R B V E Ǝ T N Ƨ O A: a b o r t  n e r v e s


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In 2003, a wax cylinder containing a unique recording of a short speech by Evan Roberts, the charismatic figurehead of the Welsh religious revival of 1904-5, was deposited at the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales, Aberystwyth. The cylinder had been broken into eleven extant pieces. After a painstaking restoration by an American dentist, it was able to be played during the centenary of the revival. Against the insistent noise of surface clicks and crackles and the rhythm of the stylus as it ploughs through the spinning furrows, the febrile voices of Roberts and a small choir of male singers are discernable. A digitized version of the recording was prepared by a sound studio in Pasadena, California and the British Library, London.

R R B V E Ǝ T N Ƨ O A is a sonic art intervention into, and engagement with, this sound document. The work (divided into 12 pieces) further extends the process by which Roberts’ voice has been subjected to audio recording and playback technologies. The wax cylinder’s sound is re-recorded, recomposed, rearticulated, sampled, transcribed, and accompanied using digital and analogue processors in a performance context. In this way, the audio material is fractured once again. The project is a unique collaboration between The National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales and the School of Art, Aberystwyth University, and one release in John Harvey’s The Aural Bible series of sound works.

On the 16 November 2011, at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, John Harvey presented a lecture on the project and performed the first of the 12 pieces, entitled ‘Abort Nerves’. The remaining 11 recordings will be made at chapels and churches in Wales and England where Roberts visited and preached during the revival.

Sound recording of Abort Nerves (2011).

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