The 1994 CD Each in Our Own Thoughts introduced the sampler and computer into Tim Hodgkinson's arsenal. Pragma pushes further in that direction. The six "works" (dixit the subtitle "New Works by Tim Hodgkinson") are presented like classical works -- for example, "Repulsion" is "for clarinet, electric guitar, brass instruments, percussion" -- but they are not. The composer assembled them with the help of digital technology. Some have scores, they use acoustic instruments, but they have not been performed as they are here by musicians. Hodgkinson collected samples from a few musicians (Charles Mutter, Albert Markos, Marion Coutts), produced a lot himself (on clarinet, guitar, percussion, viola), and stole the rest off CDs. The soundsmith deserves an A+; his work is seamless and natural-sounding and will fool most listeners. On the other hand, the compositions lack something that would make them memorable. They have a lot of impetus, even at times an ardor that recalls the composer's background as a rock musician, but otherwise they remain cerebral -- impressive but cold. "For Looking Inside," for three prepared violas, offers very interesting textures, with melded overtones and harsh scraping. The very percussive "Mala; Elated" has the clarinetist blowing in the direction of metal plates to trigger their resonances, a good idea that takes on cataclysmic proportions. Yet these pieces are not enough to salvage the album from its self-sufficient aura. Fans of Hodgkinson's work in avant rock groups must be warned of the fact that Pragma represents a completely different line of work.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture
Black Death and Errors in Construction for bass clarinet, prepared piano, electric guitar, 2 cellos, 2 violas & percussion