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Like many acclaimed composers in the classical field today, Chilvers began composing and performing at a very young age. But this is not just another story of a child prodigy reaching maturity and flexing their virtuosic muscles. What Chilvers intends to do is very clear - carve a new path for music. 31 Pieces, released on March 24th 2021 (Mozart Records MR120120), is a monumental display of this intention.
It was ten years ago when Chilvers embarked on his journey to master the art of poly-tempo, and his rigorous study has remarkable results. When Chilvers began to comfortably play up to four different time signatures simultaneously, whilst phrasing voices in different ways, he was able to disguise the pulse in his music; moving away from conventional rhythmical form. He then composed twelve beautiful etudes as an exploration in poly-tempo, taking a rich understanding and reverence for western classical harmony; and reshaping it to fit inside a new mesmeric, polyrhythmic world.
With 31 Pieces Chilvers takes us further.
With a completely unique rhythmic apparatus at his disposal, he then looked towards harmony. He created his own unique chart to categorize scales and modes, containing ninety-six modal groups. These explorations in harmony are an example of Chilvers’ innate ability to see patterns where others may not. A skill which lies at the core of his work.
He began improvising around composed structures built from poly-tempo, phased patterns as well as modal constraints and other intuitive applications of rhythm and harmony. The result of which is 31 Pieces. Each piece flows into the next and has no beginning or end. The listener visits these harmonic worlds for only a short period of time; witnessing the eternal nature of each piece as they drift in and out of each other. The music is ever evolving and living, rather than stuck within the confines of notation and time. Not only is this work built on an entirely new concept of poly-tempo and modal harmony, it also breaks away from western music notation altogether. It fundamentally challenges how we perceive music, by redefining some of art forms basic fundamentals: notation, rhythm, and harmony.
Chilvers draws inspiration from a myriad of influences in 31 Pieces. From Bach, Wagner and Beethoven through to Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Radiohead, and Meshuggah. However, it was the Bwiti music of Gabon in West Africa, with its incessant, intense use of poly-tempo via harp, voice and drums, that inspired Chilvers to seek to stretch the capacity of what is humanly possible to play on the piano.
To accompany the album, Chilvers worked with film artist Ben Dowden, adding another incredible dimension to the work. Ben Dowden states: ‘’I was struck by the clarity with which he understood his own ideas, his passion for his work, and by his playing. It doesn’t happen very often but I decided then and there that I was going to make sure I got the job of filming his recording sessions, whatever that took, I knew that I would be driven in doing so.”
Chilvers’ aspirations are set extremely high. But with such devotion to study, impeccable skill and a unique ability to stretch the limitations of music, this is really not surprising. When we look at how Beethoven carved his way into Romanticism, or how Debussy opened the eyes of the world to a new sonority, we all wonder what is left to achieve in music. But when listening to Edward Chilvers, we can see over the horizon; to what the future of music looks like.