clarinet is, 25 years on, more mature and measured, but restlessness and a charge of spleen remain within its greater restraint. An 11 minute concluding track is especially striking for its finely monitored tension and constructive imbalance. The entire set displays Hodgkinson's breadth of unorthodox voicings and heretical techniques, but those accumulated resources move, morph and develop and never sound like dead weight.
... Hodgkinson has never got locked into a particular improvisation scene. That's helped him to cultivate an adaptable voice. It may be argumentative or sociable, but it's unmistakably his own.
Julian Cowley,The Wire 313, March 2010
Hodgkinson's understanding of the DNA of the clarinet is complete.
Philip Clark, Gramophone, Feb 2007
TIM HODGKINSON - Klarnt: Solo Clarinet (ReR TH3; UK) Solo B-flat clarinet by former member of Henry Cow & ongoing member of K-Space & Konk Pack. During the seventies, when Tim Hodgkinson was a member of Henry Cow, he played keyboards, alto sax and clarinet. Nowadays when Tim plays live & tours with Konk Pack he focuses on table-top guitar and clarinet. This is Tim's first solo clarinet disc and it is extraordinary. Solo clarinet recordings are pretty rare, as I can only recall John Carter & Vinny Golia doing this in the past. The clarinet has a most distinctive tone and sounds different from any other reed instrument. Tim explores the different sounds and sonorities that the clarinet provides. On each piece Tim takes his time to concentrate on various timbres and approaches. Bending notes in different ways, letting certain notes hang in the air and twisting them into odd shapes. In Tim's hands the clarinet explores wide range of dynamics from playful to harsh, from intense to cerebral, from subtle to explosive. This is a tour-de-force and not for clarinet lovers only.
Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery
Tim HODGKINSON. Klarnt. This is a whole album of solo Bb clarinet music. The 44-minute set puts extended techniques to the task of creating a coherent, flowing discourse. This is real music, not grandstanding or experimentation. Maintaining the order of the original performance (there are 11 tracks) has given the album a logic that results in a fun, challenging, and satisfying whole. A fine addition to the solo woodwind catalog.
Robert Reigle, Acoustic Levitation, Jan 2011