BR0036: Christopher Hobbs, Sudoku 82

sudoku 82 cover

Played by Bryan Pezzone; Produced by Jim Fox.

Here’s a live Sudoku piece by Chris Hobbs: composed using Sudoku processes, realised using Apple’s lovely GarageBand, and transcribed for real piano.  Pezzone is overdubbed to produce eight distinct piano parts; this lovingly produced by Jim Fox (the guru of LA cool) to provide one of the most satisfyingly intimate performances you’ll hear.  Most recently Ken Smith wrote, in the North American edition of The Gramophone:

Some fifty years after John Cage and Lou Harrison looked eastward for musical inspiration, just how much their music has influenced subsequent generations is a matter of debate. But…their mentality is still alive and well.

Christopher Hobbs, a former Cardew student and founding member of the Scratch Orchestra, leans towards Cage’s corner, hauling the master’s ideas into the 21st century. Where Cage himself drew chance determinacy literally from the roll of the dice, Hobbs finds his literally in Japanese number games. His ‘sudoku’ pieces — 125 by the composer’s count — take number sequences from the newspaper puzzles and online random number generators and uses them to structure his pre-determined sounds.

Sudoku 82, the first of these to be arranged for live performance (heard here in a multitrack piano performance), is quiet and contemplative, though not strictly minimalist, since it draws on a full range of post-impressionistic tone colour. Though its quiet intensity — not unlike the music of Morton Feldman — the piece changes one’s entire perception of time. My watch said 20 minutes but it could have been anywhere from a moment to an hour (v. 87, no. 1053, p. A7).

This CD has been recommended as one of the perfect Christmas New Music CD gifts by Mark Swed at the Los Angeles Times:

But sooner or later, everyone will relish chill-out relief from the holiday madness. Christopher Hobbs’ dreamy but random Sudoku 82 for eight pianos (all excellently played by Bryan Pezzone) is the perfect drug. Try it with eggnog.

It has also received a lot of airplay on the best radio stations. Critical acclaim includes FdW on vital weekly:

Although you may [know] Hobbs for his involvement with the Scratch Orchestra, his record for Obscure Records, his work with early AMM, he also performed Satie’s Vexations with Gavin Bryars. In that respect you should hear this piece, number 82 from a series that he started in 2005, and already mounts up to 125 pieces. Its Satie-like music, light, sparse, spacious and seemingly doesn’t go anywhere, simply because there is no need to go anywhere. A great work. One to play on [a] dark night….


Une idée simple, probablement plus complexe à mettre en œuvre qu’il n’y paraît: laisser un jeu de sudoku composer de la musique. C’est ce que fait Christopher Hobbs avec sa série “Sudoku”. Il décide de l’allure générale de la pièce (palette sonore, durée), mais laisse les chiffres placer notes et silences. Interprétée par Bryan Pezzone, Sudoku 82 est un doux et tendre solo de piano de 19 minutes. Un poème tonal mais déconstruit, aux fioritures étranges, à la logique absente, le genre de pièce qui génère sa propre atmosphère et qui pourrait se poursuivre éternellement. Néo-romantisme aléatoire? Non, tout simplement une œuvre posée qui s’inscrit parfaitement dans le canon de l’étiquette Cold Blue.

[A simple idea, probably more complex to realize than it may seem: let a sudoku compose music. That’s what Christopher Hobbs is doing with his “Sudoku” series: he pens down the basic elements of a piece (sounds, duration), then lets the numbers game put the notes and rests in place. Sudoku 82 is a quiet 19-minute piano solo performed by Bryan Pezzone. A deconstructed tone poem full of strange ornamentations, devoid of logic, the kind of piece that generates its own mood and could go on forever. Random neo-romanticism? No, it’s simply a quiet work that fits squarely within the canon of the Cold Blue label. And it’s beautiful.]

If you’re in America, the best way is to check for distributors via the Cold Blue website (look for CB0033).  We have a limited number of copies here at EMC Central, which will go for £7.50 (£8.25 inc. p&p in the UK).  Just ask us for Cold Blue Sudoku!

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