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Ninth Piece: Ornate Verbs

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



Following the acoustic drawing of the fragment, the composition proceeds with a nervous and shadowy bass figure, which was derived from a micro-sample of a slowed down MP3 encoding of the original recording. The choir is on the conductor’s podium throughout the composition. They sing unintelligible words (their samples having been reversed): emotion without content. But they speak creedal affirmations of faith as well: ‘We do!’ and ‘We believe!’ Their dominance reflects the belief that the revival of 1904 would be ‘singing revival’. Roberts did very little by way of preaching in comparison to the leaders of previous awakenings. His sermon is also heard in reverse, with expectation of the word ‘[re]vival’. His words are woven into the fabric of tonalites: drifting on the wind against the acoustic drawing’s insistent grind, gradually deforming as Roberts’s speech progressively fades and unravels while the sounds slow and drop in pitch – like a wax cylinder losing momentum.

The choir remains upbeat, despite the inevitable descent: still performing even as the Titanic goes down, as it were. The revival could not be sustained by dint of either desire or fiat or affirmation. All such phenomenon, whatever its origin, wanes eventually. The Welsh Revival of 1904 lasted just over one year; but it had burned intensely brightly during that period. Afterwards, Roberts slipped into relative obscurity and self-isolation once the revival was over. He had been scorched by the fire, physically, spiritually, and mentally.

ER/Choir: [unintelligible] [reverse] that [unintelligible] [reverse]. [2 times]

ER/Choir: O! We do! O! We do! [unintelligible] [reverse]. We believe. [2 times]

ER/Choir: [unintelligible] [reverse] [Re]vival. [unintelligible] [reverse] [2 times]

ER/Choir: [unintelligible] [reverse] that [unintelligible] [reverse]

Choir: [unintelligible] [unintelligible] [reverse]

ER/Choir: O! We do! O! We do! [unintelligible] [reverse] We believe. [2 times]

ER/Choir: [unintelligible] [reverse] that [unintelligible] [reverse] [2 times]


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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