‘The Dramaturgy of Decay’ LP – out now

 
“Everything in The Dramaturgy of Decay speaks of death – of the irreversible passing of time, of vanishing places and voices – of that which will not return.”

Released by Futura Resistenza as limited edition LP in full colour sleeve featuring artwork by the artist.

Accompanying text written by Elodie A. Roy.

For UK customers purchase here:

For EU and the rest of the world purchase here: https://futuraresistenza.bandcamp.com/album/the-dramaturgy-of-decay

Recalling early fears of recording technology, The Dramaturgy of Decay explores ghostly voices, distorted and intangible. Vernon’s aural cinema reflects decay in ruined films, echoing the sonic texture of vanished places and voices. Amidst matters of death and environmental degradation, the album still holds tones of humour and familiarity. Through fragments of reworked audio letters, it unfolds a sonic journey through forgotten moments, wresting life from the ephemeral. The Dramaturgy of Decay is a deeply haunting but beautiful reflection on time in the form of sound—an otherworldly musical experience resonating between past and present.

“There is something wonderfully ghostly about The Dramaturgy of Decay. It contains many distorted voices, close yet infinitely impalpable, out of reach. The voices appear and disappear. They merge with other elements. Sometimes they get submerged, erased. They infinitely become something else. And I wonder: Am I now hearing the sound of the sea, of the wind in the trees? Is this the sound of a haunted house – or the haunted house of sound itself?

Vernon has long been fascinated with home-recordings and the urgent poetry of the everyday. On The Dramaturgy of Decay we hear snippets of audio letters, messages left on answering machines (“Pouring From Hollow to Empty”, “The Years Simply Dissolved”). The messages get reworked and rearranged, slowed down and taken apart. Somewhere people are forever clapping, laughing. Tentatively playing the piano. Singing uncertainly. Vernon patiently excavates the real, revealing a soundscape of the forgotten, the buried, the invisible.

As Vernon converses with the lost, the transient and the dead, it seems to me he is tirelessly extracting life from them. And he reveals not their deadness but rather the quick, living eternity of instants. The Dramaturgy of Decay is a reflection on time through sound. But, most importantly, it is extremely beautiful music. Not quite of this world and, yet, not of any other world. It is music for the here and now.”

Elodie A. Roy, January 2024

The Dramaturgy of Decay

Futura Resistenza / RESLP031 LP/DL (2024)

Recalling early fears of recording technology, The Dramaturgy of Decay by Mark Vernon explores ghostly voices, distorted and intangible. Vernon’s aural cinema reflects decay in ruined films, echoing the sonic texture of vanished places and voices. Amidst matters of death and environmental degradation, the album still holds tones of humour and familiarity. Through fragments of reworked audio letters, it unfolds a sonic journey through forgotten moments, wresting life from the ephemeral. The Dramaturgy of Decay is a deeply haunting but beautiful reflection on time in the form of sound—an otherworldly musical experience resonating between past and present.

Released by Futura Resistenza as limited edition LP in full colour sleeve featuring artwork by the artist. Accompanying text written by Elodie A. Roy.

For UK customers purchase here:
For EU and the rest of the world purchase here: https://futuraresistenza.bandcamp.com/album/the-dramaturgy-of-decay

“When the first cameras were introduced, some people were terrified the machine would steal their soul and refused to be photographed. A similar fear appeared when early sound recording technologies came about. To record the human voice meant: to split it from the living, breathing body, making a phantom out of it. Mark Vernon’s new LP reminds me of the ancient fear and attraction of recording. There is something wonderfully ghostly about The Dramaturgy of Decay. It contains many distorted voices, close yet infinitely impalpable, out of reach.

The voices appear and disappear. They merge with other elements. Sometimes they get submerged, erased. They infinitely become something else. And I wonder: Am I now hearing the sound of the sea, of the wind in the trees? Is this the sound of a haunted house – or the haunted house of sound itself?

Vernon composes a cinema for the ears. Something uniquely textured and immediately present. I think of The Dramaturgy of Decay as a sonic equivalent to the ruined films of Bill Morrison (Decasia, 2002) or Peter Delpeut (Lyrical Nitrate, 1991). I hear the tape, the sound of the medium – and I hear it disappearing – I see the end coming. And yet the disappearance is not tragic. There is a vein of humour gently running throughout the album. For all their eeriness, Vernon’s soundscapes carry with them something comfortingly familiar – something delicate and tender like the Super 8 films of Jonas Mekas.

Vernon has long been fascinated with home-recordings and the urgent poetry of the everyday. On The Dramaturgy of Decay we hear snippets of audio letters, messages left on answering machines (“Pouring From Hollow to Empty”, “The Years Simply Dissolved”). The messages get reworked and rearranged, slowed down and taken apart. Somewhere people are forever clapping, laughing. Tentatively playing the piano. Singing uncertainly. Vernon patiently excavates the real, revealing a soundscape of the forgotten, the buried, the invisible.

Everything in The Dramaturgy of Decay speaks of death – of the irreversible passing of time, of vanishing places and voices – of that which will not return. His work captures the infinitely slow yet resolute movement of erasure, the empty place where something used to be. It also reflects the wider destruction of our environment.

Yet there is no necrophilic impulse here. As Vernon converses with the lost, the transient and the dead, it seems to me he is tirelessly extracting life from them. And he reveals not their deadness but rather the quick, living eternity of instants. The Dramaturgy of Decay is a reflection on time through sound. But, most importantly, it is extremely beautiful music. Not quite of this world and, yet, not of any other world. It is music for the here and now.”

Elodie A. Roy, January 2024

Reviews:

“Listen closely to The Dramaturgy of Decay, and we hear traces of lives left behind. Mark Vernon crafts elaborate sonic vestiges, as though voices adrift in the howls of the wind are caught in an imperceptible net and assembled into narrative soundforms. We search for messages in the static and dust, the textural shapes Vernon weaves into these pieces.”

Brad Rose, Foxy Digitalis (April, 2024)

“…the collage of these sounds coming together, the resulting artistry of the bricklayer’s hands at work, inspires us to remember our own past, and recall our own fragmented memories.”

Jeremy Young, The Royal Editoryal (May, 2024)

 


Reviews in Full

“Listen closely to The Dramaturgy of Decay, and we hear traces of lives left behind. Mark Vernon crafts elaborate sonic vestiges, as though voices adrift in the howls of the wind are caught in an imperceptible net and assembled into narrative soundforms. Hollow tones echo against burnished metallic surfaces, feeling empty and resonant. We search for messages in the static and dust, the textural shapes Vernon weaves into these pieces. The way these sounds sit in their haunted essence and soak up the microscopic movements rotting in the margins heightens this feeling of impermanence at their core. Even the voice samples are surreal remnants, simultaneously familiar and strange. The Dramaturgy of Decay may seem fleeting, but its aural language stays around long after the last whisper.”

Brad Rose, Foxy Digitalis, The Capsule Garden Vol 3.11, April 24, 2024

“Mark Vernon is a sound artist’s sound artist. He thinks about sound, he thinks about sounds, how they feel, their effect on human perception and their inherent storytelling capabilities, and he thinks very deeply about how he wants to organize sounds for us.

I will get descriptive about this new record in just a moment but, for the first time, I’d like to make sure you know a little bit more about Vernon before I do. This is unusual for me because it’s not that I don’t appreciate the “how” and “why” (the press release bits) of music, in general, in fact I do tremendously. It’s just that my thinking with this blog is that you can usually find that info elsewhere so mostly I want to try to describe an artist’s album in a way that does justice to the creativity in the music.

All that said, there are artists out there who have earned so much of my respect over the years, who have paid their dues a thousand times over, who work so passionately hard, and who give back to their community of creative practitioners 10x what they themselves reap.

And one of those, unequivocally, is Mark Vernon. At least for just this once, I’d like to introduce you to just some of Vernon’s incredible work.

For one thing, he co-runs and operates Glasgow’s art radio station Radiophrenia, which culminates once a year as a listening festival. He was also a founding member of Glasgow’s Radio Tuesday collective, has set up several other art radio projects in the UK like Hair Waves, Efford FM, and Nowhere Island Radio. He’s created tons of sonic projects and albums both solo and with an extreme variety of collaborators. And since 2011, he has co-run the Lights Out Listening Group, a bi-monthly event focused on creative listening in complete darkness.

He’s also a fervent tape collector. I’m a tape collector, and as a tape enthusiast myself, yes I am totally jealous of Vernon’s archives.

I didn’t mention this biographical data because it should tell you how to listen to Vernon’s work, it doesn’t need that explanation, but rather as an invitation into a sound world that is already so densely packed with meaning, sometimes it’s okay to feel like a guest in someone else’s home when it comes to music.

And on this note, one of the central feelings I get when I listen to his work, and The Dramaturgy of Decay specifically, is like we’re looking through old photograph albums in an elderly couple’s living room over a pot of tea. We’re being told tiny fragments of stories, stories plucked from lives well lived that are not our own, moments and memories that we can claim no ownership of but are allowed to borrow for make believe, and come around to visit from time to time.

And there’s a magic alchemy when that happens in sound. We hear voices from the past, the tape recorder gives us access to that person’s story in a brief, privileged slice of time, and yet the collage of these sounds coming together, the resulting artistry of the bricklayer’s hands at work, inspires us to remember our own past, and recall our own fragmented memories.

Why is that?

What is that effect?

There’s something about how we cognitively allow individual stories to remain distant, but when they compound and compile, we begin to see ourselves in the accumulation or combination of sounds and stories. And I’d venture to hypothesize that this derives from our human need to make links between the collective and our individual experiences in life, perhaps for the survival of our clans.

Around a campfire, we share, and we make sense of the world communally to be better prepared for its obstacles and mysteries. Sharing is connecting.

Such would’ve been very much the case in England’s mid-century Tape Recording Clubs, which is another of Vernon’s research obsessions. Here’s a quote from Vernon explaining this hidden history briefly:

“At one time there were tape recording clubs dotted all around the country – dedicated amateurs would meet and swap tips, exchange recordings, enter competitions and arrange activities such as field recording trips. Eager members would lug heavy reel-to-reel recorders around the countryside, to church concerts, fire stations, airports and carnivals to capture the sounds around them. Many experimented with their recording techniques, putting together their own documentaries, plays, quizzes or pre-recorded slide-show commentaries.”

A source of sound material that Vernon has tapped into occasionally, it’s clear that these tape recording clubs would’ve featured a bright variety of personalities and a ton of social informality and amateur-borne whimsy. But at the heart of it is the act of sharing amongst members of a non-judgmental community, and connecting with one another.

But I haven’t even talked about the main theme of this record according to Vernon as it’s referenced in the title. A lot of this record concerns “decay,” the beautiful, strange, ephemeral, and silly at times phenomenon of things leaving us here on planet Earth.

Whether that means things actually decomposing over time, or our memory of those things, or our ability to comprehend things, whether decay is actually just as if to say that things fade into each other, or even perhaps to suggest decay as the first stage of regrowth and regeneration, Vernon definitely uses this as a conceptual jumping off point. It touches everything here, and is a central focal point when listening to this music.

Some pieces on The Dramaturgy of Decay sound like we’re sifting through a pile of old dusty objects we excavated from a dirt hole in the yard, and examining them one by one. Nothing’s quite clear, nothing sounds as good as it did when it was first recorded, but there’s just enough signal in the noise to get a glimpse of that original moment, and we can happily let our minds wander to fill out the rest of the picture ourselves.

And that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?”

Jeremy Young, The Royal Editoryal May, 2024

Forth Valley Royal – a portrait in sound

The second programme in the ‘Bedside Radio’ series produced as part of a two-year period as digital artist in residence at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, Larbert, Scotland.

This composed soundscape was created from recordings made in various hospital departments between 2011 and 2013. It includes insights and conversations with staff about their perception of the sound environment in which they work.

In addition to Forth Valley Royal, recordings were also made in Stirling and Falkirk Community Hospitals. Special thanks to all staff and patients in NHS Forth Valley Hospitals for their help and cooperation.
The sounds that make up this piece were recorded in the following departments:
Anaesthesiology, Clinical Simulation Centre, Health Records, Reception, Laboratories, Ophthalmology, Physiotherapy, Oral and Maxillofacial, Radiology, Nuclear Medicine, Mail Room, Neonatal Unit, Pharmacy, Renal Unit and Speech and Language Therapy Services.


Originally produced for the launch of Channel 604 (Radio Royal’s new arts channel) this piece has subsequently been performed as a live radiophonic work at Forth Valley Royal Hospital and the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow. A version has also been aired as an edition of ‘Framework:afield’ for Patrick McGinley’s Framework radio show.

This project was supported by Creative Scotland and NHS Forth Valley.

Circular Thinking

Using interviews and field recordings pertaining to all manner of cyclical processes; circuits, loops, spinning things and rotating machines, ‘Circular Thinking’ is a multi-channel sound work by Mark Vernon and Jenn Mattinson. The piece applies radiophonic production techniques to quadraphonic sound composition and was originally commissioned by the Octopus Collective for ‘The Hub’ – an outdoor ambisonic sound system situated in the town centre of Workington, a small town in the North West of England.

Sourced from across the region of Cumbria, the material used in the composition of the piece includes recordings of a potter’s wheel, a launderette, wind turbines, speedway races, a water mill, bicycle wheels, a clock restorer’s workshop and a tour of the Cranston’s sausage factory where they make the famous spiralled Cumberland ring sausages. As well as a catalogue of revolving and spinning things the piece also charts a timeline of sounds that stretches from artisan handicrafts to the beginnings of industrialisation and present day factories, taking in machinery driven by manpower, natural resources and electrically dependent manufacturing.


‘Circular Thinking’ was premiered at the FON festival in Barrow in Furness in 2015 where it was diffused through the ‘Hear This Space’ sound system with the audience seated in a spiral arrangement in the centre of the speaker array. It was subsequently presented on ‘The Hub’ ambisonic sound system in Workington later that year. The stereo radio version was premiered on Radiophrenia 87.9FM, Glasgow in 2016 and has also been aired on Resonance FM, Radio Revolten, Halle and Deutschland Radio, Germany. The piece was joint winner of the Radio Art category for the 2016 Phonurgia Nova Award in Paris. The excerpt above is from the stereo version of the original quadraphonic piece.

Saturnine Orbit

·

“Mark Vernon revisits the life and work spaces of an isolated and meditative Morandi, making the debris of everyday life reverberate through spectral soundscapes and eerie tones: an exercise in modern hauntology.”

Commissioned by Xing, ‘Saturnine Orbit’ was a new sound installation, radio series and live performance made for the Casa Museo Giorgio Morandi and in the spaces of the Campiaro barns (a favourite subject of the Bolognese painter during his holiday periods in the Bolognese Apennines in Grizzana Morandi). The work was produced as part of the ART CITY Bologna 2024 festival in association with XING, MAMbo Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna and NEU Radio.

Both the 6-channel installation and the live performance were composed entirely from the sounds of Morandi’s summer house, his studio, replicas of the objects used in his still lifes and sounds recorded on the mountain trails he would often walk, starting behind the Casa Morandi.

Alongside field recordings collected on site during the production residency, Vernon employed Morandi’s objects as sound instruments, using the negative space of bottles, pots, jugs and vases from the Casa Morandi studio as small resonant chambers, while the environmental field recordings of the surrounding countryside were played from inside these objects using tiny speakers amplified by microphones. Through this process the outside becomes the inside: the world in a bottle. In addition, by recording sounds directly to open reel tape Vernon created a linear tape collage of sounds with an instant narrative of its own. The tape acts as a chronological sound diary, verbally annotated with the location, time of day and the weather conditions. The piece also features excerpts from the only extant recording of the Bolognese artist’s voice.

Sound installation at the Casa Museo Giorgio Morandi –
Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th February, 2024.

Live sound performance at the Fienili del Campiaro (also streaming live on NEU Radio) –
Sunday 4th February, 2024.

All photographs by Luca Ghedini, courtesy of Xing.


‘post-chance’ CD out now on Erstwhile

 

Marc Baron & Mark Vernon – post-chance

This new collaborative project is out now as a CD release on the New Jersey based label, Erstwhile.

The CD marks the results of a year-long dialogue over the course of which we sent fragments of unspooled open reel tape to each other in batches. A sort of abstract correspondence by means of tape. The tape fragments contained a series of sound experiments, sketches or audio snapshots. Each package also contained a magnet that would partially erase the contents. We copied the tape both before and after its journey and used the original recordings and their ‘ghost’ counterparts to form the basis of this composition. The first time we actually met in person was when we began to assemble the piece from the mountain of material we had accrued.

“A fascinating collaboration that plays like listening to a conversation already fading from memory …a choir of spirits released from quarter-inch tape.”
Jibril Yassin, Tone Glow

“The album is like all the most elusive and ingenious tricks of analogue tape manipulation brought together in a showcase of studio sleight of hand.”
Derek Walmsley, The Wire

You can order the CD or purchase the download direct from Erstwhile here.

I have a limited number of artist copies available for £12 plus P&P. Just drop me an email if you’re interested

Sound Installation at Casa Museo Morandi

·
Commissioned by Xing, ‘Saturnine Orbit’ is a newly commissioned sound installation, radio series and live performance made for the Casa Museo Giorgio Morandi and in the spaces of the Campiaro barns (a favourite subject of the Bolognese painter during his holiday periods in the Bolognese Apennines in Grizzana Morandi). The work was produced as part of the ART CITY Bologna 2024 festival in association with XING and MAMbo.

“Mark Vernon revisits the life and work spaces of an isolated and meditative Morandi, making the debris of everyday life reverberate through spectral soundscapes and eerie tones: an exercise in modern hauntology.”

Both the 6-channel installation and the live performance were composed entirely from the sounds of Morandi’s summer house, his studio, replicas of the objects used in his still lifes and sounds recorded on the mountain trails he would often walk, starting behind the Casa Morandi.

You can hear the audio from the installation by using the player above.

Radio Belgrade Electronic Studio Residency

 
For the next week I’ll be working on a new collaborative project and micro residency at Radio Belgrade with Manja Ristić.

We will be based in the Radio Belgrade Electronic Music Studio – the only place of its kind in Serbia that allows professional research in the domain of electro-acoustic music, providing tools for production of electro-acoustic music and radiophonic art. The studio famously hosts the incredibly restored EMS Synthi 100. We will be using the time to generate new material using the Synthi 100 as well as processing field recordings and found tapes gathered on previous visits to Belgrade.

You can read the story of Radio Belgrade’s restoration of the EMS Synthi 100 here.

Saturnine Orbit

Exciting news about a forthcoming residency, installation and performance commission for 2024:

Xing presents:
Saturday 3rd & Sunday 4th February 2024
MARK VERNON (UK)
Saturnine Orbit

sound installation & live, première
Casa Museo Giorgio Morandi + Fienili del Campiaro
Grizzana Morandi (Bologna)
A special project for ART CITY Bologna 2024 on the occasion of Arte Fiera in collaboration with MAMbo Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna and NEU Radio.

On Saturday 3rd & Sunday 4th February, 2024, Xing presents as a special project for ART CITY Bologna 2024, ‘Saturnine Orbit’, a specially commissioned sound installation and live performance by Mark Vernon in the Casa Museo Giorgio Morandi and in the spaces of the Campiaro barns, a privileged subject of the Bolognese painter during his holiday periods in the Bolognese Apennines in Grizzana Morandi. Mark Vernon revisits the life and work spaces of an isolated and meditative Morandi, making the debris of everyday life reverberate through spectral soundscapes and eerie tones: an exercise in modern hauntology.

The project is in collaboration with MAMbo Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna and NEU Radio.

For Saturnine Orbit Vernon creates an instant linear tape collage of sounds with a narrative of its own. The tape acts as a chronological sound diary, verbally annotated with the location, time of day and the weather conditions – considerations that might have been important to Morandi as a painter. Alongside field recordings collected on site during the production residency, Vernon will employ Morandi’s objects as sound instruments, using the negative space of bottles, pots, jugs and vases from the Casa Morandi studio as small resonant chambers, while the environmental field recordings of the surrounding countryside will be played from inside these objects with tiny speakers and microphones. Through this process the outside becomes the inside: the world in a bottle. In addition to digital recordings, Vernon will use a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder, a sound technology that would have been in use during Morandi’s life time. Excerpts from the only extant recording of the Bolognese artist’s voice will also be included.

All the material thus collected and recomposed will be presented in a sound installation with a more abstract compositional tone, and in a live performance that will have more of a performative visual element focusing on the manipulation of objects and other props, interactions between mics and speakers, the tape player and tape loops. During ART CITY, a daily series of sound extracts from the creation in progress will be aired on NEU Radio; the live sound performance in the barns will also be broadcast live.

Programme:

Saturday 3rd February
11am – 6pm
sound installation
Casa Museo Giorgio Morandi

Sunday 4th February
11am – 6pm
sound installation
Casa Museo Giorgio Morandi

+

4 pm
live sound performance
Fienili del Campiaro
(also streaming live on NEU Radio)

+
From Wednesday 31st January to Saturday 3rd February
3pm + 3.30pm + 4pm
Saturnine Orbit – sound diary
3 minutes daily on air

Where:

Casa Museo Giorgio Morandi
Strada Provinciale di Grizzana SP24, 115
Loc. Campiaro – Grizzana Morandi (BO)

Fienili del Campiaro
Strada Provinciale SP24, 112
Loc. Campiaro – Grizzana Morandi (BO)

Free access

Free shuttle service timetable and reservation:
https://www.culturabologna.it/events/mark-vernon-saturnine-orbit

Top