Excerpts from Images; Postlude
Minimalists are mostly maximalists when it comes to duration. Not Howard Skempton. He is one of the very few Minimalist miniaturists. He began his musical life in the orbit of Cornelius Cardew, with whom he founded the experimental Scratch Orchestra in 1969, and in this environment evolved a distinctive musical language through a series of Satie-like piano pieces. Skempton’s Images are a set of solo piano works composed for a 1989 TV documentary. The Preludes evoke the play of the waves. In the first, right and left hand ricochet off each other gently. In No. 7 the bobbing is more lively. In No. 5 a wind injects a kink in the surface patterning. The Interludes are more contemplative. No. 4 betrays Skempton’s love of The Beatles in its syncopative directness. No. 5 channels the harmonies of Debussy. The final piece is his stand-alone Postlude, one of the most economical and evocative piano works that he ever wrote.