The Radiophonic Workshop have announced the release of an album of new material, their first commercially available output since 1985. ‘Burials In Several Earths’ will be out on their own Room 13 label on 19th May. It’s available now for pre-order as a double CD or – and you know you want it – a 4×10-inch box set. Here’s the link: www.smarturl.it/rws-burials
The Radiophonic Workshop on Burials In Several Earths:
The improvisation was done blind – with no preconceptions nor any real start point. We wanted to see what happened if we allowed people to react together with their machines in a very unplanned and spontaneous way. The computers and sequencers were switched off and it led to a very human interaction between all of us. It is important that we maintained this feeling of spontaneity on the final discs – so minimal editing has taken place. What you hear is what happened in the moment. It was liberating to work in such a formless, freeing and immediate way. As we listened back it became obvious that some sections had evolved naturally as “dark” themes, others “watery”, another felt like a journey and so on. We started looking for titles that might reflect these improvised movements and moods. The titles for each piece here are taken from Francis Bacon’s incomplete New Atlantis novel/poem. Bacon portrays a future vision of human discovery and knowledge, expressing his aspirations for humankind, a utopian vision of a perfect and highly functioning technological future. The book depicts a land where “generosity and enlightenment, dignity and splendour, piety and public spirit” are the commonly held qualities of the inhabitants. Strangely relevant in our post-digital age many of the predictions are startling in the way they map against current ideologies and technologies.
While the poem itself was not the influence nor starting point for the improvisations that make up the body of the Burials In Several Earths the ideas in the novel seemed to fit the work as well as provide an obvious link to the history of the Radiophonic Workshop itself and the infamous Room 13 where the workshop began its work at BBC Maida Vale.
In 1957 Daphne Oram, one of the founders of the workshop, took a section of the novel and framed it as a sort of manifesto for the workshop and its role as an avant garde and experimental electronic space for BBC radio and television productions. Manipulating sound was a relatively new practice then and our use of early electronics and tape effects was seen as futuristic and somewhat challenging. The section on the wall of room 13 was there to remind us that when producers complained or people wrote to the Radio Times saying the music was unlistenable that we were trying to design future sounds – it was an experimental space. The section was chosen to be morale booster you might say.
“We have also sound-houses, where we practise and demonstrate all sounds, and their generation. We have harmonies which you have not, of quarter-sounds, and lesser slides of sounds. Divers instruments of music likewise to you unknown, some sweeter than any you have, together with bells and rings that are dainty and sweet…” It was something we returned to again and again during our existence at Maida vale as it seemed to present a rationale for what we did and for some of the work itself.
The remaining titles for the release are taken from a section of the novel where one of the characters describes the benefits of the land and the kind of society and cultures they have set up on the island.