Richard J. Birkin

Accretions | A Lullaby Hymn

Accretion discs are the beautiful tails of a black hole, formed by stars being dragged into that invisible thing that spells the end of matter, the observable universe, and known physics. They’re nightmarish, really. But from this distance they’re beautiful stationary things. By the time we look at them they’ll’ve already spiralled, changed, moved, chewed up who knows how many worlds.

I have this endearing image in my head of an astronaut paused infinitely on the edge of a black hole, as the explanation of what happens when you get there. I think this comes from a junior school book on space, where everything is simplified, where wonder is prized over fact.”

Accretions is a soundtrack to that image, made of floating notes, gentle cello and undulating chords, with the relentless movement of a piano at the centre.

The piece was commissioned by QUAD – Derby’s Cinema, Gallery and Workshop that has actors John Hurt & Paddy Considine as its patrons – to feature in their Event Horizon exhibition (September – December 2013). On a visit to the gallery, Richard was mesmerised by the erased chalk animations of Nottingham artist Christopher Boote. Together they edited together a series of Boote’s pieces to fit with the track, the result of which is an immersive trip into growing and decaying black-hole like patterns.

A Lullaby Hymn (Parts I & II) is a piece that captures the development of Birkin’s Emphemetry project. The trio assembled to perform the 2011 album A Lullaby Hum For Tired Streets. After performances ranging from Manchester’s tiny The Castle, to Leeds’ ornate Howard Assembly Rooms and the outstanding Union Chapel in London, the pieces on the album were performed in different ways.

“After recording the album I still had a lot of ideas I wanted to try. There’s a track on it called A Lullaby Hum that’s built around reverse guitar loops, but at home I’d pick out the melody on the piano, or imagine it played by a string quartet or orchestra in my head.”

This final version combines both versions. The ‘Part I’ is a dusky arrangement for solo piano. Emerging from it’s darkest phrases, ‘Part II’ is a dawn break that builds layers and layers of violins, violas and guitars.

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