Composer Christopher Hobbs, at age 18, was the youngest member of the critically important British improvising ensemble AMM and since then has become an established and respected figure among Britain's avant-garde composers, as a member of the Scratch Orchestra; co-founder of the Promenade Theatre Orchestra (with John White); teacher, lecturer, author, and so forth. Nevertheless, inasmuch as recordings are concerned, the work of the prolific Hobbs -- apart from his early recordings with AMM and a number of releases on the echt-obscure EMC imprint -- has practically been invisible. Cold Blue Music brings Hobbs into the realm of the corporeal market with a very modest, low-cost offering, Sudoku 82. This is a work scored for eight pianos, played by pianist Bryan Pezzone on one through the use of overdubbing. The process involved in composing the music -- which is part of a series of now over 150 compositions -- interfaces Apple's Garageband software, the numbers in sudoku puzzles and random number generation websites; while the mechanics of making the music involves the world wide web to a great degree, Hobbs reserves the creative end of the music for himself. The harmonic content of Sudoku 82 is Hobbs' choice, whereas the external resources go toward shaping the form of the music. The result is a 19-minute CD single of unrelenting beauty and hushed restraint, and the numerically determined shape of the music renders it into a structure in which the beginning and/or end of the music is indefinable. Put the CD into your player on auto repeat and it would take a great many listens to develop an attraction to pet passages; it seems constantly changing, even though the basic harmonic materials -- ranging from a kind of Bill Evans-like calmness to the occasional tougher, thicker harmonic idea -- are quite limited for a piece that runs nearly 20 minutes. Superficially one might compare its sound to some of the early graphic scores Morton Feldman composed for multiple pianos, but Sudoku 82 is very different in attitude and actually more attractive to the ears that hear Feldman's pieces in that mode. While the struggling classical CD market might not be able to bear the whole brunt of Hobbs' 150 works in this cycle, this one representative makes for truly great, relaxing listening. Sudoku 82 is musically coherent in its constant morphology and uncompromising style, but not confrontational, and it really makes one want to hear what else Hobbs has been up to.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Uncle Dave Lewis