SARAH MARY CHADWICK
The unyielding motivation in Hills music, Nat Hentoff writes in the liner notes to pianist Andrew Hills 1965 record Point of Departure, is his desire to keep finding out who he is and to make his music out of that deepening knowledge. Hentoff, Hill and liner notes are all dead, but it seems as though with some kind of spectral prescience they were summing up Sarah Chadwicks project, which takes place, seated at a piano, a half century later.
Indeed, its hard to think of a musical career today so dedicated to plumbing the depths, so unafraid to put its hand into the fire now that experiments in music are clichés, and emotion is a post-ironic game of double-bluff. Its for this reason that I need to offer a word of caution about this record which should come affixed like those Parental Advisories which so reified the CDs which bore them.
This music is hard. Not in the sense of machismo or of complexity or of book-smarts or even tunelessness (theres melodies for days), but in the sense that you will come into contact with great pain. Its probably Sarahs, but it might be yours, and as such this disc needs to be handled carefully, as though it glows with some kind of half-life accrued from traumas across a lifetime. Pain, indeed, is one of the ways we can go the deepest, like Fred Nietzsche says (and Ill try not to over-intellectualise, the album doesnt): Only great pain, that long, slow pain that takes its time and in which we are burned, as it were, over green wood, forces us
to descend into our ultimate depths
I doubt that such pain makes us better but I know that it makes us deeper.
And sometimes, for me at least, the music here is like being burned over green wood, like staying a little too late at the party, like sleeping a little too long in the middle of the day and waking up not knowing where you are.
But its a lot more than that dont worry. Theres joy here, lots of it, and humour too, which is another way we can go deep, if we know what were doing and Sarah does. And whats more theres moments here that are neither funny nor tragic but both, like those tangled knots which make up the real stuff of our lives, like pet cemeteries, hangovers, or like the rope holding up the pants of one of Becketts old grubbers.
All this to say be careful, but have fun too talking like a parent as you come down the stairs and head out to do who knows what theres riches to be found at the bottom of that muddy, icy water, but make sure you end up at somebodys house, dried off with the heater on, drinking a brandy. Thats where Sarahll be, so dont worry too much.