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Tenth Piece: Obverse Rant

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



The opening section, following the acoustic drawing, is fractured, angular, uncertain, and disconcerting. Likewise, the composition proceeds episodically: stopping, changing gear and orientation before starting again, and never quite resolving. Roberts repeats his statement about tongues speaking, first spoken in ‘Seventh Piece: Art Orb Seven’. ‘And’, Roberts adds, the ‘tongues say: I am the way’. In the absence of an identifiable subject ‘I am the way’ might refer just as readily to Roberts as to Christ (who uttered this self-affirmation, originally). This is followed by what is, within the context of this suite of compositions, a lengthy quote from the original recording, heard backwards.

Because there is no discernible difference between the attack and decay (the envelope) of the words uttered by Roberts on the wax-cylinder recording, his speech does not sound as though it has been reversed. Rather, the impression is that he is communicating in a foreign language, one that, given Roberts’s accent, might be like Welsh (if you knew nothing about the language). The listener is on the outside, unable to comprehend. The situation is not unlike the operation of tongues speaking in the New Testament Church, which was unintelligible to the congregation unless translated by someone with the spiritual gift of interpretation (1 Corinthians 14.1-19).

ER: God spoke through prophets; he now speaking in tongues.
And his tongues say: ‘I am the way’.
And his tongues say: ‘I am the way’.

‘I am the way.' ‘I am the way.' ‘I am the way’...

You can tell some people stories in five minutes.
Here is one who rises for his gloriously.
All eternity will not suffice.
He was brought naked.
What can we give God in return?
The needs of our valuables – only a copper.
God takest [and he leaves].
God took up his cause; man cannot do less. [reverse]

‘I am the way.’

God spoke through prophets; he now speaking in tongues.
And his tongues say: ‘I am the way’.
A way to what?
To everything except destruction.
Hear my brethren, he gave of himself.
[unintelligible], Jesus comes out of the grave.
[unintelligible] [reverse]

‘I am the way.’

and stir up a few friends to serve God [unintelligible].
He will need thousands of friends in Wales. [reverse]

‘I am the way.’

Men must keep their promise.
God will come unto them.
Give him all, all lands ... [unintelligible] [reverse]


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