If you want this new album, you’ll literally have to dig it up

Erland Cooper is a British artist with a new album. The problem is that anyone who wants to hear it will have to travel to the Orkney Islands and dig it up.

Hold on. Back up.

Cooper has finished Carve the Runes Then be Content with Silence, which is for solo violin and string ensemble and recorded in tribute to Scottish poet George Mackay, who was born 100 years ago this year. There is just one recording, store on quarter-inch master tape. That tape has been buried on Orkney, which is where Mackay (and Cooper) lived. No one will be able to hear this album until it’s dug up in 2024–unless someone finds it first.

From CMU: “So few people came into contact with this album before it was buried that Mercury KX signed it without actually hearing a note. The original digital recording files have been deleted, so the only copy really is the tape that is now somewhere underground on the Orkneys, along with the violin played on it by soloist Daniel Pioro and the full printed score.”

Won’t burying the tape in the dirt cause damage? Yes. And that’s the point. Again from CMU: “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 ground] will be reincorporated into the pages of a new score and live performance, as orchestral articulations”.

If you’re worried about the tape’s fate, Cooper will soon release a map with clues in case you’d like to grab a shovel. If you do find it, you’re supposed to bring it to Cooper in London where the two of you will listen to the results together. That’s the version that will ultimately be released to the public.

Happy hunting.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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