David Hackbridge Johnson
ballet for 11 instrumentalists and dancers
perc, egui, bgui, pf, honky-tonk pf, xyl, vib, ondes martenot,
duration: 20 minutes
Shoppingtrollies for Chechnya
(Ballet for 11 instrumentalists and dancers)
This piece, which can either be performed as a ballet or as an instrumental
work, was written in April 2000 and is dedicated to Marcus Wright. The
score also bears an anti dedication to spiritual tourists. This refers
to the appropriation of world events as emotional stimuli for those artists
inclined to thus boost their humanitarian ratings. Needless to say personal
experience of the world empathised with in the work of such artists is
not required for these pieces to be written or admired. Indeed a much
vaunted 'empathy' appears to allow for all sorts of absurd postures. Wandsworth
has not recently been invaded to my knowledge, and despite the turmoil
in other parts of the world, Chechnya included, I feel this fact disbars
me from the easy option of penning a 'deeply felt cantata for peace'.
The shoppingtrollies alighted upon randomly as a gift to a troubled region
are meant not as an insult to those suffering, but as a symbol of powerlessness
in the face of such distant torment.
The ballet has no plot as such but contrast is made in the choreography
between the violent dances featuring percussion and keyboards and the
cool detached dances that shadow them. The music highlights the difference
between two worlds. Humour, intentional or otherwise might be welcomed
by the audience, as it contrasts uncomfortably with the music, which is
in the main brutal and uncompromising. A shopping trolley may or may not
appear. The group of musicians consists of three percussionists, electric
guitar, bass guitar, piano, honky-tonk piano, xylophone, vibraphone, ondes
martenot and synthesiser.
David Hackbridge Johnson was born
in Carshalton. He studied violin with Louis Rutland, piano with Martin
Wilson, singing with Fabian Smith and conducting with George Hurst before
taking up a place at the Guildhall in order to study singing with Arthur
Reckless. He later continued singing studies with Mark Wildman at the
Royal Academy. He holds degrees from the Academy, Trinity College and
University of Surrey, Roehampton. He began work in the early 1980's as
a violinist in theatre orchestras before becoming a jazz pianist and drummer.
He has appeared in jazz festivals at Montreux, Culle, Glion, Cheltenham
and Ross-on-Wye and has several jazz recordings to his credit. His most
recent performances have included taking part in the debut concert of
the improvising trio, 'Evorcity'. A recording of this group's work is
He began composing at an early age and despite having reached his 100th
opus shows no sign of stopping. He has had works performed by pianist
Stephen Gutman, by the North German Radio Choir and by Gemini. While living
in Switzerland for a year in 1997, he worked as composer in residence
at an international college and had music performed by the Lithuanian
Chamber Orchestra and cellist Mark Drobinsky. He often takles part in
performances of his own work either as a singer or violinist, most recently
in his Violin Sonata no.2. He has written many large scale works that
still await performance, including five symphonies, six tone poems, seven
string quartets and many other choral and chamber works.
His wide interests are demonstrated in the inspirations that lie behind
some of his music: two recent ballet scores take their scenarios from
the myths surrounding the Merovingian dynasty, and an imaginary day in
the life of Uganda's largestbeetle, respectively. He is currently working
on an (insect free) opera.
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