Responses to the Hejnał at Unsound Festival, Kraków

Hejnał Mariacki is a traditional melody that has been performed on trumpets hourly from the spire of St. Mary’s Church in the Polish city of Kraków for century. Recently, as part of the city’s Unsound festival for underground, experimental and electronic music, sonic responses were made by musical and sonic artists such as cornetist Rob Mazurek and composer Tim Hecker (from the top of the tower of the Ratusz, the old Town – see video above). As the LA times put it:

Unsound mounted four “responses” to the “Hejnal.” None of these performances were made specific until afterward, meaning that the audience was largely tourists and natives strolling through the rainy square, looking up and wondering where the weird sounds were coming from.

The theme is traditionally played on trumpet four times in a row, once in each cardinal direction. On Sunday, electronic musician Tim Hecker set up a speaker in a tower of the old town hall facing the church. Every time the trumpeter played the Hejnal theme from St. Mary’s, Hecker responded with a slow pattern of bell tones that sounded like a sedated music box. It was as free as music gets. No names, no faces, no stage. It was just signals in the air, tied to no physical event. If you want an inverse of the stadium rock spectacle, this was it.

Pitchfork wrote that ‘Tim Hecker played glinting ambient music for unsuspecting tourists below; in the other, the Chicago cornetist Rob Mazurek played melancholy riffs and runs… Tim Hecker’s church-tower performance turned a misty city square into a performance space.’ Clips of Hecker’s performance from the tower can be seen here and here. See Mazurek’s performance here and below:

As part of the festival, musical performances were also held hundreds of meters underground in a nearby salt mine. More information, as well as reviews of the festival, can be found on the Unsound Facebook page.


Call for Papers: The London Stage and the Nineteenth-Century World – 14-16 April 2016, New College, Oxford

Jonathan Hicks, founding member of the HLC team, has issued a call for papers for a (non HLC-affiliated) conference he is organising with Michael Burden, of the University of Oxford’s Faculty of Music, under the title ‘The London Stage and the Nineteenth-Century World.’ The dates are 14-16 April 2016, it will be held at New College, Oxford, click here for the website, and the CFP is reproduced below:

‘Plurality’ might be the most accurate description of the London stage in the nineteenth century: plurality of genre, of style, of theatre buildings. There were new dramatic forms, new technological advances, and new styles of management, not to mention new audiences and ways of attending the theatre.

We welcome contributions on all aspects and forms of drama and theatrical practice, from plays and operas to pantomime and puppetry. Subjects might include: theatrical resources, including collections; the constitution and history of theatrical genres; publishing and circulation; stage biography; music and musicians; scenography and spectacle; and theatrical spaces of all kinds. The ‘London stage’ should be interpreted as inclusively as possible, and we particularly seek papers on such topics as criticism, dance, the staging of the exotic, music hall entertainments, and international influences on London theatre. The meeting will provide an opportunity to take stock of the range of research currently being undertaken in the field as well as a chance to consider the place of London in the broader theatrical and political world.

All sessions will be held at New College, Oxford, with a keynote address by Daniel O’Quinn (University of Guelph) at the Bodleian Library’s new Weston Research Library. The conference is timed to lead up to the Bodleian Library’s exhibition ‘Staging History’, which will be held in the new Weston Research Library in October 2016.

Those wishing to give formal 20-minute papers should submit an abstract of no more than 200 words, and a biography of 100 words. However, we also encourage submissions for discussion panels, and are keen to receive proposals for other formats. The panel for paper selection will be Michael Burden, Jim Davis, Jonathan Hicks, David Francis Taylor, and Susan Valladares.

All proposal are due by midnight on 11 December 2015, and should be submitted to Jacqui Julier

Inquiries to the organisers, Michael Burden or Jonathan Hicks

Noise and Silence (New Online Publication)

Noise and SilenceMy postgraduate colleagues at Oxford have founded a new online publication, Noise and Silence (click here for the website), which, they say, ‘which will bring you fresh and informed pieces on the issues facing all kinds of music in today’s digital 21st century society.’

‘Are you,’ they ask, ‘a writer, composer, artist, photographer, musician, DJ or film enthusiast? We’re looking for creatively minded people to contribute to NOISE & SILENCE! Email for enquiries and submissions.’

I’ve already given them a short essay about my own research – why not get in touch with them about yours?

Autumn Richardson & Richard Skelton: Memorious Earth

Autumn Richardson and Richard Skelton have released Memorious Earth, a fifth installment in a series, begun in 2010, of musical recordings and multimedia projects focussing on the Furness Fells of south-west Cumbria, UK. Combining list poetry, film and sound – a drone-based piece as AR* – Memorious Earth ‘examines geological, topographical and toponymic features of the region, crawling across the scars, fells and crags that pockmark the landscape, holding magnifying glasses to the flora and fauna, and seeing multitudes’ (as Wire magazine put it). The standard edition includes a download card for all the previous AR* releases (embedded below), which can also be found on the Bandcamp page of Aeolian editions. For more information, see the publisher’s website here.

Robert MacFarlane in New Statesman on Nature Writing

The Hen Harrier, facing extinction

Robert MacFarlane has written for the New Statesman on ‘nature writing’ in the UK and its cultural and political importance – click here to read –  – responding to Mark Cocker’s critique of ‘new nature writing’ for the same publication. MacFarlane identifies a number of projects motivated both aesthetically, socially and politically, writing that:

An ecology of mind has emerged that is extraordinary in its energies and its diversity. In nurseries and universities, apiaries and allotments, transition towns and theatres, woodlands and festivals, charities and campaigns – and in photography, film, music, the visual and plastic arts and throughout literature… A 21st-century culture of nature has sprung up, born of anxiety and anger but passionate and progressive in its temperament, involving millions of people and spilling across forms, media and behaviours…

The outcomes of this culture have ranged from the uncountable enrichments of individual lives to clear examples of political and social change with regard to conservation and our relationships with “landscape”, in the fullest sense of the word…

The best of the recent writing is ethically alert, theoretically literate and wary of the seductions and corruptions of the pastoral. It is sensitive to the dark histories of landscapes and to the structures of ownership and capital that organise – though do not wholly produce – our relations with the natural world.