For The Music Is The Life
Poems Resurrected As Music

An explanation by Mick Harvey


The recordings on the album The Fall & Rise of Edgar Bourchier and the Horrors of War had their genesis in an exchange between myself and Chris Barker sometime in 2016. He was working on his novel ‘The Melancholy Haunting of Nicholas Parkes’ and apparently had in his possession a volume of poetry by a character he was incorporating into his story together with the rough scores to 8 or 9 songs which had been written using that same poet’s work. These he claimed had been found amongst the papers of a composer and club owner named Saul Preminger that had passed down to his granddaughter. The scores were yellowed and somewhat crumpled and in some cases incomplete. From a music perspective they contained, for the most part, only the lyrics, vocal melody and piano score. Additionally there were some rough notes in German and a couple of lists with titles of poems by Edgar Bourchier, together with some correspondence with Otto Dix and David Ivor Davies (aka Ivor Novello) among others. It was apparent Preminger had been trying to adapt Bourchier’s poems into some kind of stage play in the 1920s but the tone of much of the correspondence betrays a negativity to the idea in that post war era when most people wanted to put all the horror and death behind them. Preminger, it would seem, was not onto a winner. 
    Chris was curious to know how these songs might sound and approached me - I can only assume out of respect for my work on a variety of projects over the years. He was also curious to ascertain if I might be interested to work on resurrecting these works or, if they were deemed not in the right zone or to our taste, to work with him on creating some original songs from Bourchier’s poems. I readily admit, I was, at first, quite unsure about becoming involved. 
    It was clear from Preminger’s lists that originally 12-14 songs had been planned but these other scores were not amongst his papers - either having never been written due to the non-viability of the project or simply having not been put into notation. There is also the possibility they may have been lost or accidentally separated from the surviving papers. We shall never know.
    Initially I simply recorded some demo versions of the scores for Chris. There was no guidance as to arrangement though one could deduce from Preminger’s notes the intention to present them in a 20’s cabaret theatre format. In some of the notes there were instruments mentioned as possible orchestration but no arrangements for these exist. However, what was revealed were some lovely songs, sometimes achingly beautiful and sad, others quite angry and bitter, but all shot of them through with that WW1 zeitgeist. Chris and I were pleased with these early demos so I began recording some more of the pieces following my own musical bent where arrangement was concerned and, well, one thing led to another. Many of the songs had character designations scribbled on the scores (e.g. ‘Nurse Ballion’ as the singer of ‘A Secret Hidden Message’; ‘Johnny The Patch’ on ‘Poor Poor Surgeon Tim’) and some of the pieces required slightly different vocal ranges. For these reasons and because of the variant atmospheres in some of the music it was advantageous and indeed necessary to invite different singers to take part in order to deliver the songs successfully. 
    Having only 9 songs in total of Preminger’s we decided to follow through on one of the original ideas i.e. to adapt some of Bourchier’s poems into our own song compositions, and through that to expand the project into a broader collection with the potential to be a full albums worth of material. 
    And so here we have it. For your pleasure in our present state: The Fall and Rise of Edgar Bourchier and the Horrors of War.

Music Credits

THE FALL & RISE OF EDGAR BOURCHIER AND THE HORRORS OF WAR

Concept & Lyrics:  Christopher Richard Barker

Production & Music: Mick Harvey

Release & Distribution: Mute

Further Down The Line: 

Mick Harvey - Vocals, Guitar, Organ, String Arrangement

J.P. Shilo - Backing Vocal, Spoken Verse

The Poetic Clown:

Simon Breed - Vocal

Mick Harvey - Drums, Acoustic Guitar, Backing Vocal

J.P. Shilo - Accordion, Backing Vocal

Phil Kakulas - Double Bass

A Secret Hidden Message

Jade Imagine - Vocal

Mick Harvey - Guitars, Reed Organ, String Arrangement, Backing Vocal

J.P. Shilo - Backing Vocal

Poor Poor Surgeon Tim

Christopher Richard Barker - Vocal

Mick Harvey - Guitars, Bass, Backing Vocal

J.P. Shilo - Backing Vocal

Michael Bone - Drums

 

The Kindness Of Ravens

Mick Harvey - Vocal, Guitar, String Arrangement

Softly Spoken Bill

Simon Breed - Vocal

Mick Harvey - Guitars, Bass, Drums, String Arrangement, Backing Vocal

J.P. Shilo - Backing Vocal

 

Pounding For Peace

J.P. Shilo - Vocals, Accordion, Nylon String Guitar

Mick Harvey - Acoustic Guitar, Drums, Backing Vocals

Phil Kakulas - Double Bass

 

The Lost Bastard Son Of War

Christopher Richard Barker - Vocal

Mick Harvey - Guitars, Bass, Drum Programming, Backing Vocal

J.P. Shilo - Backing Vocals (and the Devil)

Michael Bone - Additional Drums

The Expressionist Tell # 1

J.P. Shilo - Vocals, Foot Stomps

Mick Harvey - Vocals, Foot Stomps

The Expressionist Tell # 2

Christopher Richard Barker - Vocal, Snare Drum

Mick Harvey - Guitars, Bass

Michael Bone - Drums

(Originally recorded by The Moon Lepers, released by Plague Pit Records 1989)

I Am The Messenger

Christopher Richard Barker - Vocals, Bass Drone

Mick Harvey - Keyboards, String Arrangement

The Eternal Black Darkness Of My Death

Mick Harvey - Vocals, Guitars, Organ, Drum

J.P. Shilo - Nylon String Guitar

The Darkling Fields Of Stowborough

J.P. Shilo - Vocals, Nylon String Guitar

Mick Harvey - Guitar, Organ, Bass, Drums

Listen In The Twilight Breeze

Alain Johannes - Vocal, Guitars, E-bow

Mick Harvey - Guitar, Bass

(Originally recorded by Nicholas Parkes, released by Baskerville Hall, 1967)

Corpse 564

Christopher Richard Barker - Vocal, Bass

Mick Harvey - Guitars, Organ

Michael Bone - Drums

(Originally recorded by The Moon Lepers released by Plague Pit Records 1989)

STRINGS:

Violins - Steph O’Hara, Lizzy Welsh  

Viola - Biddy Connor  

Cello - Charlotte Jacke

RECORDING & PRODUCTION

Basic tracks and overdubs recorded at Gracelane, North Melbourne and Atlantis, Melbourne in 2017/18. 

Christopher Richard Barker’s vocals recorded at Monkey Puzzle House, Suffolk UK by Rupert Matthews.

Simon Breed’s vocals recorded at Studio Mute London UK by James Aparicio.

Additional recording at CRB’s Music Room in Norwich UK.

Additional vocal editing by Steve Evans at The Writing Room, Sydney.

Mixed with David McCluney at Atlantis, Melbourne Australia in June 2018.

Mastered by Wez Prictor.

Executive Producer - Christopher Richard Barker

Produced by Mick Harvey

ARTWORK

‘Edgar Bourchier, 1914’ – Machiko Edmondson (Oil on canvas, 2017)

‘Trench Fever’ – Denise Weston (Ink, water-colour & bleach on water-colour paper, 2018)

'The Accuser', 'Mist & Heather', 'Birds Circling Trees', 'Edgar Bourchier Post Traumatic' - James Johnston (Various media) 

‘The Wild Hunt’ - Théophile Schuler (Line drawing for ‘The Wild Huntsman’ by MM. Erckmann-Chatrian)

Art design - Christopher Richard Barker, Mick Harvey & Paul A. Taylor

SPECIAL THANKS FROM CRB

A significant part of this musical project was researched at the rather wonderful West Bridgford Public Library so gratitude is extended to the staff at this splendid facility. The late David Bowie was a considerable inspiration for many reasons so I would like to thank him - wherever he might currently reside. The peerless & artist-friendly record label Mute have been an absolute pleasure to work with. Finally, I would like to warmly thank Mr Michael Harvey, firstly for taking a huge risk with a relative unknown, and secondly, for putting up with my dreadfully naive musical knowledge along the way. 

© 2018 Christopher Richard Barker. 

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