Sing it Softly to the Pebbles

meagre resource / mere024 CD (2008)

Sing It Softly to the Pebbles was produced by Vernon & Burns for the exhibition ‘Open Field’ at the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, November 2008 – January 2009. The CD is comprised of spontaneous stories, improvised music and field recordings made in and around Claylands Farm near Balfron over the course of two years. Culled from a series of informal, improvised music sessions the initial recordings have been substantially edited, reconceived, processed and mutated by Vernon & Burns to produce a surreal, dream-logic fairy tale. Wendy Woolfson was asked to improvise stories as a response to the music. Her responses were edited and rearranged and in the end rarely matched up with the piece of music she was originally reacting to. The final track ‘Die Bauchrednerpuppe’ is an additional purely instrumental track produced at the same time. It was conceived as a soundtrack to an imaginary puppet show.

A radio edit of ‘Sing it Softly…’ was broadcast on the Clear Spot on Resonance 104.4 FM in December 2008.

Music by Barry Burns, Katy Dove, Sarah Kenchington, Belinda Gilbert Scott and Mark Vernon.
Improvised stories by Wendy Woolfson.
Sighs by Xia Huang.
Artwork by Katy Dove and Tian Miller.

“Mark Vernon and Barry Burns won my heart years ago with a brilliant, entertaining and humourous LP called The Tune the Old Cow Died Of, a tape-edit masterwork on which they almost reincarnated themselves as many-tentacled mad BBC Radio producers from the fifth dimension. Here’s their welcome return on Sing it Softly to the Pebbles (meagre resource productions mere 024), a complex assemblage of field recordings, sound effects, music and story-telling which they put together with the help of various collaborators, including a writer, an animator, a painter and an inventor of musical instruments. These 26 mostly-short tracks are almost like tiny episodes from a non-existent radio soap opera, a sort of avant-garde version of The Archers. As such, they lend themselves to radio broadcast, and indeed the piece – originally commissioned for a contemporary arts event in Glasgow – was played on Resonance FM last Boxing Day.

There is a restrained and very pastoral charm to Sing it Softly, and while I personally found the narrative elements (and the overly-precise speaking voices) a bit cloying, that’s my problem entirely. I do sense that Vernon and Burns have had to rein in their more experimental methods slightly, in order to help the collaborative process succeed. That said, it’s still a work full of much originality, economy, and ellipsis”.

(Ed Pinsent, Sound Projector)