PARTICLES - MUSIC BY BASIL KIRCHIN
Basil had been talking to me about Particles for a long, long time. He'd worked out his exact musical plans for it years in advance. It was to be his masterpiece, and I'd told him he'd had one of those already. I'd even gone to Hull and recorded him in 2004 talking for six hours about this album, discussing the sonic ideas he had and the leap he was making from the little boulders of sound he'd come across in Quantum to the new particles of sound he was working with.
I'd heard nothing of these recordings, but was aware that Bas was fighting off death and everyday was battling in the studio, working hard and perfecting his last recordings. Everyone knew it was miraculous that Basil had even got this far, he'd been ill for years and was rapidly deteriorating. One evening I got a call from Basil's close friend Clive, who informed me that Basil had been admitted to hospital and all looked very, very bleak indeed. Even though Basil would probably tell everyone he was "still roaring" his body was being eaten away by cancer of just about everything, he'd lost both eyes and his time was just about up. Basil died June 18th 2005.
Obituaries were written, articles and praise appeared in many places too. Basil had died in the knowledge that people were listening at last to music and sound ideas. And he'd left behind an album of work that no one had heard.
Two months later I received this finished album and listened. The album was classic Kirchin, odd, extreme in some places and in some parts a touch trance inducing. I loved it and even placed it on the Trunk Recommends pages. But over the next few weeks the album was shelved. I was struggling to work in the office I had rented, I badly needed to move on. My life was abnormally stressed. And I'd just been ripped off quite badly by a TV company too. And then I had to go to the Edinburgh fringe for a month which is like hello on earth. I was not in the best frame of mind or surroundings to listen and to appreciate Particles properly, I couldn't really listen to anything at all properly thinking about it now. So I stopped listening, and placed the master deep within my Kirchin files.
Fast forward 12 months after Basil's death. A year to the day in fact. The album is still filed away. And I get a call from Esther Kirchin, Basil's widow. She is frank, very emotional and straight to the point. She asked if I would fulfil the last wishes of a great man and issue Particles. I told her I would listen again immediately. That day I pulled the CD from my files and got on with listening. Properly this time, With time and space around me. All was quiet. And I pushed "play". Since then I have not stopped pushing play. Particles really is a remarkable piece of work. Basil is a true artists, and this album I can compare with the work of say Howard Hodgkin, the great British painter. Hodgkin takes fragments of memory, places and people and thinks about them a lot, and over the course of several years turns these thoughts and visions slowly into paintings. Some of Hodgkin's paintings take twenty years or more to finish. Kirchin is the same, much of his work took years and years to complete - especially the more complex pieces. Many of the cues on this new LP are long and involved, require dedicated listening and drift soulfully into your brain. Well that's what happens with me. Clive, Basil's best friend, has also informed me that many of the tracks have been worked up over many many years. Some from the late 1960s.
Overall the album has a strong and vital British jazz flavour, is brimming with ideas, sadness and light.
To me I can compare touches to other great Kirchin work, and some of the arrangements here are not a million miles from the incredible pastoral jazz of Neil Ardley.
My favourite track at the moment is the last one, E+Me, which I believe is "Esther And Me". This recording goes back to their time in Switzerland, in Schurmatt in the early 1970s, and follows a song that Esther would sing with the autistic children she used to teach. It is a rhythmic, modal thing, overflowing with all kind of sadness and joy. And features distant choral voices at the climax. I really cannot stop playing it.
Recently I have had the pleasure of chatting to Iain Firth, Basil's right hand man and engineer throughout the album's production. He's told me that much of the music comes from early Kirchin cues, vintage ideas and fragments from the 1960s and 1970s. This all gives the album an amazing period feel, and it was Iain's job to piece this musical jigsaw all together under the watchfull ears of Basil. And what an exceptional job they both pulled off.
To me Particles is a masterful collection of music, a fascinatingly wondrous album and extraordinary swansong. It will be issued both on CD and i-tunes (with extra tracks). I'm not sure about a vinyl album release yet, we'll see what public pressure is like. The main thing is that it will be issued shortly and the world will be able to listen and learn once more to this great man.
Here is the current track listing and some of Basil's final notes:
1)Bye Bye 1941
2)Concept Suite featuring the "Atonals". "Secret Conversations Between Instruments".
3)Tzuris Oy Vey
5)The Dice Is Cast
6)We Don't care
7)Rise And Revolt
This is what Basil wrote:PARTICLES
INCLUDING THE CONCEPT SUITE "SECRET CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN INSTRUMENTS"
FEATURING "THE ATONALS", A VIOLA - FLUTE - TRUMPET - EUPHONIUM - CELLO - BASS CLARINET AND BARITONE SAXOPHONE
MUSIC COMPOSED AND ORCHESTRATED BY BASIL KIRCHIN WITH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM IAIN FIRTH AND CLIVE LESLIE.
MY GRATITUDE TO MY WIFE AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER ESTHER, WHOSE MORTAR HELD THE WHOLE THING TOGETHER, TO CLIVE WHOSE CONSTRUCTIVE TIME AND HELP GIVEN IN ALL AREAS HAS BEEN INVALUABLE AND APART FROM THE WORK, AS A "FRIEND", IAIN FIRTH
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NOTHING OF ANY CONSEQUENCE IS EVER POSSIBLE WITHOUT A MEANINGFUL AMOUNT OF PEOPLE "GIVING OF THEMSELVES" IN WHATEVER THEIR AREA, EVEN THOUGH THAT AREA IS NOT NECESSARILY ACTUALLY "DOING THE MUSIC" - HERE ARE SOME OF MINE WITHOUT WHOM "PARTICLES" WOULD NEVER HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT OF DAY - FOUR SURGEONS WHO BETWEEN THEM HAVE SINCE 1997 ISH LITERALLY KEPT ME ALIVE - PROFESSOR STAFFORD, , MR N HART, DR MING, AND MR INNES - IAIN FIRTH WHO FROM THE FIRST NOTE TO THE LAST IS LIKE A THREAD UNBROKEN, RUNNING THROUGH ALL THE DIFFERENT DEPARTMENTS, "TECHNO SHEPHERD" ABOUT SUMS IT UP - ALAN BARNES, BRUCE ADAMS, AND CHRIS KARAN ... TO HAVE COME IN "COLD"., NO REHEARSAL TIME, ASKED TO DO THINGS THAT ON PAPER WOULD LOOK TO BE IMPOSSIBLE, LAYING THEIR "NAME" ON THE LINE - THEIR GRASPING OF THINGS TOTALLY NEW TO THEM.
ABOUT THE "ATONALS" - THEY CONSIST SOLELY OF VOICES, (RECORDED UNBEKNOWN TO THEM) OF "GET TOGETHERS", DISCUSSIONS BETWEEN FRIENDS, SOLO VOICES ETC. A GOOD EXAMPLE WOULD BE IN THE CONTROL ROOM AFTER HAVING FINISHED A GOOD TAKE WHERE EVERYONE SHONE, AND DISCUSSING IT IN GREAT UNUSUAL DEPTH WITH THE RESULTING BANTER AND A NEVER ENDING SUPPLY OF ONE LINERS. THEN FROM THE HOURS AND HOURS OF RECORDED MATERIAL, SNIPPETS ARE CHOSEN OUT OF THEM AND EDITED SO EACH ONE HAS A CLEAR ARTICULATE LINE OF ITS OWN. WHEN THESE ARE ALL ORCHESTRATED THEY ARE RUN THROUGH A SERIES OF PROCESSES WHICH REMOVE THE "WORDS" AND THE "VOICE" SOUND COMPLETELY REPLACING IT WITH INSTRUMENT CHOSEN AS MOST SUITABLE.
WE ALL WHEN WE TALK SING LITTLE "MELODIES" AND PHRASES. IF YOU LISTEN FOR THEM THEY ARE PLAIN TO HEAR, SO, IN EFFECT "TALKING" NOW IS TRANSFORMED INTO THE INSTRUMENT "PLAYING" THOSE MELODIES AND PHRASES INSTEAD OF THEM BEING SPOKEN.