work, exhibited as part of the 'Anti-Parallel'
Egenis show 2007, consists of 208 (4x52) discrete sound
recordings derived from one side of a 78rpm gramophone record
In An Old World Garden' (HMV B2469); these sound recordings
are then selected and played via the Parallel
Music method. The new PMusic composition, entitled 'Mobile
Dawn In An Old World Garden', is dedicated to Beatrice Harrison.
The gramophone record that provides the basis for this PMusic
composition was made in 1927 in the garden of cellist Beatrice
Harrison who three years earlier had made the first
live BBC broadcast in the same garden in Oxted 'duetting'
with nightingales. This unfolding narrative fascinated me as
I began to research a disc I had bought some 15 years ago (mainly
out of curiosity as to its original purpose). Although this
particular recording features birdsong alone, I feel that Beatrice
is present by her absence in the new composition - it is certainly
dedicated to her.
My thinking about this piece was also amplified by conversations
Prothero - whose practice inspired me to make a sound work
that is influenced by the notion of animal tracks or traces,
Cook - whose textual exploration of DNA and the concept of antiparallel also informed my construction of 'Mobile Dawn', particularly
in terms of its performance.
A scan of the label of HMV
To make the new work, the Harrison recording (HMV B
2469) was digitised to the highest possible quality (at Stanley
Productions in London) and sonic material from the B side:
'Dawn In An Old World Garden' (2-9255) was extracted, and in some cases processed, to give four categories
of sound (52 Sons in each).
Following on from the inspiration of Chris Cook's written work,
which playfully refers to the four bases of DNA: thymine, adenine,
cytosine and guanine, these categories were entitled T
A C and G:
||The T or 'Trace'* category contains Sons derived purely from the noises
made by the 'scratches' of the record - the 'traces' of
the medium (example)
||The A or 'Aggregate' category contains Sons
which have been made from the birdsong recording and its
attendant 'scratches' (example)
||The C or 'Carillon' group has birdsong from
which I have tried to subtract the background noise of
the record — 'scratch'-free versions of the dawn
||The G or 'Garden' Sons have been re-pitched
and modified to give sounds suggestive perhaps of rain,
forests, exotic beasts - other geographies, situations
and locations (example)
In the sounding of this piece, at any one time a particular
performance method and its duration (or 'Net')
are chosen by indeterminate means. Some Nets give periods of
silence, some take their cue from the antiparallel notion and play simultaneously paired of sounds from either
the T and A, or C and G categories. Some play four channels
of sounds chosen from the entirely same category, others from
It is my hope that these sounds blend into and merge with their
surroundings, occasionally 'troubling the air' or inadvertently
duetting with exterior bird calls, to play games with represented
space and time via a recording originated over eighty years
* see Nattiez 1990 below for more on
the notion of 'the trace'
Ramsay 16th March '07
Cleveland-Peck, Patricia, (1985), 'The Cello and the Nightingale
- the Autobiography of Beatrice Harrison', John Murray Ltd.
Nattiez, Jean-Jacques, trans. by Carolyn Abbate, (1990), 'Music
and Discourse: Toward a Semiology of Music', Princeton University
Rothenberg, David, (2005), 'Why Birds Sing - A Journey into
the Mystery of Birdsong', Basic Books
outside broadcast of Beatrice Harrison and nightingales 1924
cellist who enthralled the nation with her nightingale duet'
(BBC Radio 4)
Cello and the Nightingale' - A Play by Patricia Cleveland Peck
Cello and Nightingale Sessions
Birds Sing - a review with excerpts from David Rothenberg's
Messiaen (see section 'Birdsong and the 1960s' for another approach to
the inclusion of birdsong in music)