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A digital dub of old time musicians

February 25, 2012

There is a big resurgence at the moment in the popularity of roots music, a genre that comprises just about everything from rockabilly, to blues, folk and alternative country as long as it has some ground up tradition behind it. Among the recent albums I have been listening to — and recommend — are the soundtrack to the otherwise middling film “The Descendants” and “Arc Light” by Anglo-Scottish band Lau. The former is Hawaiian country/folk  featuring Gabby Pahinui,while latter takes British fiddle music to an almost prog rock level most beautifully.

But beyond these I have been fascinated by something called Speech Project, which is the brainchild of musician Gerry Diver. The first track I heard gives the flavour. If you click on it now, give it a bit of time, it is not what you think when you first start.

Diver listened to  some traditional Irish singers and reckoned each of them were speaking a bit like they sung. So when he interviewed  accordion player Joe Cooley, he  put the interview into his Mac  and “teased out the faint ‘pitch’ tones and rhythms in Joe’s voice”. He then essentially wrote music around them, which is what you here above. The result is an album and a tour around Britain in March. Diver describes what he is doing, thus:

The music is derived from the melody and rhythm of the spoken words.  Naturally,  all spoken words has pitch and rhythm inherent within them. Whilst the music borrows from Irish traditional idioms the album is by no means traditional.Using Irish trad ‘snippets,’ American 20th century forms glued together with some of the best known voices in Ireland the music was graciously described by one of the interviewees as ‘a kind of folk minimalism on the cutting edge of folk crossover’

Frankly, I think it is the closest thing I have heard to folk dub.  I like it for what it is, but also for what it says about our ability to take even the most basic of musical traditions and experiment with them. Music is always adapting and we are probably only at the foothills of what digital will be able to do as time moves on.

You can listen to more by clicking here. Or your can follow Diver and his project on Twitter @speechproject. But here is the explanation and a bit of a taste the man himself:

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