The Sussex Workings Volume 3: Music For Three Hills

by Michael Tanner

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In Spring of 2014 I spent three days hauling an old accordion up the three steep peaks of Malling Down nature reserve, behind the cottage I was then living in, in Lewes, Sussex. The keys no longer worked, but the drone buttons still eased to life, producing a warm and reassuring sound and created unexpected oscillations seemingly at the instrument's ever changing whim. In fact, every aspect of this accordion seemed to manifest an anthropomorphised will...if left alone with the bellows extended, it would flip on it's back, recoiling like an upturned slug. Certain bass drone notes would 'pop' into existence when playing varying chords, as if it were trying trying to emphasise a point with gusto. Sometimes at night it will sigh unexpectedly, when not stored away properly.

This was a time of huge emotional upheaval for myself and those around me. The sound of the accordion singing through the unique acoustics of the valley which formed amidst the three peaks always brought great comfort during this period. There's probably something to be said about the therapeutic vibration of a resonant sound rattling through sad bones, but I'll save that for another time. Suffice to say these moments of solace and introspection offered a degree of clarity to me at the time, even if dragging the thing up and down the hill almost sent me arse-first into a brambly gulch on more than one occasion.

So here are three improvisations, one recorded on each peak. I don't offer them as 'music' and certainly not as tunes - just the simple sound of an accordion conversing with the landscape, and vice versa.

'Green Crown i' was recorded on the leftmost peak, which plateaus into a sheep field before sloping back down onto Earwig Corner. The view from here looks back into Lewes town, with the outline of the Barbican at the Castle standing proud like a gravestone.

'Green Crown ii' was recorded on the Coombe, which directly faces the location of the first recording. I had to balance myself and portable recorder on the top of a badger warren, which was uneven enough to stop myself sliding down the slope. a series of tiny rabbits came to investigate the spectacle halfway through the recording, one of which furiously stamped it's foot which resonated up through the tripod the held the recorder (around the 8.00 mark). It all gives way to a plane heading back to Gatwick, the flightpath of which Malling Down lies directly under.

'Phase Shift' is the only piece here that includes any studio 'trickery' in the sense that a balls-up loading the pieces into Pro Tools resulted in the left and right hand channels being a fraction of a second out from one another. I left it as it was, in keeping with allowing the improvisations, instrument, and landscape dictate their own terms. It was recorded in an area affectionately known as the Witches Hill (also the Fat-Bellied Woman) which played home to a small copse containing a graveyard of sheep bones and white flint. Lights are regularly seen heading in and out of here at night from the town below (lewes.co.uk/Forum/Post/Malling_flashes/79876). A year after recording this piece I found a ritualistic clearing littered with repurposed bones and chalked symbols, only 20 foot away from the spot I sat in...an experience that has coloured the handful of times I've listened to it back.

Hopefully you might find something to enjoy here, even if it is just three slabs of rural drone which can be plotted into a nice pattern on an OS map. It's the final instalment of a loose trio of long-form pieces, the other two of which are:

'Drawing Down The Sun':

iamplinth.bandcamp.com/album/drawing-down-the-sun

and 'Nine Of Swords':

iamplinth.bandcamp.com/album/nine-of-swords

credits

released November 11, 2015

Michael Tanner - Accordion

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Michael Tanner/Plinth Lewes, UK

Eschewing teeth, skin and expensive electrical equipment since 1977 - Plinth, The A.Lords, The Cloisters, Thalassing, Bible Student and other silly names.

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