Designed to be consumed as a companion piece to poetry (available to read from an app at songsforspokenwords.com), Songs For Spoken Words by Richard J. Birkin features six instrumental works for guitar, string quartet and electronics. Limited to 250. Out on One-sided cream coloured vinyl 12" from Time Travel Opps.
7/10 Robin Staff review, 17 February 2015
Written as an emotive supplement to performed poetry, Richard J. Birkin’s ‘Songs For Spoken Words’ is a record built around an app: if you go on the 'Songs For Spoken Words' website and pick out some interactively built poems, you can read them along to a companion of Birkin’s rising string swells, acoustic plucking and electronic fumblings. Or you could pick your own favourite piece of literature -- whether it’s a Dostoevsky novel, an Atwood short story or a leaflet on how to pay your internet bill -- and see if his music matches up. Whatever the case, ‘Songs For Spoken Words’ offers sixteen minutes of free-to-use soundtracking, as well as an “infinite silent groove” on the flipside for when you’re reading texts in your own head.
Birkin obviously hopes, by making this distinction, that people will use his record as a queue, and will go on to understand the art of poetry as performative. His music illustrates this through an obsession with pathos and drama; recalling the recent soundtrack works of Johann Johannsson and Scott Twynholm, his music has a brightness and bluster that suggests mechanics happily and magically working towards a greater cause. When he broods, his music still gains a hurried traction, with the near-silent picking of “One” being joined by bass drums and dovetailing Godspeed strings. Even at his rawest, Birkin has a penchant for lushness.
Side B is an entirely silent groove that lets the minute crackle work its way into your head while you read, maybe about John Cage. I can’t review it any more than I can review silence, which is okay, but I rarely spend fifteen minutes listening to it. Still, the point Birkin is making is clear: as readers, we are two different kinds of people: the silent and spoken.
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