365: Stories And Music opens in Edinburgh

365 - James Robertson365 - Aidan O'Rouke


The Edinburgh International Book Festival today launched the latest chapter in the 365: Stories And Music collaboration between James Robertson and Aidan O’Rourke.  Commissioned by the Book Festival, and supported by Creative Scotland, an immersive sound installation of stories and music by the two leading Scottish artists can be enjoyed, free of charge, by the public in the Book Festival’s George Street Bookshop from today, Wednesday 7th August 2019.

James Robertson, one of Scotland’s most respected authors, wrote a short story every day for a year. Each story was to be 365 words, no more, no less. It became an enchanting, roaming collection of fairytales, memories and provocations published in 2014 as 365:Stories. That was only the beginning.  Fiddler/composer Aidan O’Rourke (of the folk supertrio Lau) wrote a tune every day in response, resulting in a major new body of 365 tunes. Aidan’s fiddle tunes are sparse and emotive; his playing is famous for its lyricism, here paired with kaleidoscopic harmonies from Mercury-nominated keyboardist Kit Downes, guitarist Sorren Maclean and harpist Esther Swift.  The album 365: Volume 1 was released in May 2018. 365: Volume 2 will be released on 9 August 2019.

The installation is a piece of art in itself, beautifully crafted from oak and steel with no digital screens in sight. It allows up to six people at a time to browse through all 365 stories and listen through headphones.  Each spoken word-recording is paired with a piece of music.

Robertson reads many himself; other storytellers include Tam Dean Burn, Gerda Stevenson, Cathy Macdonald, Matthew Zajac and Kate Molleson providing rich and varied accents from around Scotland.

James Robertson said “This project has grown in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I began writing these stories. It has become a vast, multiform patchwork of fiction and stunning melody – an expansive and emotive catalogue of public art.”

Roland Gulliver, Associate Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival said, “This new installation is an exciting embodiment of a brilliant project.  We have worked with James and Aidan since the inception of 365: Stories & Music and are delighted that we can now offer an opportunity for the public to select their own choices of these wonderful stories, and beautiful music, to listen to here at the Festival.”

The installation launches today at Edinburgh International Book Festival in Edinburgh and will be available in the Festival’s George Street Bookshop until Sunday 25 August.  James Robertson, Aidan O’Rourke and Kit Downes will be performing music and stories from 365: Stories And Music at the Book Festival on Saturday 10 August at 5.00pm.

365 - location

Full details and tickets from www.edbookfest.co.uk.

The 365: Stories And Music sound installation will tour the country from September 2019 visiting Shetland Mareel, Orkney Library, Linlithgow Palace, Wigtown Book Festival, the Scottish International Storytelling Festival and many more.

‘The News Where You Are’ – James Robertson live:

TWELFTH DAY – The Devil Makes Three (Orange Feather Records OFR003)

twelfth dayHailing from, respectively, Orkney and Peebles, Catriona Price and Esther Swift have been making waves on the Scottish folk scene since releasing their debut album back in 2010. Twinning their high pitched vocals, with Price on fiddle and Swift on harp and clarsach, they’re an impressive pair of musicians with the awards to prove it. Working largely within the Scottish musical and lyrical tradition, they draw upon landscapes and memories, the opening number, ‘Noise Show’, intended to evoke the serenity of their remote childhood landscapes, the tranquillity gradually giving way to the effects of the urban sprawl as the sound builds, while ‘The Beach’ is an instrumental inspired by those on which they played, most especially on the Isle of Mull and at Hoy.

Celtic myth is embraced on ‘Shapeshifter’, the story of a woman who falls in love with a male Selkie and joins him in the sea while. On a more realistic, but no less romantic note, ‘Dusking’ seeks to capure the atmosphere of an Edinburgh spring evening while the city also provides the backdrop for ‘A City You Can See Out Of’, which celebrates the true stories of three different women who found strength in loss.

‘Young Sir’ takes the traditional Scottish tale of a bonny lass who, unable to pay her rent, runs away to England, wins the heart of a rich man, steals his horse and returns home, although here the horse is updated to his car. The only exception to local colour comes with the album title track, an adaptation of the American folk song ‘Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby’ that transforms into a sprightly instrumental.

It is all immaculately played and precisely sung, but that’s where my reservations emerge. They seem so bound up in their craft that there’s little room for heart, resulting in a pristine but somewhat detached sound that’s more intellectual than emotional. Additionally, while not disputing their mastery of their instruments, of the three instrumentals, neither ‘Me And My Friend’ or ‘The Beach’ have sufficient variety of colour or texture to warrant their near six minute playing time, only the short and simple fiddle dominated ‘Swimming Safe’ really achieving its aims.

They are, without doubt, extremely talented and clearly think deeply about their material; if they can tap into the passion to match the proficiency, they could be huge.

Mike Davies

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Official video of ‘Young Sir’: