Dr George Merryweather was born in 1794 in Yorkshire England. Whilst he was a family doctor who later became a surgeon, it was his thirst for invention that has him remembered today. In 1832 he invented the Platina Lamp, which could apparently keep burning for a fortnight on a mixture of alcohol and whiskey. Couldn’t we all?
His Leech barometer, or Tempest Prognosticator caused a sensation in 1851. Putting 12 pint bottles in a circle beneath a large bell, each with a connecting metal tube, Merryweather then poured an inch and a half of rainwater into each bottle and deposited one leech. Influenced by the electromagnetic state of the atmosphere the leech would climb into the tube setting off the bell, warning of impending bad weather. And why 12 leeches? The more bell rings the greater the likelihood of a storm. Also he didn’t want the leaches to get lonely. The resultant machine looks like a strange miniature merry go round, and Merryweather was of the belief that it was highly accurate and envisaged a wide network of leech forecasters across the United Kingdom. Unfortunately cheaper alternatives not involving the use of blood sucking slugs became popular, effectively freezing Merryweather out of the weather prediction business and resigning the Tempest Prognosticator to a bizarre curio of history.
In 2010 Andrew Day (aka Nightswimmer) visited the home of the Tempest Prognosticator in Whitby Yorkshire. Fascinated by the instrument, Day felt inspired to make some field recordings of the site, including some underwater recordings nearby using a homemade hydrophone. He combined these sounds, heartbeat, trombone, zither, mandolin, guitar, bass, electronics and vocals to produce an epic 35-minute piece of sound. Interestingly it’s probably the noisiest work he’s recorded under his Nightswimmer guise, a project that you could previously describe as being lush, even ambient electronics. Despite the agitation, the piece, which moves through numerous moods eventually finds itself in an almost shoegaze electronic noise space, engaging with static and barnacles, yet find deeply melodic moments hidden beneath the chaos. It’s a fascinating work and it’s really great to hear him work not only long form, but with some more difficult sounds and textures, and ultimately still create a work of majestic beauty. He may have set out to make an aggressive noise piece, something a world away from his back catalogue, yet ultimately it appears he can’t help himself. You can listen for free or name your price here: http://nightswimmer.bandcamp.com/album/the-tempest-prognosticator-2.
Speaking of field recordings and speaking of free, Brisbane based composer and head honcho at the incredible Room40 label Lawrence English has just posted a double album on his website. Titled Songs of The Living And The Lived In (Room40), it comprises of recordings gathered over the last 10 years on his travels around the world. Songs of the Living is of course the animal world, monkeys, bats, frogs, Antarctic fur seals, even an incredible sounding Rhinoceros beetle. The lived in are environmental spaces such as a toy store, a subway, a cemetery gate, VLF During a solar storm, blizzard battering walls, you get the picture. There are strange buzzes, clicks and shuddering, these pieces aren’t edited, they’re just the raw recordings that English then uses to create his compositions. Not only is it interesting to get an insight into the raw material he uses, the sounds themselves are pretty incredible. Check http://emporium.room40.org/categories/room40 and download for free.
Finally tomorrow night an intimate concert will be occurring in Adam Simmon’s home studio in Northcote. With only 20 spaces available it’s first booked first served, and an amazing way to experience improvised music. The evening will focus on two duo performances. The first will feature Simmons and amazing improviser and cult of personality Jeff Henderson (NZ) on saxophones and the second will feature Hermione Johnson (NZ) on prepared piano and David Brown (Candlesnuffer) on prepared guitar. To book email Simmons: firstname.lastname@example.org.