A very special work that needs a page of its own! Judge wrote his
first version of the libretto (opera lyrics you ignoramus!) at school.
He mentioned the thing to Hammill while discussing future projects
in 1972, and they decided to give it a go. Rewritten, composed,
changed and adapted at intervals throughout the 70s and recorded
(and "nearly finished") throughout the 80s. Lots of troubles, tos &
fros, finally released by Some Bizarre in November 1991. No full
blown stage performance (yet?), but PH has played excerpts -
called The Usher Suite - at solo gigs. Parts of the work scream for
real strings and brass!
Judge: "Usher is a wonderful story. It's one of the best short stories
in the world. It's very frightening, it's very creepy, it's very short. And
there's something about it that touches all sorts of very dark and
murky depths in most people; it touches certain very deep taboos
and deep anxieties and so on. The story makes no sense at all.
The actual story as written is totally mad, which adds to its appeal."
(Pilgrims no. 15)
PH: "The first stage of the work was about six to eight years long
where I'd be writing odd bits in the gaps between live work and
recording. There seemed to be many more in those days.
Whenever I had four weeks, I'd do another bit, because it would
take a week to get into the mentality of it, to remember where I was
and to find the old cassettes, then two or tree weeks writing and a
week sorting it out into some kind of form. Probably at that stage it
would have been about four hours long. At that time, I wasn't so
disciplined and it was very long and rambling." (Pilgrims no. 14)
Judge: "Obviously, it was a little strange writing lyrics for someone
who's a very fine lyricist and very famous for it. But he's a good
person to collaborate with in that he's always respected my
contribution. All collaborations are based on elaborate
professional courtesy and this one was no exception. I didn't
interfere with the music to any great extent, and he didn't interfere
with my areas (fnarr, fnarr), and yet I influenced the musical
structures by the words I was writing. He influenced the plot and
made several very important contributions to the actual structure
and development of the piece as a dramatic work. It was a very
good collaboration like that, also helped by the fact that it was
stretched out over such a very long period of time." (Pilgrims no. 14)
PH: "One of the reasons for my deciding to get involved with
sequencers, and deciding to learn and experiment with them, was
that it was the only way that Usher could possibly be done. The
original concept had been to have the kind of instrumentation that's
more or less there - strings, wind, a bit of kit, some organ, piano,
guitar. It was a ludicrous idea from the outset because it would have
taken a band of forty to fifty people; some of them would only play a
few notes. I would have to have been sincerely successful to even
contemplate this being put on, let alone recorded." (Pilgrims no. 14)
Judge: "Gradually without realising, the piece came to be finished.
It went through lots of changes, but quite a bit of the original music
still survives, and about half a dozen lines from the first libretto."
(Pilgrims no. 14)