Classical Music Review

HOCKET explores the power of music through complex compositions

 The piano duo, HOCKET, composed of Sarah Gibson and Thomas Kotcheff, put their mastery on display for a composition residency recital performed at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music at the University of Georgia. What made this recital unique was that the works were written by contemporary composers from across the nation. The pieces abandoned the melody and harmony of classical music and instead experimented with tempo and tonality to provoke emotion. This spirit of experimentation coupled with HOCKET’s expertise leaves you with an experience that’s puzzling to the ears but stimulating for the brain.

The way HOCKET performed the music was fascinating to watch because it wasn’t just about performing the piece perfectly, but also interpreting the work in interesting ways. In Byrd/Cage, composed by Derek Tywoniuk, Gibson performed the song with her hands hanging in the air after hitting each note giving her movements this ghostly feeling. Meanwhile, Thomas manipulated the insides of the piano from pulling on the piano strings to hitting the strings with a small mallet. The haunting movements of Gibson and the piano manipulation of Kotcheff gave the work a melancholic vibe, fitting the nature of the piece which is meant to reflect about death.

Another piece worth highlighting is Slow the Light, composed by Jordan Nelson. This piece was intriguing because it played with the idea of resonance which means letting the note ring out after it has been played. There was a certain beauty to sitting back and listening as the note transformed from one pitch to another almost like witnessing a butterfly emerge from a cocoon.  More than any other piece, Gibson and Kotcheff were the most in sync here, not least of which because they each had their own piano positioned in a way to make direct eye contact. The connection shared between HOCKET through their call and response performance gave the piece a warm, loving atmosphere, which was not present in the other works.

If you’re the type of person that just wants to relax to music while sipping brandy and wearing a silk robe, then this concert is not going to be your cup of tea or brandy, so to speak. However, if you have an interest in the avant-garde? Then you will appreciate the craftsmanship of HOCKET’s performance and the intention of the many composers to push the medium of classical music.