Thomas Hewitt Jones is a British composer mainly known for being an important figure in the realm of British sacred music. An organ scholar at the incredibly prestigious Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge before then branching off into composing for a plethora of styles that include, ballets, choirs and a notorious piece based on the few hummed notes performed by former British Prime Minister David Cameron as he resigned. Electro Cello is a new take on Neo-romanticism that seeks to focus on the joys of wonder and pensive contemplative.
A relatively small set of instruments forms the base of the orchestration here. The electric cello and the piano form the foundation of each composition as they constantly trade roles while the synths play the chord progressions and fill out the missing frequencies on the equalization chart to avoid this record from sounding hollow. There are a few electronic elements here that stem from experimentation with sound design that take on a percussive role whenever needed. “Intention” shows one of these elements taking on the role of a breakbeat that works in conjunction with a synth melody that is panned completely to the right to heighten the climatic experience. The record sounds pleasing and the main instruments are given the space to shine while the backing melodies exist to enforce what is being conveyed while not detracting from the essence of this album which is the melody over everything.
Thomas Hewitt Jones’ modus operandi is to introduce a melody, play it the necessary number of times before moving on to a variation while adding layers before pushing to a climax that is then concluded by either introducing the original melody or by stripping layers and slowing down the tempo and lowering the volume gradually before ending on a piano chord based on the root note. Of note is the constant utilization of dynamics and silence as integral parts of the music. There are large discrepancies in volume between the loudest and quietest part of each song that is standard in the realm of classical composition but has fallen out of fashion with the shifts in the music industry towards louder volumes. “Reaching up” increases in intensity through crescendo until it reaches its climax. While the notion is relatively simple in classical music as it consists of playing with more force to increase the volume, the electric instruments make this complicated due to their constant output in volume as only the piano can be played “dynamically”. To resolve this issue, the piano introduces the melody and increases in volume before being complemented by the cello and then allowing more and more layers to increase the intensity of this piece to its apex before applying the inverse process to reach stability and finality.
The use of silence here is fairly common and serves multiple purposes. The silences are short but never work as “breaks” but rather as fully developed musical tools. Their functions can be simplified as being tension builders that occur just before each piece reaches the climax and transitioning tools that ease the flux towards the conclusion. The melodies while constantly shifting and changing always keep a motif intact in adjacent iteration so that the listener can easily understand how the melody evolves as one part of the melody stays constant making the difference in emotional content easier to perceive despite the dizzying complexity of the music here. On “Clockwise” the piano firmly establishes itself as the dominating presence here through two handed playing while the cello provides a backing role by playing each note of the underlying chord progression. On “Break of Day” the roles are reversed which shows how each instrument’s role is dependent uniquely on what is being expressed.
Through this new album I hope to express my sheer love of music, as well as share it with others, and I hope that my passion for writing music that is approachable to the listener and yet fastidiously constructed (and complex at times) is communicated through this work. I also personally find that the cello is one of the most directly communicative of all musical instruments, given its warm, beautiful tone and incredibly wide range of over four octaves. Thomas Hewitt Jones
While Jones’ musical education allows him to easily navigate through very complex counterpoint and parallel harmonisation, it never obfuscates any of the emotions present here and though at times it crosses over into the overt sentimentality that is often associated with pop music, it is countered through his ability to create “wordless narration” as all these emotions evolve in short stories and do not exist in a vacuum but rather as part of a continuously shifting spectrum.
A genuinely beautiful album that succeeds in its gambit and reconciles many of the different styles that have defined Thomas Hewitt Jones’ work up to now. Though its main issue is that it makes its intentions too obvious as to not exclude neophyte listeners which in turn unravels its motives far too quickly for experienced listeners. This remains a great accompaniment for the excitement and sense of renewal that comes with the end of summer.