Composer Erland Cooper has signed with contemporary, electronic and classical label Mercury KX and planted the only copy of his new album Carve the Runes Then Be Content With Silence in Orkney, Scotland, where he grew up.
Erland Cooper’s new three-movement composition for solo violin and string ensemble, inspired by natural landscapes and ruminating on time, hope, community and patience, marks the centenary of the birth of celebrated Orkney poet George Mackay Brown.
The only recording of Carve the Runes Then Be Content With Silence – on ¼ inch magnetic tape – has been planted to grow and be nurtured or “recomposed” by the earth, before being exhumed and released in three years’ time.
“The work is one part remembrance and one part celebration of a landmark time”
“Music can so often feel undervalued and for some, being unable to perform live has at times felt like being buried,” explained Erland Cooper. “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.”
Executives at Mercury KX / Decca have agreed to release the album without having heard a single note but fans will have to wait up to three years to hear it – unless it is discovered sooner. Carve the Runes Then Be Content With Silence was recorded at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with 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 files were permanently deleted. Erland Cooper then drove over 700 miles from London with the only copy of the tape which he planted, along with a violin and a score, in a ceremony on the Orkney Islands.
Erland Cooper said, “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”
“This is an unprecedented event,” noted 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.”
Although Erland Cooper will not be unearthing the tape until 2024 a treasure hunt around Orkney to find the hidden location will be revealed via his digital platforms. If the tape is found the bounty hunter will be invited to Erland Cooper’s studio and rewarded with the first listen. Carve the Runes Then Be Content With Silence will then be released exactly as it sounds from the earth.
Erland Cooper’s new album Carve the Runes Then Be Content With Silence will be released in June 2024 and can be pre-ordered here.