CaVa recording studios in Glasgow might be more accustomed to the likes of Belle and Sebastian and Paulo Nutini as clients but fortunately sound engineer, Geoff Allan has worked with John Purser before and hardly turned a hair when we turned up last week with a miscellaneous selection of instruments and objects created from the WWI shells. When we booked the studio we had hoped to emerge with, at the most, a two minute sample of the sound properties of the bell objects. What actually transpired was an incredible 90 minute session of exploration of the sound properties of each object and an additional 90 minutes where John, with Geoff’s wizardry created a two minute arrangement, entitled Shell-Shocked. In John’s words,
“The idea behind the piece was to create something a little ominous and sombre which starts with a single shell casing, climaxes with the large bell and then ends with the smaller bell so that there is a balance between war and peace, but they are not that different. The little Coda is the rattle created by my grandfather’s Royal Army Medical Corps buttons in an ornamental shell casing made into a box and probably given to him by a grateful patient. My grandfather dealt with WWI shell-shock cases in Dublin and published a small pamphlet on the subject. The sound is symbolic both of the death rattle and of the act and art of healing”.
It was a privilege to watch John and Geoff at work, John’s sheer enjoyment, creativity and playfulness were evident and he and Geoff had an intuitive understanding of each other’s approach. It was an extremely positive way to close the research and development phase of the project and work begins now on taking the ideas forward to the final production stage.