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Visible Music

Jean Hasse - Pocket Pieces

Selected reviews of the kinkh CD that mention the Pocket Pieces:

International Record Review, June 2000
    Is there a musical equivalent of Cucumber with Jam? What sort of music might be inspired by Scrambled Eggs on Butter, Green Peas, or a piece of (presumably irresistible) Never Fail Fudge? And is the music of such encounters likely to sound any more gustatory than that of Tired Eyes, Across the Room, or You Said You Would Call? The invitation to ask such questions is among the pleasures of Jean Hasse's compositions presented on this disc. A fascination with articulating that space in our souls between language and music that is so elusive (in composer John Williams' description of her) is clearly one of the main sources of her work.
    Born in 1958, Hasse grew up in the USA and has lived in England since 1994; this CD offers recordings of music she wrote between 1985 and 1999, almost all of it for solo piano (marvellously played here by Hasse herself). Characteristically, this is music of hard edges: exact, etched with precision and drawn to the possibilities of carrying melody within thick, often block-like textures. Hasse's rich, confident harmonic writing is what sustains these textures, and what, indeed, makes them one of the principal areas of interest: though her harmonic style is dense, each harmonic moment is precisely weighted, and successive moments release shifting colours of great clarity and definition. As an approach to the instrument - to its capabilities and associated repertory of gestures - this is piano writing of a conservative cast. Yet within these restrictions the pieces offer considerable diversity; and the music's lucidity, combined with the range of its references (which often include jazz), its improvisatory flair and its sheer quirkiness, make it a source of continual surprise.

    Most of the compositions here are tiny. From the collection that constitutes the Pocket Pieces, 35 are presented, and most last less then a minute. Many of these are hardly more than fragments, inasmuch as they end just when one wishes they would go on; when heard in relation to their titles, however, the curtailments usually make at least some kind of programmatic sense. In truth, these pieces are less for the stage than the home and the piano teacher's studio. Hasse has arranged them into graded volumes, with both children and adults in mind; she plans to complete the series by writing another 40 more such pieces.

    According to the helpful booklet notes, Hasse herself believes the Pocket Pieces are the main reason for the CD's existence. That may be too narrow. But I do think the disc will be of interest primarily to pianists - especially students and non-professionals - looking for new music for the instrument that is fresh, lively and attractive, and yet not impossibly difficult to make sense of or to play. In both Jean Hasse's compositions and performances, they are likely to find a rewarding harvest.
- Christopher Ballantine, Professor of Music, University of Natal

BBC Music Magazine, March 2000
    The short pieces which complete the disc range in length from just eight seconds to no more than two and a half minutes. According to the booklet notes, they are to be published in a series of graded volumes for children and adults: an excellent prospect, as their variety of approaches and quirky titles will be enjoyed and there is an unquenchable need for high-quality material for this market.
- Jessica Duchen

Musical Opinion, Summer 2000
    This is the first CD devoted to Jean Hasse’s music, and a fascinating compendium it is. The first thing to say about her music is that it is immediately communicative;
she possesses a clarity of expression which is rare in modern music ... All in all this is one of those rare records - unusual pieces from an original and musical mind.
- Robert Matthew-Walker

The Guardian, 15 September 2000
    Hasse, an American composer based in England, has used the relatively affordable medium of a solo piano album to present a rewarding compilation of her work over the past 15 years. Hasse's musical language owes something to the US minimalists, but there's another sensibility at work that equips the best pieces with melody, grace and a steely foundation. Tremolo Piece and As seen from the sky are reminiscent of Somei Satoh's Incarnation II; Never Fail Fudge and Maybe are consonant piano miniatures with an intelligent twist.
- John L Waters

Village Voice, New York, 29 May 2001
    Remember Hans Otte's Book of Sounds? If you liked that, you might also like Hasse's slightly jazzier, less dryly conceptual Pocket Pieces for piano. She's fortyish, American, living in England, and her post-minimalism is dreamy but not without backbone; she ups the tension before you can settle into anything. …. Most of the disc is small, thoughtful piano pieces of often Satie-esque melancholy.
- Kyle Gann

Women in Music Now magazine, August/September 2001
    ... Hasse dips into many different styles - jazz, impressionism, contemporary classical – and does it all with such originality and verve that I would like to hear more extended pieces…
- Diana Harris

Sample audio tracks:

Indian Summer Listen to audio

No thru rd Listen to audio

Never Fail Fudge Listen to audio

Edge Listen to audio

Sample PDF pages:

Little Pine (Bk I) View score

Never Fail Fudge (Bk II) View score

One Month Today (Bk II) View score

Wobble (Bk III) View score

Pocket Pieces Book 1

Pocket Pieces Book 2

Pocket Pieces Book 3

Covers designed by artist
Vera Boele-Keimer