We thought, after producing one album - the absurdly-titled From Aardvark to Zebra - he would stop. But no! - now he's made this one . . . Here's what Andy Murkin wants us to know about it:
OPENING TIME [7.44]
Voices: the Vocalettes
I never get to the Flying Pig at opening time, so I don't know when it is. In this case, the opening time is 7/4.
THE PERPENDICULAR IDEAL OF THE GLASSHOUSE [16.55]
Voices: the Vocalettes
Nothing to do with skyscrapers at all, originally, the phrase in the title was used by the eminent architectural guide book writer Niklaus Pevsner to describe the 15th Century church in the village I come from. After I'd written the piece, though, it reminded me strongly of New York, which I visited a couple of years ago, so that's what it's come to represent.
THERE ARE SONGS [14.40]
Voices: Andy (singing); Krystyna (singing); Victoria (speaking)
A song I wrote and partly recorded some years ago. It's about writing music, which is what I like to do, but can be taken to refer to whatever creative things you pursue that make your life worthwhile.
THE SHIPPING FORECAST [16.37]
Shipping Forecast: by permission of the Met Office
Yacht Horns: by permission of Kahlenberg Bros, Two Rivers, Wisconsin, USA
Voices: Andy (speaking); the Vocalettes (singing )
Additional Music: Tobacco Fumes Away by Thomas Ravenscroft (c.1592 - c.1635), arranged by Andy Murkin
What can I say? A great British institution, inspiration to musicians and poets since its beginnings in 1924, the Shipping Forecast continues to send the nation to bed with a warm glow of satisfaction: no matter how foul the weather at sea - and it usually is foul - as long as the Shipping Forecast occupies its place on the BBC we're safe and sound in our beds and all's well with the world . . .
. . . Then, as we listen, we conjure up the image of tiny fishing boats, lashed by constant rain, tossed carelessly from the peak of one mountainous, icy wave to the next. In the knowledge that below deck on hundreds of these frail vessels numbed and frozen fingers are, at exactly this same moment, tuning frost-dusted dials on ancient wireless sets to Radio 4; lined faces, worn rough by wind and salt-spray, sou'westers pulled down to the eyebrows, breath rising like plumes of steam in the chill air, incline to catch the same calm and measured tones - exactly the opposite of the capricious weather they describe - we feel a sudden bond uniting us with those heroic mariners, the heirs of Drake, Ralegh and Nelson, who nightly brave the elements, risking their lives to return to us the bounty of the sea, from humble cod to noble sole, from sleek haddock to exotic squid: not for nothing is fish and chips the national dish of the Britain of our imagination.
The very names - Viking, Biscay, Dogger, and the rest - are themselves magical, each one invoking a different picture of a lonely, tempestuous corner of the Atlantic, North or Irish Sea; merely to hear them recited is as if to hear the incantation of a spell. The vocal section of this piece - a chorus of mermaids and mermen, which gives the album Goodbye Finisterre its title - refers to an unfortunate blot on the seascape which is the history of the Shipping Forecast, whereby, in 2002, the popular name of Finisterre was ordered, in the name of greater international meteorological harmony, to be changed: the Spanish, from whose country Cape Finisterre ("the World's End") protrudes, apparently have a differently-sized area of the ocean to which they have given the same name. Some took this as another example of needless kow-towing to the faceless bureacrats of Brussels etc., others as an indication of the depths to which British influence abroad had sunk. Nevertheless, the replacement designation was well-chosen, and Finisterre became FitzRoy, after 19th Century Admiral Robert FitzRoy, captain of the HMS Beagle at the time of Charles Darwin's voyage to the Galapagos. As well as having a name beginning with F, FitzRoy was founder of the Met Office in 1854. I wish I had the space to tell you more about his remarkable life - the native Tierra del Fuegans he 'rescued' (i.e. abducted) and introduced into London High Society; the unseemly haste with which he found he had to return them; his profound disagreement with Darwin's theories; his public heckling (bible in hand, some say) of a lecture by arch-evolutionist T.E. Huxley; the barometers he invented and had named after him; the reasons for his sacking as Governor of New Zealand; his bouts of depression and eventual suicide at the age of 59. But I haven't.
The piece represents the thoughts and visions of a late-night listener as he or she drifts in and out of sleep, the litany of the Forecast mingling in the dream-like condition of a half-waking mind with imagined nautical sounds. (I also don't have space to tell you more about the hypnopompic and hypnagogic states, between sleep and being awake, and their connection with auditory and visual hallucinations, astral projection, and alien abductions, but these are the sleeve notes to an album, so what can I do?)
In an ideal world, the first theme would be a sea shanty, but, in fact, it's an early 17th Century piece called either Of Drinking Ale and Tobacco, as it appears in the original manuscript, or Tobacco Fumes Away, which is how the lyrics (not featured here) begin.
FUNERAL IN TALLINN [8.35]
More Music from an Imaginary Spy Film. Tallinn, Estonia, is just the sort of place, poised between East and West, where spy film screenwriters could imagine shady foreign types in long coats, with dark glasses, mobile phones and discreetly concealed firearms might arrive by helicopter at a rainswept cemetery to say farewell to a trusted comrade or respected enemy, conduct dodgy deals or organise an armed coup. Who they are and whose funeral it is, we won't find out until they make the film.
All this stuff was composed, arranged and produced by Andy Murkin, and performed by him and his Apple Macintosh, except where otherwise indicated.
In 2013, there was a 4CD 10th anniversary re-release of From Aardvark to Zebra with Goodbye Finisterre. Read more about that here
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