Ealing Feeder – album track details

Ealing Feeder track details

Ealing Feeder (back cover)[01] You Taught Me How to See the Crows

Counting and feeding the gathering crows from a window that’s level with the London tree canopy. Performed live in one take using solo recorder and Max. The Max patch reiterates the live recorder while subtly stretching it in time.

[02] A Wren in the Cathedral

Here, a theremin coalesces with the song of a wren in this piece inspired by Stoppard’s description of the random movement of electrons in an atom. Sarah uses Max to augment the theremin, moving seamlessly from a classic electronic instrument to a birdsong controller.

[03] The Bows

Inspired by London folksong ‘The Bonny Bows’ (also known a ‘The Cruel Sister’). In the original song, a woman murders her sister by pushing her into the Thames. When the corpse is dredged from the water, the breastbone, hair and fingers are used to make a fiddle which speaks, revealing the identity of her murderer.

This version uses Sarah’s recordings made in the Submarine Emergency Escape Training Tank, Gosport, just before it was decommissioned.

[04] Ventriloquist

Incorporates an excerpt from Wordsworth’s autobiographical poem The Prelude, listing the attractions in Bartholomew Fair, Smithfield.

[05] Camberwell Beauty

The beauty here is an old Camberwell piano that was given to Sarah three years ago, lifting her spirits after she’d sold her own piano to pay the rent. The Camberwell was such a wreck, it didn’t make the cut on this album – but it did catalyse her to begin playing again. She used the Camberwell extensively on the soundtrack for Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape (at The Old Vic, then The Armory, New York) – a commission that bought her a new piano and paid the rent.

The bells on this piece are played by the ‘Ealing Feeder’ – the polyphonic, robotic carillon Sarah built to play riffs at lightning speed.

[06] The Two Magicians

Reimagining the transfiguration myth in the English folksong The Two Magicians, in which two men continually shapeshift as they chase one another to the death. This version moves the action to Lucha Britannia, a masked wrestling club in Bethnal Green. With thanks to Lucha Britannia and photographer Gaynor Perry.

[07] The Fancy Cheese People

The Fancy Cheese People was a 1960s warehouse on the Farringdon Road which mysteriously seemed to do very little business. At the time of its demolition, around 2002, it was revealed to be a front for MI6.
Sheep heart amulet in the Lovett collection (source The Wellcome Collection)

[08] Cow Heart Pin

A curse that may be mistaken for a love song. It’s inspired by an account in Edward Lovett’s ‘Magic in Modern London’ (1925). Lovett writes of a butcher in East London who impregnates a desiccated cow’s heart with nails and pins to curse a rival. Sarah adapted the words from some Anglo Saxon cunning magic, used against someone who has stolen cattle.

[09] Caul (Vardøger)

A short piece, inspired by an account in Edward Lovett’s ‘Magic in Modern London’ (1925). During World War One, Lovett noted a resurgence of interest in amulets containing a caul – the preserved amniotic sack of a baby born with the membrane intact, covering the face. Sold around the London docks, the caul was seen as a magical object which could protect the wearer from drowning.

The vardøger is a Scandinavian Doppelgänger – one who traces your actions a few minutes before you do. The vardøger may have arrived in the docks with the London wood trade.

[10] Sky Bullion

An expression of all that is venal about London property speculation. ‘Sky bullion’ is a term used by those using the London property market as a safe haven for money. Sarah asked percussionist Stephen Hiscock to extemporise with a recording made that morning of the building site outside her flat – this was the result.

[11] Fever Van

In the 1930s, before the vaccination era, the fever van removed contaminated Londoners from their homes, transporting them to the fever hospitals. This track mixes the sound of London sirens with the words from Ushers Well. In this folksong, a woman is visited by her three young sons who have died while away from home.

[12] The Messenger (Alexandra Palace Mix)

Inspired by an early imagining of mobile telecommunications, published at the end of the nineteenth century in an engineering magazine. This is Sarah’s original version of a track that was reworked by Belbury Poly for the Ghostbox Study Series. Featuring archive recordings from Prelinger and the NASA Cassini Probe.