Today (June 23rd), in Scotland, composer Erland Cooper signs with contemporary, electronic and classical label Mercury KX and shares details of his ground-breaking new project: the planting of his new album Carve the Runes Then Be Content With Silence in Orkney, the stunning island location where he grew up.
The album that has been planted deep into the Orkney soil is a recording of Cooper’s brand new three-movement composition for solo violin and string ensemble. The work marks the centenary of celebrated Orkney poet George Mackay Brown, as 2021 marks 100 years since his birth.
Inspired by natural landscapes and ruminating on time, hope, community and patience, the sole recording of the work – on ¼ inch magnetic tape, with the digital files permanently deleted – has been planted to grow and be nurtured or “recomposed” by the earth, before being exhumed and released in three years’ time.
[Details and pre-order links for the album are available here]
Erland Cooper says, “Music can so often feel undervalued and for some, being unable to perform live has at times felt like being buried. When an idea forms there is often an urge to share it as quickly as it develops but like spotting a bird, I want to let this fly and land in its own place and time. The work is one part remembrance and one part celebration of a landmark time.”
A testament to Cooper’s talent, executives at Mercury KX / Decca have agreed to release the album without having heard a single note. Fans will have to wait up to three years to enjoy it – unless it is discovered sooner and returned to the composer for release. It was recorded at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with the internationally acclaimed violin soloist Daniel Pioro (who most recently performed with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra) and Studio Collective, a specially selected RCS chamber string group. The composition was then mixed by Marta Salogni (Björk, Anna Meredith, Daniel Avery) and mastered onto ¼ inch magnetic tape before the digital file was deleted. The tape was then planted – along with a violin and a full printed score – in an intimate ceremony on the Orkney Islands in May 2021, after Cooper drove 15 hours from one end of the country to the other, over 700 miles from London to the Scottish highlands and islands.
Cooper explains, “The material on the tape may erode naturally, disintegrate and create drops of silence or the peaty soil may preserve it perfectly well. It may or may not get better with age. I may or may not fall out of favour with my composition. Any alterations to the sound and music [when it comes out of the earth] will be reincorporated into the pages of a new score and live performance, as orchestral articulations.”
“This is an unprecedented event,” comment Tom Lewis and Laura Monks, Co-Managing Directors of Decca Records / Mercury KX. “In an era of breathless instant gratification, there’s something incredibly romantic and powerful about the idea of us ALL having to wait three years to listen to Erland’s recordings. And, it is going to be fascinating to see how it fares in the ground. It’ll be a very nerve-wracking moment when we unearth the tape and press play.”
Whilst Cooper will not be unearthing the tape until 2024, he has left a trail for anyone to search and find it if they wish. A map with clues to the location of the planting site will be released via his digital platforms. If the planted tape is found, Erland will invite the discoverer to his studio to embark on a journey together for the treasured first listen. It will then be released exactly as it sounds from the earth.