The University of Huddersfield’s Professor of Music Rupert Till has helped to pull together an inspiring new piece of music from an eclectic group of 20 musicians that are both inspired by and in defiance of the global coronavirus pandemic.
The new tracks - “After The Seclusion” plus the B side “Track and Trace” - have been put together in collaboration by musicians under the banner Size Of A Planet. The collective boasts an impressive pedigree, with its members having worked with a list of luminaries that includes Florence and the Machine, Jarvis Cocker, Richard Hawley, Basement Jaxx and former Clash front man Joe Strummer.
The tracks evolved with each collaborator working on their own sequence before passing it on via email to the next. The result sees the music run the gamut from R&B to pop, acoustic soul and electronica, with many calling points in between, and the promise of more music in the pipeline.
“What happens when 20 talented musicians, mostly from Sheffield, get locked down at home and lose their work, their hobby, their social life, and the thing they love doing?” asks Professor Till.
“They start making more music of course! One writes the musical feet on a piece of paper, records it, and sends it to another who draws musical ankles. Twenty passes later you unroll the paper and the final track is revealed. Mixed and mastered, we have 20 tracks coming out over the next months, written in this way, Covid-secure and pandemic-inspired.
“After the Seclusion, the lead track is a gorgeously optimistic paen to the yearning for human companionship we all feel right now. B-side Track and Trace coughs and splutters its way towards peace and love prevailing.”
After the Seclusion
Rupert is no stranger to releasing innovative music, having produced a plethora of ambient albums under the guise of his alter-ego Professor Chill. And earlier in the pandemic, he helped bring the mystery of the summer solstice at Stonehenge to children in lockdown via the Soundgate app. He is an expert in sound archaeology, and as Professor Chill he writes and performs ambient music with roots in the music of ancient civilisations from around the world.
“As Chair of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, I have been studying the composition of popular music for the last 25 years. The lockdowns have destroyed the careers of many musicians, with live concerts banned, recording studios closed, and music festivals and tours cancelled.
“So many of my musician friends had already seen their working lives affected by huge changes to a music industry dominated by streaming services such as Spotify and YouTube. Then the pandemic swept in and brought the industry to a standstill.
“Working with 19 other musicians this project explored new ways to write, perform and release music, exploring new models and forms of working. As well as producing some great songs, this practice-based research will feed into a book I am currently writing on the composition of popular music during a Sabbatical research period.”
The project’s roster of talent includes Simon Stafford (Longpigs, Joe Strummer’s Mescaleros, Jarvis Cocker), Steve Edwards (Grammy nominated - Bob Sinclar, Sly & Robbie, Shapeshifters, Chicane), Bryan Day (Tony Christie, Tanita Tikram, the Clear, Duane Eddy), Jon Trier (Richard Hawley), and of course Professor Till himself.
Track and Trace
“When 20 people write a song together it fundamentally challenges traditional practices, copyright being a very different beast when it is split 20 ways, and there is no record company or publishing company involved, no recording studio costs, and the group do everything themselves,” Rupert adds. “The project has found a new and different way forward, that offers a format that can be effective in the 21st century’s digital world.”
In addition, it’s been important for the professor to stay in touch with the music industry, as he says: “Research agendas increasingly embrace impact, dissemination, knowledge exchange, and industrial relationships, so it has proven hugely useful to participate in a project like this, and build relationships with professional musicians in the region, as well as understanding better the effects that COVID has had in the creative industries.”