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Fourth Piece: Braver Notes

from R R B V E Ǝ T N Ƨ O A [album] by John Harvey



Here, the voices of Roberts and the choir are not comprehensible in terms of either words or melody. The source material has been variously edited, slowed down, speeded up, reversed, and overlaid. The modified output was allied with to the surface noises of the cylinder, which also underwent these processes, to produce a sonic landscape.

‘Fourth Piece: Braver Noises’ summons sounds associated with an industrial environment. It took me sometime to realise where precisely my mind was being drawn during the process of composition. I could hear, as it were, steam under pressure, the drone of turbines in motion, the push and pull of cylinders, metallic noises (clanking and hammering), shovelling, and the sombre tone of a horn being blown. My impression was that of being in a ship’s engine room and, thus, a long way from Roberts’s sermon and scenes of the Welsh revival.

However, there was an historical connection. W. T. Stead (1849–1912) was an English newspaper journalist. In the latter part of the nineteenth century he became a champion of Spiritualism and claimed to receive messages from the spirit world. The supposed supernaturalism associated with the revival, not unsurprisingly, inspired Stead to devote a great deal of his energies to investigating, and reporting on, its nature and consequences. He was thoroughly convinced of the phenomenon’s authenticity and published his findings in a number booklets and books on the topic.

Seven years after the revival, Stead, along with over 1,500 others, died when the RMS Titanic was struck by an iceberg and sank.


from R R B V E Ǝ T N Ƨ O A [album], released July 12, 2021


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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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