'As always, it was sheer pleasure to observe Robin Hill's remarkable fluent technique: everything looks easy when he plays it.' Colin Cooper- Classical Guitar Magazine ----- 'Wonderful for their (Hill & Wiltschinsky) precision, touch and clarity of sound... refined virtuosity, the achievement of a long interpretive process.' Il Giornale D'Italia (Rome) ----- 'I loved your CD and thought your technique and performance were fabulous...' Rick Wakeman

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fantastic Mr Felix - Standing on Air by Robin Hill

Fantastic Mr Felix is the third track on the album, 'Standing on Air' and we have been delighted with the feedback.
I've received many emails, comments and messages, all saying that they simply can't get the tune out of their heads!

The inspiration behind the piece was our youngest son, Felix. It reflects his ebullient and good-natured character and his boundless energy.
Before I hear cries of favouritism, I'd like to remind readers that our eldest son had an entire concerto composed for him, 'Concerto Primavera', performed by members of the Liverpool Philharmonic, you can read the review and more about it here.

'Fantastic Mr Felix' is a highly coloured and energetic piece with a South American feel. This is partly due to the huge array of percussion instruments which include the guiro, cajon bongos, cuica, shakers etc. but also the Andean charango.
When Robin composed the piece he always wanted the distinctive sound of the charango to be a prominent feature, however, it was actually added towards the end of the recording process.
At the time Robin didn't own a charango, but luckily, he found one whilst on his frequent travels, in New York, promptly purchased it and after a few days familiarizing himself with the unusual tuning, he added it too the track.

There are two guitar cadenzas within the piece, the second of which, an extended run of descending semiquaver triplet slurs, seems never ending and sounds like Robin will run out of fingerboard before he finishes!
To inject a little humour the flexotone can be heard at the end of this perilous descent. The entire sequence was recorded in one take.

The lead guitar is a rapid and rhythmic series of question and answer phrases with some effective glissandi up to the top notes. These were all played as one part, not on two guitars as it may initially appear. Very rapid and accurate change in hand position is required.

At various points throughout the track a highly rhythmic, funky triangle can be heard. To prove that not all instruments have to be highly expensive, this triangle was actually taken from the children's toy box...

The cuica drum is an unusual instrument which adds a touch of exoticism with its jungle sounds. Robin's frequent travels to South America and his love of Brazilian music in particular, have surely influenced his choice of this instrument.

It's quite remarkable that every sound you hear on this track has been produced by Robin. His eclectic musical background has certainly served him well.
Whilst the guitar is heavily featured the final comment for the whole piece is left to the bongos, with a subtle and atmospheric sound achieved by guitarist's nails!

To listen to some of the track (it's the first one in the player at the top of the page), or to buy 'Standing on Air', you can visit Robin Hill's website, or one of the many digital download sites, ie, iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Psychology of the Injured Musician

A few days ago Robin broke his right wrist.
Treacherous ice was the culprit, and I'm sure there have been many casualties across Europe in the last few weeks.
Whilst there is no good time for such an incident, this couldn't have happened at a worse time for us.
A new album out, (you can see Robin's site for details), and a 2 week trip with concerts promoting 'Standing on Air', had to be cancelled.

But how does all this effect a musician?
After all, they dedicate their life to making music and suddenly the very essence of their being is removed.
This might sound dramatic, but read on...

I have written before about the pressure that soloists are under.
This post, 'Alicia de Larrocha, the Ritual Fire Dance and a Maths Exam,' springs to mind.
The fabulous pianist once admitted in an interview that prior to a concert she was so scared she hoped for an earthquake so the performance couldn't go ahead. Yet an audience watching her play with such confidence would have found this hard to imagine.
The fact remains that the need for the best possible performance at all times is a weighty responsibility.

So what happens when a concert performer suddenly finds they can't play?
The amazing Paco de Lucia once sustained a horrific hand injury with a fishing harpoon.
It has been reported that for the first 48 hours he simply had a sense of relief. The pressure had been removed as there was no way he could play.
However, after 48 hours fear and frustration started to creep in as he wondered if he would ever play again.
Thankfully for us all, he made a full recovery and continues to perform and record.

The guitarist and lutenist Julian Bream also suffered a badly fractured elbow in a car accident many years ago which required several months of rehabilitation but he went on to make a full recovery.

Gypsy guitarist, Django Reinhardt, famously damaged two of his left hand fingers (third & fourth) in a fire.
He then went on to play with fingers one and two with greater facility than many other guitarists ever achieve.
Thus turning the tables on adversity.

Some are not so lucky.
The Austrian concert pianist Paul Wittgenstein lost his right arm during World War 1. Such was his desire to still perform, Wittgenstein commissioned Ravel to compose a, 'Piano Concerto for the Left Hand'.
This piece continues to be performed to this day, by two handed pianists.

Robin's injury is not as severe as any of these mentioned.
He has a fracture of the Radius and requires a few weeks in a brace.
But, the temporary consequences are that he cannot play his guitar.

So, how did he feel about this?
Initially the fear was intense.
He was very quickly seen by an orthopaedic specialist and taken to hospital for an x-ray and MRI scan.
Luckily for us, the specialist, Professor Funk, is a friend of ours.
Even luckier for us, he is well used to dealing with musicians and athletes who perform at the highest level.
Consequently, although Robin's initial x-ray didn't show a fracture, the Professor wasn't satisfied with this and requested an MRI scan.
After 20 minutes in an extremely noisy machine, forced to lie on his front with arm outstretched in a Superman position, the fracture was located.
So many thanks to Prof. Funk for his diligence and also the Bridgewater Hospital for finding a slot in their very busy schedule.

But where are we up to now, a few days down the line?
Well, like Paco de Lucia, Robin did have pretty much 48 hours where he seemed relieved.
The constant pull of the guitar had simply been removed.
Since the age of 10 he has never not played the guitar.
He was also jovial, positive about the long term and optimistic about the length of time without playing.

But now...72 hours later, I see a change.
He has started saying he is missing playing.
He is talking about supporting the guitar with his right elbow so he can at least maintain his left hand exercises.

This is not a bad idea.
To play any instrument at concert level requires many hours of practice each day.
Often people don't realise this and I usually liken it to an Olympic athlete. Nobody would expect them to turn up on the day without months and years of preparation.
It's the same for musicians.

Then there is practicing in his head.
This is actually something Robin does anyway, usually to help pass long haul flights, and to help cement new pieces to memory.
Now this has taken on a different sense of urgency as he 'hears' the music in his head and 'feels' the notes under his currently redundant fingers.

This may all sound rather dramatic but one has to remember that for Robin, and all other concert performers, music is not only their life but also their living.

It is however a good time to take stock and get on with projects that are usually left unattended due to constant travel.
So, watch this space for further developments...

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Robin Hill's new website...

We have now launched a new 'Robin Hill' website which I hope you will all enjoy.
It has a crisp, clean appearance to make navigation an easy and enjoyable experience.

The Homepage features one of the photographs taken at the recent photo shoot for the album cover of, 'Standing on Air', by photographer Jonathan Keenan, and required several hours on a trampoline and, after a long haul flight only a matter of hours later, three days on anti inflammatory medication....(I know how you blog readers like a little inside information.)

Some of the features can be seen throughout the site.
For example, the red music player at the top contains 4 tracks which you can listen too uninterrupted as you browse the other pages.
Also, currently there are two videos to watch, 'The Making of Standing on Air', and 'Chill 22'.

You will also notice a convenient box where you can join our mailing list. This will be of particular interest to anyone wanting details of any new recordings, or for the players amongst you, sheet music, which will soon become available.

To move between pages you simply select from the left hand sidebar.
The 'Bio' page tells you a little bit about Robin and his music.
'Blog' brings you directly here...
If you select 'Store' you will find there are currently 7 items available, 6 CDs and The Guitar Gymnasium.
There are many payment options and all you need to do is click the title of the item you are interested in and choose one that suits you.
For some items you can buy directly from us using the 'Add to Cart' button.
Other items are available through iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby. Simply click the button which appeals the most.

We had great fun compiling the 'Photo Gallery'. There are 42 pictures spanning Robin's life from childhood to current day, and even a very fleeting glimpse of me... Click on the first photo to enjoy a slide show.

'Press/Reviews' contains many whole reviews, quotes and even samples from letters which we hope will give you a little insight into other peoples' views of Robin's work.

Finally, the 'Contact' page is where you can leave me a message and I will respond as soon as I can.

We hope you enjoy the new site and keep checking in for the latest news and information.