I have listened to Remembrance Sunday from the Cenotaph for many years – just Big Ben tolling, the two minute silence and the last post. I am of the generation whose grandparents lived through the First World War and like many, actually fought in it. There were stories passed down about horrendous experiences that words cannot express here and there were the physical signs too. My Uncle Arthur who hardly spoke but sat in his chair, hands violently shaking and cowering at the slightest noise. There was my paternal grandfather blinded by mustard gas. There were, at one time in the seventies, old tramps that lived under the arches in my home city, many unable to forget their nightmares or live with the rest of the world.
These connections with the black and white film and photographs of the front line have only made me more determined to remember them and keep their memory alive in my audio art, such as Little Crosses created over the four years of the Centenary of the First World War.
My #war piece for Music Weeklies www.musicweeklieschallenge.com/ began with thoughts of those long gone and with listening to the eleven o’clock bell but this year for some reason, I quickly captured the sound on my phone. The resulting recording starts with gunfire and Big Ben and then contains the hiss and ambience of the 2 minute silence at the Cenotaph, ending with the last post.
I then created a second half of ambience, seagulls, guns, and a small looped section of Nimrod by Elgar. I end with “Good-bye-ee!” a popular song which was written and composed by R. P. Weston and Bert Lee. and a song I remember my Dad singing but also one that was on the soundtrack of one of my favourite films Oh! What a Lovely War. It also is based on the notes of the last post, so it fits well, especially slowed down.
The poem that overlays the ‘noisy silence’ of the two minutes is Suicide in the Trenches by Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967)
I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life in empty joy,
Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,
And whistled early with the lark.
In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye
Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
The hell where youth and laughter go.
Lest we forget.. there is no glory in any war or conflict.
Artwork by Museleon based on an original photograph.