American composer, performer and writer Ben Hippen has released his third album Scenarios in March, 2018—following two successful releases, Virunga and Word Is. His music, influenced by his time spent in Africa as well as some of his own American culture, is often strongly linked to creative writing and story telling. The album is a collection of thirteen pieces that represent a starting point for narratives and imaginary.
Generally speaking, Scenarios seems to be divided in two parts—a first part which appears musically audacious and conceptual, and a second part that leans closer to tonality, lyricism and American minimalism.
Refugees Hymn opens the first chapter of the album and has a fantasy quality that plunges the listener into Hippen’s musical world. Scenarios is a work that seems to have been written for piano and strings treated equally, as one instrument. The composer’s creative process has allowed each instrument to be complimentary to the other, to the point that the listener only hears one combined wave of sounds—beautifully demonstrated in Dreamscape. A small exception to this note, Mayfly, creates a very interesting dialogue between the piano and the strings. The second chapter of the album is somehow more reminiscent of minimalistic music from the 90’s, especially Michael Nyman’s. It features some of my favourite pieces such as It Was Something That Had to Be Said. Tightrope, another very interesting piece and probably the most rhythmically exciting, conveys a sensation of musical ambiguity and uncertainty. The complementarity between the instruments is also perfectly demonstrated in the echoing strings of Safe Haven, a strong visual piece that precedes The Call, which closes the album on a bright note and a successful illustration of musical description.
Hippen has been composing music for and about writing for many years and whether it is music to listen to when writing, music tied to the process of writing, or music that inspires to write, it is always strongly connected to the creative process of story telling. At times abstract and adventurous, or other times more evocative and moving, Scenarios is an album that showcases Hippen’s ability at triggering creative images for the listener. In his own words, music is a form of communication and a medium for transmission of ideas between individuals and societies—and this is what Hippen does in Scenarios, providing the listener with a starting point for his own story.