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Fires of the Earth

1 Fires of the EarthIn 1783, the Icelandic Laki volcano erupted, opening craters, creating huge explosions. Over the following eight months, the vulcano spewed sulphuric aerosols; their dispersion had dramatic consequences for life on Iceland.Jon Steingrimsson, parson in the affected area, recorded the events in writing.„I watched the convulsions of the underground fires myself, and others know of them as well. They began with the earth heaving upwards, with a great screaming and noise of wind from its depths, then splitting asunder, ripping and tearing, as if a crazed animal were tearing something apart. (...)In the evening of this same day a great rain poured down through the dark cloud, even though the wind was from the southeast. It was the colour of bilge, or had a bluish tinge, and was so strongly odorous, that people suffering from chest ailments could hardly breathe and almost lost consciousness.“Stingrimsson was not a scientist, but a godly man. His descriptions hold an archaic force, evoking biblical images, bleak , archetypical, sequences, reminding of old paintings, dismal and still beautiful.All of us agreed, that the howl was coming from below, many hundred yards down under the ground, and gradually rising up under the house, its strength ebbing as it came closer, until it came to an end just under the floor on which I was standing. (...) Now I realised that all these sounds were of natural origin.“In the eyes of the minister, who ist deeply rooted in his faith, this is not the apocalypse, but a transformation, a renewal he accepts as a manifestation of God’s will.Like lore coming to us from a faraway world. Deep faith in the world´s purpose, of being an integral part of the world, in the existence of a greater context. even as apocalypsis seems to become reality. A dark, romantic sound painting.Masses, dark, raw, viscous, steaming, seething, freezing, in their rough material character, create constantly varying motives, shapes and rhythms.. The composition might be compared to the tolling of weather bells as practised in the Alpine regions since the middle ages to avert imminent thunderstorms. Although following Steingrimsson’s description, this is not programme music. Rather, it is meant as a contrapuntal sound reaction the esthetics of which may be considered as related to dark drone music – analogous sounds, massive sound surfaces. Profound. Substantial.These sounds crate an artificial soundscape in which the words are placed just like figures in a landscape painting. Radio production by SWR Baden Baden, Manfred Hess, 2012.Michael Wertmüller: drumset, orchestral percussionStian Westerhus: e-git. + electronicsWerner Cee: e-ch’in, electronicsVoice: Freddie WadlingManuscript/Text excerpts for the radio version by Bettina ObrechtTranslation from Icelandic into English by Keneva Kunz

complete text manuscript

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