Boomkat Product Review:
Systems-based piano composition, originally for an installation in Edinburgh
“Prime Rhythms was born from conversations in late 2014 with the artist James Hugonin about the musicality and rhythm that exists in his paintings. These initial discussions focused on an upcoming exhibition taking place at the end of 2015. A series of his ‘Binary Rhythm’ paintings would be shown at Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, and he was keen to have a musical environment within the gallery, accompanying the works. This sound piece, Prime Rhythms, was the eventual outcome.
James’ work is both visually engaging and theoretically intriguing. He uses number systems, grids and artistic interpretation to inform large, rigorous and immersive paintings. When looking at one of his paintings it is easy to hear the shape of sounds, and the timbre within; to hear a cascade of rhythms, and to see the strong relationship between the paintings and the formation of music. There is a strong duality between mathematics and rules, and the free will of human creativity.
My focus in this composition was to create an object that would perform the piece within the gallery. Sonically it would be a metallic waterfall of sound, with no edges, no beginning or end. The crucial factor, however, was in the use of prime numbers, informing the spacing and rhythm of the played notes. This builds upon James’ own practice, where primes have become a growing part of his system informing each painting.
Prime Rhythms was realised as a reconditioned piano, modified with a purpose built playing mechanism. The prime numbers are expressed as teeth on a series of cogs, that drive wooden hammers on to the strings. The specific divisible nature of those chosen primes allow for a deeply complex tonal pattern to be created, and a composition emerges that feels immediately natural, rich in content and vivid in colour, whilst being wholly fixed to rule and order.
While the two pieces on this 11 inch lathe cut have been recorded specifically for this release, the piano’s inaugural performance was on October 30th, 2015, at Ingleby Gallery in Edinburgh (Binary Rhythm: Paintings 2010-2015). The piano then played a 22 minute variant every day at 1pm, up until 21st November, 2015.”