Joe Cutler: Hawaii Hawaii Hawaii

Joe Cutler: Hawaii Hawaii Hawaii

Birmingham Record Company
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Following hot on the heels of his critically-acclaimed 2018 NMC album Elsewhereness, Joe Cutler’s new release focusses on dynamic live recordings of four works for large forces written over a two-decade period. At the heart of this release is the recent saxophone concerto Hawaii Hawaii Hawaii, a BBC Commission premiered in 2019, and written for Trish Clowes with the BBC Concert Orchestra.

Trish Clowes has been described in The Guardian as 'one of the most agile and original jugglers of improv and adventurous composition to have appeared in the UK in recent times;, and Hawaii Hawaii Hawaii is the result of close collaboration between Cutler and Clowes, with the piece exploiting sections of ‘directed improvisation’. The work itself is a meditation on David Mitchell’s story ‘Somni-451’ from the novel Cloud Atlas, set in an East Asian dystopian empire in the near future. Cutler’s work has often been described as ‘post-genre’ and this powerful compositional statement references a diverse range of influences ranging from Morton Feldman to Ben Webster, or Brian Eno to Tōru Takemitsu, but refracted through the composer’s unique and idiosyncratic lens.

The other three works on the album derive from Cutler’s twenty-year close relationship with the Netherlands-based collective, Orkest de Ereprijs. The baroque-infused September Music is a powerful reflection on the passing of time, whilst in Bad Machine, the piano soloist metaphorically becomes entrapped within the brutal mechanisms of the machine. Chorale for Wim Megans is an intimate and touching memorial to the ensemble’s founding conductor.

Like Elsewhereness, this fascinating album is packed with playfulness, but alongside that, profound philosophical questions emerge relating to the relationship between reality, freedom and time.

'Just marvellous … a deep musical intelligence combined with genuinely new sonorities and expression.' composer Errollyn Wallen on Hawaii Hawaii Hawaii

Orkest de Ereprijs
Wim Boerman conductor
Trish Clowes saxophones
BBC Concert Orchestra
Ben Palmer conductor



'Boundaries aren’t secure either in the music of Joe Cutler, the British composer of pieces that perplex and give the listener lots of fun. Two bone-shaking items in his impressive new album benefit from the pugnacity and élan of the Dutch ensemble Orkest de Ereprijs, captured in spirited live performances. Smoother sounds emerge from the BBC Concert Orchestra in Hawaii Hawaii Hawaii, although the composer’s mind and the saxophone soloist Trish Clowes still execute startling leaps in a work reflecting a recurring Cutler theme: musicians struggling to break free from their surroundings. Cutler, I note quietly, has now been the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s head of composition for 15 years.' ★★★★ The Times

'Part one is a piece of quizzical, fin-de-siècle romanticism; part two a cartoonish riot; part three a nightmarish slab of dystopian science-fiction, where Clowes’s tenor sax seems to serve as the sole representative of humanity.' The Guardian

'This showcase of four works by Cutler (b 1968) culminates in the titular saxophone concerto (2019), a live recording by the BBCCO. Inspired by a dystopian David Mitchell fiction, the score has graphic immediacy and exploits the inevitable jazz connotations of the solo instrument. Raw, raucous “Dutch minimalism” is similarly made personal in the other pieces, all cast for this Dutch ensemble.' The Sunday Times



Cat. Number: BRC010
Release date:
20 November 2020