Many of these voices and strange sounds guided me through writing the Vorrh trilogy
and gave me the energy to get to The Cloven
, its final part.
I can’t listen to the words while writing, but they work through the filter of my paintings, and whisper into the forest for me to hear.
“Missa Luba” by Les Troubadours du Roi Baudouin
A sublime fervor of the joy in faith. A magnificent clash of cultures that weds grace to power in a celebratory mass of voice and drum. I have this with me all the time. I use it to wake myself up and power up any slumps of doubt. There is possession and piety here, a very rare combination; it also runs an artery directly into The Vorrh
Editor's note: The Spotify playlist features an alternate version of "Missa Luba."
"I Am the Fly" by Wire
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The best fly song in the world. Raucous, low-life momentum concealing its intelligence between grating rhythms and insistent manic drive. A primal high, shrill note in divine punk. Music to maim by or at least irritate others. I have never learnt to drive, but this inspires me to fantasize about driving fast and badly. Soundtrack to a life I almost had.
"Cruel Lincoln" by Shirley Collins
I have loved Shirley Collins’s voice and choice of songs for as long as I can remember. In all the seasons of its truth and clarity, from the lilting early summer of her youth to the rich, empowered, melancholic dignity of her 80s. And it's from her most recent album that I have selected this ode of terror and blood, recorded in her own modest cottage in the county town of Lewes in her beloved East Sussex. The outstanding team of musicians and technicians channeled the confined intimacy into an astonishing distillation of history, mystery, and commitment. And she had the genius to open her kitchen window and let the darkness of this song be trespassed by the kind incandescence of birdsong. A perfect work. Profound and demanding, with a resonant echo in her mature voice that takes the listener to the absolute now of what folk music means, and shows us a landscape that was always there. It is like England itself: solid, haunted, luminous, and enduring.
"Farewell to the Gold" by Nic Jones
Nic Jones’s voice and fingers are full of laughter. It bounds and flutters in every fret and string, every utterance and syllable. This gives his songs a buoyant, anti-gravitational energy even when the tale being told is a troubled one. I often play Nic Jones in my sculpture studio when I am alone struggling with materials and processes, using the life in this song to buy more energy and time.
"The Way Through the Woods" by Peter Bellamy
Two for the price of one: My favorite ghost poem put to music and sung by the other great voice of English folk. A voice tuned to shanty and raw as a skinned concertina. An acquired taste: Bellamy roars and whispers inside Rudyard Kipling’s dazzling vocabulary of evocative twilight, and matches both the canter of a spectral horse and the Otter whistling its mate.
"Down by the Sally Gardens" by Kathleen Ferrier and
"Raglan Road" by Luke Kelly
A straight cheat! I could not have one without the other. Two great Irish songs from two great Irish poets, William Butler Yeats
and Patrick Kavanagh
. Two outstanding voices. A thousand miles apart.
"In Darkness Let Me Dwell" by John Dowland
This was a gift from the screenwriter and co-conspirator, Tony Grisoni. Rich with a sad, mournful grandeur that is echoed between a stately tenor voice and the swollen night depth of saxophone, woodwind, and strings. An experiment in Renaissance song, Dowland’s tearful ode given resonant NIGHT.
I love to play this when I make my small paintings.
The Köln Concert by Keith Jarrett
My old pal Ray Cooper, master percussionist and passionate Vorrh enthusiast, first played me The Köln Concert
in his apartment overlooking the Thames. I had never heard anything like it and was astonished when he told me it was jazz — not a musical genre that I am automatically attracted to. There is something about Jarrett’s phrasing and rhythm that quotes the ancient while being feverishly contemporary. His grunting and pedal-pounding makes it immediate and mesmerizingly feral. I even took piano lessons in a vain attempt to do it myself.
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is a poet, sculptor, painter, and performance artist. He makes installations and paints portraits of imagined cyclops in egg tempera. Catling has had solo shows at the Serpentine Gallery, London; the Arnolfini in Bristol, England; the Ludwig Museum in Aachen, Germany; Hordaland Kunstnersentrum in Bergen, Norway; Project Gallery in Leipzig, Germany; and Modern Art Oxford in Oxford, England. He is the author of The Vorrh
series. The Cloven
is its final volume.