Hep to HatHut
Now, to top it all off, there are three Hats. “Over the years,” explains HatHut’s official history, “Uehlinger has introduced several new label names under the HatHut umbrella, in order to indicate the changing styles and musical attitudes of its artists. In the past these included HatHut, hatMUSICS, hatART, as well as the three designations currently under production: hatOLOGY (for Jazz and related improvised music), hat[now]ART (to represent Contemporary Composition and New Music), and hatNOIR (to serve as a home for fresh, unpredictable, innovative, uncategorizable projects).” Sample each in the reviews accompanying this feature. But don’t just read about them.
Economics are an ongoing problem. The Hat history site also contains an account of the label’s adventures with various corporate sponsors, and of the necessity of such sponsorship for the label to survive. Nevertheless (or consequently), Uehlinger has instituted a new Midprice program: “Beginning in September 2003 each month different CDs from the extensive Hat Hut catalog will be offered as midprice-CDs. These will be selected monthly from hat[now]ART numbers 101 through 136, hatOLOGY numbers 501 through 564, and hatNOIR 801 through 803. 20 titles of the series hatOLOGY will be offered as midprice-CDs in September to celebrate 20 years of distribution through Harmonia Mundi. 10 more titles of the series hat(now)ART will follow in October 2003. Amounts are limited! Watch the Hat Hut website each month.”
Get them while they last. Long before I was a reviewer, I was an ardent fan of HatHut Records. Never did I see or hear one that didn’t give me a quickening of anticipation at the sight of that unmistakable red (and now orange) spine, and never did I find one that ended up disappointing me. Werner X. Uehlinger has been, against immense odds, publishing outstanding non-commercial music for over 25 years now. Here’s hoping for another 25, and many more beyond.
25 Great Hats
For John Cage
Josje Ter Haar (violin) and John Snijders (piano) work through nearly seventy minutes of Feldman’s airy minimalist clusters: mostly two-note and three-note intervals, repeated and melded and transmuted into others. It is music of immense detail and concentration, rewarding careful attention and inducing the sort of hypnotic reverie that Cage himself identified as the purpose of music: to sober and quiet the mind, making it susceptible to divine influences. The instruments are sounded cleanly and quietly, without bombast or vibrato. Much of the time they follow one another sequentially, note for note or small cluster for small cluster, and then suddenly intertwine and work off one another, but only for an instant. It is music that brings you closer, makes you sit up and pay attention to the details. In an age when most of what passes for music is hammering rant that demands your attention with such stentorian bullying that the mind recoils from it, it is refreshing to find this small, clear, inviting music that, while making no demands whatsoever, ends up delivering a great deal more than all that shouting.
Paul Bley, Franz Koglmann, Gary Peacock
Mysteriously beautiful music from the mysterious Annette Peacock, the master composer, occasional singer and recording artist, and former wife of both Gary Peacock (bass) and Paul Bley (piano). This is muted, understated, but deeply emotional and personal music. Lyrics are not sung or included in the text except for a few beguiling samples in the liner notes, matching the intense but subtle passion of the music: “So I will die and everything will fade away, / Nothing ever was, anyway . . .” It is all played without overt expressionism or empty fanfare, but is as powerful as one might expect given the mastery of these three players — and especially given the circumstances of the composer’s relationship with two of the three (Franz Koglmann adds flugelhorn, trumpet, and, presumably, a bit of detachment.) Bley is really at the center, as is fitting since Annette Peacock wrote a good bit of this music, according to Art Lange’s liner notes, as “environments he had to perpetuate.” Gary Peacock and Koglmann perpetuate them as well, lingering in the landscapes of wistfulness, regret, and quiet resolution.
Lörrach, Paris, 1966