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My Heart is Broken in Three [single]

by John Harvey



On the 11 July 2015, I set myself an exercise: to purchase the first 78-rpm record I alighted upon, and make something from it. An assistant at a second-hand shop pulled out a dusty pile of records from underneath a table. As he did, the upmost record slid off and broke into three pieces and a shard on impact with the stone floor. (I'd met with this scenario before. The Evan Roberts wax cylinder, on which my ‘R R B V E Ǝ T N Ƨ O A’ is based, met with a similar fate after it had been rediscovered.) In terms of my intent, the shattered disc represented the first that I'd alighted upon. (Sometimes an artefact self selects for consideration.) Once established, the rules of the game must be adhered to -- no matter how inconvenient this may turn out to be.

The record was still in its paper sleeve, so all the pieces were contained. The title of the song on the B-side was ‘My Heart is Broken in Three’. One must honour such fortuitous coincidences.

The 10-inch disc, released in 1956, was on the London American Recordings, a subsidiary of London Records, which was a branch of Decca Records. The artiste, Slim Whitman, had a reputation as a popular folk and country singer who also yodelled and whistled. My instinct was not glue the record back together, but, rather, to explore the artefact in its fractured state. (Broken things have always beckoned to me.)

In order to make the three pieces playable, I needed to adhere them to the surfaces of three other 78-rpm records of the same diameter, and to ensure that they were aligned with the spindle hole at the centre of host discs. The largest fragment retained the hole of the whole record intact. So, I aligned the hole of that fragment with the hole of the host record and then manoeuvred one of smaller fragments into its original position next to the large one, from which it had broken off. The smaller fragment was then glued down, and the large fragment removed. The operation was repeated for the remaining small fragment and, finally, the large one was secured to its own host. Thereafter, I had three partial and independently playable records.

The fragments were playable only at 33 1/3 rpm, rather than at their intended 78 rpm. Any faster, and the tone arm would skid off the disc. Therefore, the speed of the recording was conditioned by the limitations of the medium (the record) in relation to the technology of playing (the turntable).

The composition comprises recordings taken from the three partial records. Extracts from each are heard, one at the time, in the following sequence: the first fragment, the second fragment, and the third fragment (chorus). (The inclusion of a chorus acknowledges the structure of the original song.) This pattern is repeated four times. The composition ends with a coda derived from the third fragment. The track is heard at the speed at which the source record was intended to be played: the equivalent of 78 rpm.


released December 12, 2015
All compositions ℗ and © 2015 John Harvey.

Personnel: Slim Whitman and John Harvey.

Instrumentation: 78 rpm record, Allen & Heath Zone:23C mixer, Stanton ST-150 turntable, MacBook Pro, and Adobe Audition CS6.

Context: Recorded in Aberystwyth, UK, 11-17 December 2015
Source: Slim Whitman, Side-B: 'My Heart is Broken in Three', London American Recordings, 1956, HL-U.8252.

Engineered and produced by: John Harvey.
Cover Concept and artwork by: John Harvey.
Cover image: Slim Whitman, Side-B: 'My Heart is Broken in Three', London American Recordings, 1956, HL-U.8252.
Conceived and mastered at: School of Art, Aberystwyth University, 2015.


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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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