Thunder (LP)

0 of 5 stars

A release on vinyl (LP)

Side One: Thunder [11 seconds]
Side Two: Thunder (Score) [5 minutes 52 seconds]

Thunder is a sound installation by Hannah Rickards; Thunder (Score) is by David Murphy

Dominic O’Dell (cello)
Claire Roff (violin)
Robb Tooley (trombone)
Matt Wells (trumpet)
Petro von Wielligh flute)
Rickardo Zwietisch (viola)
Jason Lai

Reviewed by: Hayden Jones

Reviewed: November 2006
CD No: Not applicable
Duration: 6 minutes

The current resurgence in LP vinyl records has been a blessing for DJs and vinyl junkies alike, with more and more new releases finding their way into a rejuvenated market. However, the terminal decline of the classical LP, 180-gram re-cuts aside, has left a huge gap in a market now filled by second-hand record and charity shops, which is one of the reasons why Thunder is such a desirable new release.

Composer David Murphy created the score of Thunder as part of a project devised by the artist Hannah Rickards in 2005. Rickards’s idea was to take a recording of a thunderclap lasting 11 seconds, stretch it using digital technology to seven minutes and then have the resulting elongated version transcribed for an instrumental ensemble to be played live, the recording of which would be compressed back down to 11 seconds and played to mimic the original thunderclap.

Curious? So was I. For those fortunate enough to attend performances in Bath and London the results were very surprising. Murphy’s accompanying liner notes insist that he merely transcribed the piece and played no compositional part in it, but it would be difficult to believe that some musical imagination would not come into play when one considers how taut and focused Thunder sounds. Not surprisingly, the piece is completely atonal; but what is surprising are the small pockets of repetition and melody that seem flecked throughout, giving a sense of what appears to be a structured dramatic curve to the transcription.

Conductor Jason Lai is a committed advocate of the works of David Murphy. Here he presents a concentrated and responsive reading that overcomes the challenges of this difficult score with a recording that is in every way more convincing than the original live performances.

The limited-edition heavy-vinyl LP (only 500 copies pressed) comes packaged in a colourful sleeve with a pastoral scene on the front cover rendered in what Rickards describes as “slightly over-saturated colours … to mimic as closely as possible the appearance of the stacks of old classical records that one sees in second-hand/charity shops”. The design of the text-heavy back cover will remind many of the golden age of Decca and HMV LPs in the 1960s.

The concept of using the vinyl format was something Rickards had in mind from the outset, providing for her a greater physicality than CD as well as the two-sided nature highlighting the duality of the transcribed and compressed versions of the piece. Indeed, side one features the 11 seconds-compressed recording of the score as mentioned above. Also included is a booklet of the complete printed score.

Thunder is a fascinating work both musically and conceptually. This commemorative release is sure to become a much sought after collector’s item.

  • Thunder is priced at £15.00 and is “available through selected bookshops” and the link below
  • Media Art Bath

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