(b Litchfield, CT, 2 Feb 1779; d New Haven, CT, 27 Oct 1838). American maker of woodwind instruments. He worked in a section of Litchfield, Connecticut, later known as Fluteville. A clockmaker from before 1810 to 1825, Hopkins had briefly located in 1809 to Prince Edward, Virginia, where he advertised in Richmond newspapers that he made not only clocks but also ‘Piano Forte-Organs, both finger and barrel, of every description, made to order’. Returning within a year to Litchfield, he resumed clockmaking until 1825, when he sold that workshop and began acquiring the property on which he would begin to make woodwind instruments in 1828, using water power provided by a waterwheel (fed by a ‘sluice-way’ from the adjacent Naugatuck river) in the cellar of his new workshop. In 1832 Hopkins encouraged his former apprentice Jabez McCall Camp (b 1811) to become one of five special partners, with Hopkins as general partner. In June 1837, apparently because of Hopkins’s deteriorating health, Camp became the general partner, and for two years all instruments bore his stamp. The Camp firm sold the majority of its stock in 1839 to Firth & Hall of New York, which by 1846 (then as Firth, Hall & Pond) owned all shares, evidently stamping its woodwind instruments with that firm’s name and n. york even though they were produced in the Litchfield factory. The firm was sold once again in 1867 to Frederick S. Porter, their plant superintendent, who sold it in 1875 to John A. Hall. Not long after, the factory went over to the manufacture of cutlery.
Among the earliest woodwind instrument makers in the USA, Hopkins is noted for producing finely crafted instruments that met the needs of the provincial American musical community. Some of his flutes and clarinets are at the Library of Congress (Dayton Miller Flute Collection), Smithsonian Institution, Yale University and in various other American collections. The instruments, usually made of boxwood with ivory mounts, have conservative key systems: the clarinets often have five flat brass keys; the flutes one to nine brass, cupped or plug-type silver keys. As musical taste (and American protective tariff regulations) changed, Firth, Hall & Pond began the manufacture of guitars, castanets, bones and drumsticks.
P.T. Young: Asa Hopkins of Fluteville (diss., Yale U., 1962)
P.T. Young: ‘Asa Hopkins Revisited’, Commemorative Anthology for Our Tuneful Heritage (Provo, UT, forthcoming)
CYNTHIA ADAMS HOOVER, PHILLIP T. YOUNG
Hopkins, Bill [G(eorge) W(illiam)]
(b Prestbury, Cheshire, 5 June 1943; d Newcastle, 10 March 1981). English composer and writer on music. He studied with Nono at Dartington during the two summers before his undergraduate studies at Oxford (1961–4), where he had composition lessons with Rubbra and Wellesz. From Oxford he went to Paris for a year, officially to attend Messiaen’s classes at the Conservatoire, but with the real purpose of meeting Barraqué, whose Piano Sonata had made an enormous impression on him. He duly had lessons with Barraqué during the first half of 1965; contact with Heinz-Klaus Metzger at this time was also important. He returned to England and lived first in London (1965–7), then on the Isle of Man for several years before taking successive lecturing posts at the universities of Birmingham and Newcastle.
His early death extinguished a musical mind of remarkable originality and resource, though his creative career had effectively stalled some years before, and the struggle against stalling – made on behalf of a high ideal of the artist’s vocation – was part of what gave his work its energy and personality. Barraqué’s influence was crucial, but rapidly assimilated, through the process of writing Sensation, which moves from ecstatic tension into a keen chillness as it encounters Beckett (another formative influence) after Rimbaud. In his subsequent and principal work, the cycle of nine Etudes en série for piano, he established his authority: the music is teeming, brilliant and at times massive, but also intimate and firm in its imaginative command, its only lack being that of sentimentality. A grand and cogent harmonic movement propels each of the studies, which range from the miniature (notably the seventh, which plays for little more than a minute in the high treble) to the masterwork (the eighth, with a duration of almost a quarter of an hour), but which are in a sense all fragments, following narratives of interior conversation through passages of searching, disillusionment, frustration and renewed energy. Highly typical is the moment of numbed simplicity: a lullaby-like passage towards the end of the eighth study and a dumb tune in the violin solo Pendant, which is a pendant to the Etudes. (The punning title was another characteristic.) Any remaining debts to Barraqué are overwhelmed by a larger sense of the piano literature, embracing such favourite composers as Schumann and Dukas.
Hopkins’s discouragement, after completing the Etudes, was partly caused by neglect: during his lifetime only the Two Pomes (studies for Sensation) and the first book of Etudes were published, and performances were rare. But there were also internal reasons. He felt confined by problems of communication that had absolutely nothing to do with technical facility, and in the mid-1970s was consumed with a projected work addressed to the performer who, singing the piece, would be its whole audience: Voix privée. En attendant was a curious spurt: his only commission. But in the last months of life he seemed to be on the verge of a new creative fulfilment.
Sous-structures, pf, 1964; 2 Pomes (J. Joyce), S, b cl, tpt, hp, va, 1964; Musique de l’indifférence (ballet, after S. Beckett), orch, 1964–5; Sensation (A. Rimbaud, Beckett), S, t sax, tpt, hp, va, 1965; Etudes en série, 3 books, pf, 1965–8, rev. 1969–72; Pendant, vn, 1968–9, rev. 1973; Nouvelle étude hors série, org, 1974; En attendant, fl, ob, vc, hpd, 1976–7
Orch of C. Debussy: Lindaraja, 1975
Principal publishers: Schott, Universal
‘Jean Barraqué’, MT, cvii (1966), 952–4
‘Stravinsky’s Chords’, Tempo, no.76 (1966), 6–12; 77, 2–9
‘Debussy and Boulez’, MT, cix (1968), 710–14
‘Barraqué’s Piano Sonata’, The Listener (27 Jan 1972)
‘Barraqué and the Serial Idea’, PRMA, cv (1978–9), 13–24
‘Boulez, Pierre’, ‘Dukas, Paul’, ‘Orchestration’, §§4, 5, ‘Ravel, Maurice’, ‘Stockhausen, Karlheinz’, Grove6 (London, 1980)
‘Portrait of a Sonata’, Tempo, no.186 (1993), 13–14
Many other articles and reviews in MT and Tempo
P. Griffiths: ‘Bill Hopkins: a Provisional Catalogue of Compositions and Writings’, MT, cxxii (1981), 600–01
N. Hodges: ‘The Music of Bill Hopkins: a Preliminary Approach’, Tempo, no.186 (1993), 4–12
N. Hodges: ‘Bill Hopkins's Orchestration of Debussy's “Lindaraja”’, Tempo, no.201 (1997), 28–31