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Erland Cooper buries new album on Orkney until 2024 release

By | Published on Wednesday 23 June 2021

Erland Cooper - Carve the Runes Then Be Content With Silence

Erland Cooper has signed to Decca’s Mercury KX imprint and announced his new album. You wanna listen to that album? Sure, you just have to wait until 2024. Unless you can find the master tapes yourself. You will have to travel to a remote island and dig them up though.

Titled ‘Carve The Runes Then Be Content With Silence’, the album features a new piece for solo violin and string ensemble. Recorded at the Royal Conservatoire Of Scotland, it marks the centenary of poet George Mackay Brown’s birth. That anniversary is this year, but you almost certainly won’t hear this musical tribute for three years.

The sole recording of the album – on magnetic tape – has been buried on Orkney – the childhood home of both Cooper and Mackay Brown – with plans for it to be “recomposed” by the earth over three years. We’ll then hear how that sounds – unless someone else digs it up first – in 2024.

“Music can so often feel undervalued and for some, being unable to perform live has at times felt like being buried”, says Cooper. “When an idea forms there is often an urge to share it as quickly as it develops but, like spotting a bird, I want to let this fly and land in its own place and time. The work is one part remembrance and one part celebration of a landmark time”.

So few people came into contact with this album before it was buried that Mercury KX signed it without actually hearing a note. The original digital recording files have been deleted, so the only copy really is the tape that is now somewhere underground on the Orkneys, along with the violin played on it by soloist Daniel Pioro and the full printed score.

“The material on the tape may erode naturally, disintegrate and create drops of silence or the peaty soil may preserve it perfectly well. It may or may not get better with age. I may or may not fall out of favour with my composition. Any alterations to the sound and music [when it comes out of the ground] will be reincorporated into the pages of a new score and live performance, as orchestral articulations”.

If you’re concerned that after three years mingling with soil and worms this new recording might actually sound a bit shit, there is something you can do about it. Cooper will be releasing a map with clues as to the location of the tape in the near future. If you manage to dig it up yourself, he asks you to bring the tape to his home in London, where the two of you will listen to it together, and the album will be released early in the form in which you found it.

“This is an unprecedented event”, say Mercury KX co-MDs Tom Lewis and Laura Monks. “In an era of breathless instant gratification, there’s something incredibly romantic and powerful about the idea of us all having to wait three years to listen to Erland’s recordings. And, it is going to be fascinating to see how it fares in the ground. It’ll be a very nerve-wracking moment when we unearth the tape and press play”.

More information about the project will be made available in the coming weeks at – and you can watch a short video about it all here: