Limited edition of 600
Out on November 11, 2018
Purchase price in Japan: 1,800 yen (tax not included)
(For purchase outside of Japan, prices vary.)
John Butcher: soprano and tenor saxes
Angharad Davies: violin
Rhodri Davies: electric harp
Lina Lapelyte: violin
Lee Patterson: amplified devices and processes
Pat Thomas: electronics
Recorded by Simon Reynell at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, UK, March 22, 2016
Mixed and mastered by John Butcher
Co-produced with Sound and Music as part of the 2014-15 touring program with a grant from the Arts Council England and sponsored by Resonance Extra
Artwork and design by Cathy Fishman
Includes liner notes by Rhodri Davies and John Butcher in English and Japanese (translation by Megumi Sakata)
The group Common Objects was formed in 2005 by the British harpist/composer Rhodri Davies. The group has had a fluid membership, but in recent years its core members have been the six musicians performing on this album: John Butcher, Angharad Davies, Lina Lapelyte, Lee Patterson, Pat Thomas, and Rhodri Davies. Common Objects performs a wide range of music, from composed works to improvisation. Skullmarks documents the group's first project in which objects are used as scores.
In 2016 Common Objects selected three museums as performance venues and carried out a mini-tour called "Sonorous Matter." Each of the six musicians had chosen items from among the museums' collections as the basis of a score to be performed by the group. "Skullmarks," the work recorded on this album, was based on four historical objects that John Butcher selected from the huge ethnographic collection at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. These objects were displayed to the musicians and audience during the performance held at the museum on March 22, 2016. The concert, which had a strange and mysterious mood due to the shamanic objects and the atmosphere of the museum at night, resulted in a superb performance with a rare aura and energy.
In 2005 I formed Common Objects for a series of concerts at the LMC Festival. At first the group had a fluid membership, but in recent years the line up has settled to the six musicians heard here. I have wanted to use objects as stimuli for improvisation ever since I began the group. During the last thirteen years, we have worked with semi-structured pieces, graphic notation and free improvisation, but this is the first time we have used objects as a score. I am interested in the relationship an improviser has with the object that is their instrument as well as the preparations they use. Musicians form unique connections with their instruments and often end up anthropomorphising them. I get attached to my preparations for different reasons: some were given to me as gifts, some remind me of people Iíve played with. Over time, the instrument and objects, like our bodies, carry scars and knocks and different memories.
In 2016, the group made a mini tour called 'Sonorous Matter', playing at the Pitt Rivers Museum, the Manchester Museum and the Oriental Museum at Durham University. Before this we had each spent time researching and engaging with the three museumsí collections, which, of course, have their own relationship to Britain's colonial histories. We identified items to form the basis of new object scores to be performed by the group. This resulted in six new pieces, one by each group member: Lee Patterson 'Five Objects', Angharad Davies 'Sounds Outwith Objects', Rhodri Davies 'JADE', Lina Lapelyte 'Gold & Mirrors', Pat Thomas 'FOR GEORGE SALIBA' and John Butcher 'Skullmarks'.
Before the concert at the Pitt Rivers, David Toop gave a talk called 'Objects Uncommon and Instruments of Non-Existence'. Much like our performance 'Cup and Ring' at the AV Festival 14, Newcastle Upon Tyne (released on the 'whitewashed with lines' CD), the performance of 'Skullmarks' was highly charged, owing in no small measure to the eerie atmosphere at the Pitt Rivers Museum at night and to the particular objects that John chose, which were heavy with significance, history and shamanic energy. While planning the tour, I read about Oskar Fischinger's meeting with John Cage where he talked about a spirit that lives inside each of the world's objects. He said that what we need to do to liberate that spirit is to brush past the object and draw forth its sound. I hope this recording will go some way towards realising this possibility.
Skullmarks was performed inside the cavernous Pitt Rivers Museum, home to a mysterious ethnographic collection of over half a million items. I chose four objects to display to the musicians and the audience, setting a special focus and atmosphere for the music: a Raven's Mask of the Haida shamans (17th C), a painted Bear Mask from the Tsimshian (19th C), a bird shaped Water Vase made by the Keres Pueblo (19th C), and a colourful and elaborately painted Bear Skull found in Nepal in 1936.
They are made of wood, bone and clay, evoking consideration of water, air, earth, spirit, ritual and utility.
The score orchestrated different combinations of the players, distributed inside the very large central space and the upper galleries. The Museum building itself should be thought of as a fifth object, intrinsically evocative and enabling rich sonic perspectives - from acoustic sounds in extreme resonance to hermetic electronics.
Photographs of the objects can be seen at johnbutcher.org.uk/skullmarks.html
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