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Medial Music Practice: Seven evocations [ep]

by John Harvey

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about

This EP is an adjunct to the ‘Spirit Communication’ (2023) album. The project deals with sonic phenomena and technologies associated with nineteenth and early-twentieth century spiritualist seances and contemporary paranormal investigation. ‘Medial Music Practice: seven evocations’ is a suite of electric guitar improvisations. It references accounts of musical instruments -- such as a guitar, an accordion, a piano, a violin, and percussion -- that appeared to play by themselves, under the influence of invisible spirit hands and the direction of a spiritualist medium.

The recording of each solo was processed using an algorithm designed to mimic a ghost-hunting tool, called a ‘spirit box’. The device sweeps multiple radio frequencies at very high speed, dividing them into tiny parcels of sound in a bid to detect Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP), such as the voices of disincarnate spirits. The fragmentary output, it’s claimed, provides the clay from which ghosts mould comprehensible words. The algorithm, likewise, splits-up the content of an audio recording (a guitar improvisation, in this instance) into sections of any duration the operative requires, and rearranges them randomly. Insomuch as the process of reorganisation was out of my control, it substitutes for the action of invisible spirit hands on the guitar.

Tracks 1-5 and 7 were composed using this method. Track 6, however, is an unmodified solo played in the manner of the others. Their titles are derived from the eye- and ear-witness testimony of those who had witnessed the phenomenon at seances held by the Scottish medium Daniel Dunglas Home (1833-86). The term 'evocation' follows the French educator and translator Allan Kardec's usage, in his book 'Heaven and Hell' (1865), to describe the act of invoking a spirit.

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'Spirit Communication' is the seventh release in The Aural Bible series. The series deals with the Judaeo-Christian scriptures as the written, spoken, and heard word. It explores the cultural articulations and adaptations of the Bible within Judeo-Christian and supernaturalist traditions. The works on the album embark upon a critical, responsive, and interpretive intervention with aspects of their sound culture.

credits

released October 6, 2023

For Sam, my firstborn.

Personnel: John Harvey

Instrumentation: Digitec FreqOut Natural Feedback Creator Pedal and Whammy (5th generation) pedal, EVP software, Line 6 HX effects unit, RME Fireface UCX analogue/digital interface, Steinberger ‘Spirit’ guitar, and Strymon Iridium amplifier and cabinet emulator.

Context: Composed and recorded in John Harvey’s studio, Aberystwyth, UK, July 21-22, 2023.

Sources: D. D. Home, 'Incidents in My Life' (New York: A. K. Butts and Co.,1873); Allan Kardec, 'Heaven and Hell: divine justice according to Spiritualism' (1865) trans. by Darrel W. Kimble and Marcia M. Saiz (Brazil: International Spiritualist Council, 2006).

All compositions by: John Harvey.
Cover concept and artwork: John Harvey.
Engineered and produced by: John Harvey.
Cover concept by: John Harvey.
Conceived and mastered at: John Harvey’s studio, Aberystwyth, UK, July 23 and August 3, 2023.
Released by: Screen & Sound Archive, Wales, 2023.
All compositions ℗ & © 2023 John Harvey.

The project and recording are a collaboration between the Screen & Sound Archive, The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth and the School of Art, Aberystwyth University.

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about

John Harvey Ceredigion, UK

I’m a practitioner and historian of sound art and visual art, and Emeritus Professor of Art at the School of Art, Aberystwyth University, UK. My research field is the sonic and visual culture of religion. I explore the sonic articulations of the Christian religion by engaging visual, textual, and audible sources, theological and cultural ideas, and systemic and audiovisualogical processes. ... more

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