Mind on the Run: The Impressive Majesty of Basil Kirchin’s Hullian Soundscapes

Posted on March 27, 2017

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On Sunday I listened to BBC Radio 3’s Hear and Now programme live from Hull City Hall, featuring a tribute to sonic visionary Basil Kirchin – a little known post-war composer. It was transcendent.

Basil Kirchin.JPG

Catch it while you can. The broadcast is available for another six or seven days on BBC iPlayer. If you’re a pirate or a lover of musique concrete and found sounds, then rip it and share it. It has to be heard. Record it and pass it around because it’s too good to sit in a BBC archive never to be played again. Get it here and you’ll wonder to the sounds of Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory, Sonic Youth’s Jim O’Rourke and electronic masterchef Matthew Herbert interpreting the late Kirchin’s work. It is marvellous.

You see Basil Kirchin was a local hero and perhaps one of the foremost British musical innovators of the 20th century. Brian Eno calls him a ‘founding father of ambient’ so you know he’s important. Here’s Basil’s wiki – he started out as a drummer in his father’s jazz big band, extended into film scores (The Abominable Dr Phibes, Catch Us If You Can), worked with the likes of Mick Ronson and Jimmy Page, was a pioneer of musique concrete and then retreated to Hull to make his incredible soundscapes in the privacy of his own cocoon.

From 17-19 February the City Hall reverberated to the sounds of Kirchin’s work as interpreted by purveyors of jazz, electronica, rock and ambient sound, including David Toop, Steve Cobby of Fila Brazillia, Spring Heel Jack, Jerry Dammers (The Specials), Bob Stanley (St Etienne) and Matthew Bourne. The Mind on the Run Weekender was one of the spring highlights of a programme that extends through all four seasons of 2017 and promises an Icelandic explosion in April with John Grant, Gus Gus and Mugison among others.

Hidden Orchestra headlined the Saturday 18 February evening concert, Journey to the Unknown alongside saxophone maestro and Kirchin collaborator Evan Parker with a specially assembled band, including electronica duo Spring Heel Jack. Hidden Orchestra – ‘the imaginary orchestra that doesn’t really exist…’ is a musical collective created by composer/producer Joe Acheson and is soon to make a major appearance at the Royal Albert Hall in December 2016. Hull based DJ and producer Steve Cobby, of Fila Brazillia fame, also played mixes and remixes drawn from Kirchin’s back catalogue of reel-to-reel tapes. Worlds within Worlds had live musicians responding, in real time, to sounds from the reel-to-reels.

On Sunday 19 February Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory, curated Musical Modernism, a programme created around Kirchin’s fascination with texture and sonic collage, featuring the BBC Concert Orchestra. St. Etienne’s Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs created a music and visuals piece called Abstractions of Holderness, based on the area where Kirchin lived in Hull.

Other plans for Hull 2017 include Favourite Sounds of Hull, curated by sonic artist, Peter Cusack – an interactive project complementary to Kirchin’s vision that invites the public to suggest the sounds that personally define Hull for them. Already underway, it will build into a living sonic document for the city. GoGo Penguin, the acclaimed jazz meets electronica Manchester three-piece are creating a new work inspired by Kirchin’s landmark recording Abstractions of the Industrial North. This PRSF New Music Biennial Commission will be performed in mid-2017. While a planned hour-long film documentary of his life will appear later in 2017.

Martin Green, Director and CEO of Hull 2017, said: “Basil Kirchin is without doubt an overlooked genius of British music and Mind on the Run is a fantastic opportunity to discover his music, which is increasingly influential. It’s also a chance to enjoy some great musicians and DJs in unique collaborations and performances that you are unlikely to hear elsewhere.”

John Cumming OBE, a Director of Serious added: “We are delighted to be working with Hull 2017 on ‘Mind on the Run: The Basil Kirchin Story’. The partnership with J-Night, Nova Studios, BBC Radio 3, the University of Hull and the City of Culture Team has been immensely stimulating, and the opportunity to celebrate the story of an extraordinary and quietly influential talent, whose creative life reflects so much of the changes in British culture since the 1950s, has been a fascinating voyage of discovery. As has the opportunity to assemble a cast of artists – old and new friends, and some extraordinarily talented young creators – all of them with an enthusiasm for the Kirchin legacy that’s both unbounded and inspirational.”

For more information go to http://www.hull2017.co.uk/mindontherun
Twitter: @2017Hull / #Mindontherun

Seriously listen to the Will Gregory and Hidden Orchestra concert on BBC Radio 3. It is a thing of great beauty. Rip it before it is archived. Please.

The full rundown of the Mind on the Run Weekender is below:

Mind on the Run: The Basil Kirchin Story, theWill Gregory and the BBC Concert Orchestra, Sunday 19 February 2017, (c) Thomas Arran

MIND ON THE RUN: THE BASIL KIRCHIN STORY
DATES: Friday 17 February – Sunday 19 February 2017
VENUE: Hull City Hall, Queen Victoria Square, Carr Lane, Hull HU1 3RQ
TICKET PRICE: £6-£20

A weekend of live music featuring Hidden Orchestra, the BBC Concert Orchestra and members of Goldfrapp, Sonic Youth, St Etienne, The High Llamas and The Specials plus many more artists to be confirmed.
http://www.hull2017.co.uk/mindontherun / @2017Hull / #Mindontherun

INDIVIDUAL SHOW LISTINGS
DATE: Friday 17 February 2017
SHOW: WE START COUNTING: SEAN O’HAGAN & FRIENDS + TWO AND TWO ARE ONE
VENUE: Hull City Hall, Main Hall
TICKET PRICE: £12-£18
TIME: 7pm

Mind on the Run: The Basil Kirchin Story, Sean O’Hagan and Friends, Friday 17 February 2017, (c) Thomas Arran

Founding member of The High Llamas, Sean O’Hagan, pays homage to the lyrical side of Basil Kirchin’s work with a specially convened ensemble including vocalist Jane Weaver and friends of the band, whose collective background embraces Stereolab, Sun Ra, Jarvis Cocker and more.
Inspiration comes from I Start Counting, a song composed for the 1969 film of the same name, and from other works of his cinematic and psychedelic period – a sound that O’Hagan continues to explore.
Support comes from Hull’s own Liam van Rijn, also known as Revenu, who premieres a set of live and electronic music – Two And Two Are One – creating a seamless blend of Basil Kirchin’s sounds with his own.
http://www.hull2017.co.uk/westartcounting

DATE: Friday 17 February 2017
SHOW: THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES – FILM SCREENING & LIVE PERFORMANCE BY ALEXANDER HAWKINS
VENUE: Hull City Hall, Main Hall
TICKET PRICE: £6-10
START TIME: 10.30pm
With its art deco sets, dark humour, exemplary cast and Basil Kirchin soundtrack, The Abominable Dr. Phibes (Dir: Robert Fuest, 1971) is a cult classic.
This quintessential British horror film follows the title character, Dr Phibes (Vincent Price) – a theologian and musician – who believes that his wife died a victim of incompetent doctors, and begins elaborate plans to kill them using methods inspired by the Old Testament’s Ten Plagues of Egypt.
Supported by the BFI, this film screening will be accompanied by live music from pianist, organist and composer Alexander Hawkins, played on the mighty Hull City Hall pipe organ.
http://www.hull2017.co.uk/drphibes

DATE: Saturday 18 February
FREE TALKS PROGRAMME HOSTED BY WRITER AND CRITIC JANE CORNWELL
VENUE: Hull City Hall
TICKET PRICE: FREE
TALK: Basil Kirchin: Mind in Transition, 1950s – 1970s
START TIME: 11.30am

VENUE: Hull City Hall, Victoria Bar
Speakers include: Sean O’Hagan (The High Llamas), Matt Stephenson (Nova Studios)
TALK: Basil Kirchin: Mind in a Northern Landscape, 1970s – 2005
START TIME: 12.45pm

VENUE: Hull City Hall, Victoria Bar
Speakers include: Bob Stanley (St Etienne), Richard Williams (music critic), Jonny Trunk (Trunk Records)
TALK: Basil Kirchin: Mind on the Loose – Response from contemporary artists
START TIME: 6.15pm

VENUE: Hull City Hall, Mortimer Suite
Speakers include: Liam van Rijn (aka Revenu) and Joe Acheson (Hidden Orchestra)
http://www.hull2017.co.uk/kirchintalks

DATE: Saturday 18 February 2017
SHOW: WORLDS WITHIN WORLDS: A REEL-TO-REAL EXPERIENCE WITH STEVE COBBY
+ DAVID TOOP
VENUE: Hull City Hall, Mortimer Suite
TICKET PRICE: £6-£10
START TIME: 2.30pm – 6pm

Watch live musicians extend the limits of what is possible and respond in real time to the sounds from the reel-to-reel tapes that form part of Kirchin’s lasting legacy.
Hosted by Hull’s own DJ luminary Steve Cobby, the line-up features collaborations with some of the UK’s most creative improvisers, including those who worked with Basil and those who admire his creative output.
An electro-acoustic interlude will be provided by David Toop – the respected musician, author and former Flying Lizard.
http://www.hull2017.co.uk/reeltoreal

DATE: Saturday 18 February 2017
SHOW: JOURNEY TO THE UNKNOWN: HIDDEN ORCHESTRA + EVAN PARKER & SPRING HEEL JACK
VENUE: Hull City Hall, Main Hall
TICKET PRICE: £12-18
START TIME: 7pm

The deep grooves of Joe Acheson’s Hidden Orchestra contrast with a fascinating electro-acoustic improv band, featuring Spring Heel Jack and Kirchin collaborator, Evan Parker.
Manipulating and mistreating Kirchin’s work in and out of recognisability, maverick improvisers Evan Parker, Matt Wright, Adam Linson and Spring Heel Jack will create an unforgettable sonic experience.
Hidden Orchestra, the brainchild of composer/producer Acheson, has performed sold out gigs in Edinburgh, London, Prague, Moscow, Athens and Istanbul. This live show mixes dark orchestral textures with field recordings, bass, and layers of drums and percussion… a hip new take on the methodology employed by Basil Kirchin.
http://www.hull2017.co.uk/hiddenorchestra

(c) Thomas Arran

DATE: Sunday 19 February 2017
SHOW: SOUNDS WITHIN SOUNDS: JERRY DAMMERS’ LIBRARY MUSIC – DJ SET
VENUE: Mortimer Suite, Hull City Hall
TICKET PRICE: £6-£10
START TIME: 12-2pm

Kirchin fan, co-founder of The Specials, founder of 2 Tone Records, and leading light of the ska revival, Jerry Dammers explores the wonderful and sometimes weird world of library music – the background music for film and TV that you hear without even knowing it’s there.
http://www.hull2017.co.uk/jerrydammers

DATE: Sunday 19 February 2017
SHOW: MUTATIONS OF MUSICAL MODERNISM:
WILL GREGORY WITH BBC CONCERT ORCHESTRA & SPECIAL GUESTS
+ MATTHEW BOURNE
VENUE: Hull City Hall, Main Hall
TICKET PRICE: £12-£18
START TIME: 3pm

Members of the BBC Concert Orchestra and a range of musical free sprits combine forces as Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory curates a programme that responds and reacts to Kirchin’s fascination with texture and sonic collage.

Among a series of pieces specially devised for the occasion, St. Etienne’s Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs create Abstractions of Holderness, an audio-visual work inspired by Kirchin’s 1970s residency in the isolated towns and villages of Holderness in East Yorkshire. Sonic Youth’s Jim O’Rourke responds to his favourite Kirchin piece Integration, with a new work designed to highlight Scottish saxophonist Raymond MacDonald, and Will Gregory explores the sonic potential of the human voice and Kirchin’s love of birdsong. Kirchin’s own music completes the story – a rollercoaster ride that resonates with the restless imagination of a quietly influential genius.
With a reputation as a fearlessly unpredictable pianist and composer, Matthew Bourne is a passionate explorer of sound. Only recently hooked by Kirchin’s world, this promises to be a highly individual take from one of today’s most provocative voices.
In association with BBC Radio 3.
http://www.hull2017.co.uk/willgregory

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Posted in: Art, Music