Thursday, 22 November 2018

Dún Laoghaire Vinyl Festival

Last weekend a vinyl festival was held in Dún Laoghaire in Ireland, bringing together the likes of Don Letts, Gavin Friday and Terri Hooley to discuss and play vinyl records and consider the importance of vinyl in culture today.
            In the run up to the festival I was interviewed by Liam Geraghty for RTÉ, Ireland’s national broadcasting company. If you want to hear me rattling on about the birth of vinyl and the importance of the Dickies' ‘Banana Splits’ you can access the interview via this link:

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Memorial Silence

The practice of marking two minutes of silence is a relatively modern phenomenon and one that is indebted to noise.
The increased mechanistic volume of everyday life prompted the Italian futurist artist Luigo Russolo to publish Art of Noises in 1913. The following year witnessed the outbreak of the First World War. Russolo had thrilled at the musicality of combat, quoting the poet Filippo Marinetti in his text: ‘ZANG-TOUMB-TOUMB war noises orchestra blown beneath a note of silence hanging in full sky captive golden balloon controlling the fire’. The Great War amplified these noises and, for the first time, recording technology was able to preserve them. The Gramophone Company recorded a bombardment in 1918 and issued it for sale to the public. It was advertised as a ‘marvellous record’ offering an ‘actual reproduction of the screaming and whistling of gas shells’. The recording was made by William Gaisberg, who with his older brother Fred had pioneered record production in Britain. Tragically, he was gassed in the expedition and fell victim to a flu pandemic. William Gaisberg died in November 1918
            It was because life and death had become so noisy that silence offered the best means of contemplation and withdrawal. The first two-minute silence occurred in Cape Town, South Africa, towards the end of the War. This practice was adopted in London for the first anniversary of the Armistice in 1919; George V wrote to The Times expressing ‘desire and hope that at the hour when the Armistice came into force . . . there may be, for the brief space of two minutes, a complete suspension of all our normal activities’. At the 1920 Armistice, Columbia Graphophone recorded the burial of the Unknown Soldier, the first electric recording to be commercially released. Recordings of the two-minute silence were also made, but for broadcast purposes only.
            They were first gathered together on record in 2001, when Jonty Semper issued Kenotaphion. This compilation features 81 two-minute silences, recorded either on Armistice Day or Remembrance Sunday. The first dates from 1929; the last from the millennium. One interest of these documentary ‘silences’ lies in the fact that they are not silent. We can hear the sounds of nature and the sounds of recording processes. David Toop notes that:
In 1986, two pigeons flapped their wings. In 1988 a baby was crying, a child coughed, voices were raised and tape deterioration overlaid a patina of decay that suggests 19th rather than late 20th century. In 2000, seagulls flew overhead and a strange absence of lower frequencies emphasised the vibrato in Big Ben’s tolling strokes.
The other interest of these silences lies in the fact that they still work. We have had one hundred years of remembrance, but silence is still the best means to think upon the glorious dead.