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The Lesser Light

from The Biblical Record [album] by John Harvey



The ‘lesser light’ is the term used to refer to the moon in Genesis Chapter 1, verse 16. On the 28 July 1964, the USA launched Ranger 7. It was the first probe to record the lunar surface. On the 31 July, it took 4,316 photographs before crashing into the surface. The source material for the composition comprises the 52 biblical references to ‘moon’. A recording of each instance of Scourby speaking the word was made, microphonically, directly from the surface of the record. In this sense, like the probe, the microphone was attentive to a surface. The recordings of ‘moon’ were slowed down by a factor of 20.05x and stacked on top of one another within a workstation-session environment. Several of the voice samples were dropped in pitch by 24 semitones in order to create a low-resonance undertone that extends throughout the length of the piece. Furthermore, the compositional process involved blending and interweaving the 52 ‘voices’, in different ratios, to produce a choral-like, reverberant soundscape that waxes and wanes. Other samples were overdriven by up to 20 dB; they are heard towards the finale as a series of distorted bursts.

In the background are barely comprehensible rendering of bible verses referring to the moon that have, again, been recorded directly from the record’s surface. They evoke radio transmissions disintegrating as they pass across the great distances of space between Earth and the moon. The composition ends abruptly, as did the probe.

Biblical Reference
Genesis 37.9, Deuteronomy 4.19, Deuteronomy 17.3; 33.14, Joshua 10.12; 10.13, 1 Samuel 20.5; 20.18; 20.24, 2 Kings 4.23; 23.5, Job 25.5; 31.26, Psalm 8.3; 72.5; 72.7; 81.3; 89.37; 104.19; 121.6; 136.9; 148.3, Ecclesiastes 12.2, Song of Solomon 6.10; Isaiah 3.18; 13.10; 24.23; 30.26; 60.19; 60.20; 66.23; Jeremiah 8.2; 31.25, Ezekiel 32.7; 46.1; 46.6, Joel 2.10; 2.31; 3.15, Amos 8.5, Habakkuk 3.11; Matthew 24.29, Mark 13.24, Luke 21.25, Acts 2.20, 1 Corinthians 15.41, Colossians 2.16, Revelation 6.12; 8.12; 21.1; 21.23.


from The Biblical Record [album], released July 19, 2019


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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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