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Erland Cooper and Daniel Pioro travel to Orkney to bury only copy of new album inspired by poet George Mackay Brown

A new programme for BBC Radio 3 follows composer Erland Cooper on his journey to Orkney to bury the sole recording of his new work, written to mark the centenary of Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown

Published: September 20, 2021 at 3:28 pm

Orcadian composer Erland Cooper and violinist Daniel Pioro have journeyed to the archipelago of Orkney in Scotland to bury the sole recording of Cooper's new work, written to mark the centenary of Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown. Their lyrical portrait will be paired with archive interviews and field recordings for an episode of BBC Radio 3's programme Between the Ears.


Together, Cooper and Pioro return to Stromness with Mackay Brown's book An Orkney Tapestry as their guide. They perform in a megalithic rock-cut tomb, travel across the island during gale-force storms and bury the sole recording of Cooper's new work written in tribute to the literature great.

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Erland Cooper penned a three-movement work for solo violin and string ensemble, titled Carve the Runes Then Be Content With Silence. It was recorded by Daniel Pioro and Studio Collective, a small chamber string group from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Having deleted the digital files of the recording, there is just one recording still in existence – and it's buried deep within the Orkney soil on 1/4-inch magnetic tape.

You can pre-order Erland Cooper's recording now, for arrival in 2024.

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Cooper has buried the only copy of this recording underground on Orkney, setting listeners the challenge to find it with a three-year treasure hunt around the island. If the tape is not discovered by June 2024, it will be released on the Mercury KX label. Inevitably the quality of the tape will deteriorate over time, so in 2024, the recording will be released exactly as it sounds, having spent three years decomposing underground. The process of burial was captured on this new programme for Radio 3.


Cooper has left a trail for anyone to search for the tape, should they wish to do so. A map with clues to the location of the planting site will be released on his various digital platforms.


George Mackay Brown was one of Scotland's most important 20th-century poets, whose work was deeply rooted in the Orcadian landscape.

It's not the first time Erland Cooper has paid homage to the poet. His Orkney Triptych – a series of three major Orkney-inspired works: Solan Goose, Sule Skerry and Hether Blether – was based on a quote by Brown: 'The essence of Orkney's magic is silence, loneliness and the deep, marvellous rhythms of sea and land, darkness and light.'


The programme follows Cooper and Pioro on their journey to Orkney, first stopping off at the wild, wet Rackwick, where Peter Maxwell Davies lived. Woven in with field recordings of their trip will be archive BBC recordings of interviews with George Mackay Brown, as he discusses his home island of Orkney.


Between the Ears: An Orkney Tapestry will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday 10 October at 6.45pm.


Freya ParrDigital Editor and Staff Writer, BBC Music Magazine

Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.

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