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Plate 11: Hymn to Vesting Day (1 January 1947)

from Penallta Colliery: Sound Pictures [album] by John Harvey



Vesting Day took place on 1 January 1941, when the properties, rights, and responsibilities of private coal ownership were transferred to the state. On that day, the National Coal Board was born.

The composition takes form of an unsung hymn. It is stately and solemn, almost funereal, in temperament. A brass band played at Penallta Colliery on Vesting Day. In honour of that occasion, the character of the orchestration, here, emphasises sonorities associated with wind instrumentation. The arrangement of the hymn is derived from samples extracted from several of musical interludes on the newsreel. These have been variously slowed-down considerably, reversed, run against one another in counterpoint, edited, and re-ordered.

The melodic line is repeated once. On the iteration, the voice of someone – who appears to be giving a speech in Welsh to the assembled crowd at the Vesting Day event – is heard. At the close of the speech, they raise a cheer of approval. The speech is derived from samples of the Overman’s four narratives; these that have been reversed, cut, and edited together, and re-enveloped (to remove, as far as possible, the tell-tale indicators of reversal: that is to say, the inverted attack and decay). The Overman’s south-walian accent may persuade the audient – particularly they're not conversant with the Welsh language – that what they hear (made unintelligible by the process of reversal) is most likely in that language. The crowd’s cheer is composed of the modified aggregate of all those sections of the newsreel where the colliers are talking in concert.


from Penallta Colliery: Sound Pictures [album], released July 31, 2022


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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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