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Field Music's new release is “Making A New World”, a 19 track
song cycle about the after-effects of the First World War. But
this is not an album about war and it is not, in any traditional
sense, an album about remembrance. There are songs here
about air traffic control and gender reassignment surgery.
There are songs about Tiananmen Square and about
ultrasound. There are even songs about Becontree Housing
Estate and about sanitary towels.
The songs grew from a project for the Imperial War Museum
and were first performed at their sites in Salford and London in
January 2019. The starting point was an image from a 1919
publication on munitions by the US War Department, made
using “sound ranging”, a technique that utilised an array of
transducers to capture the vibrations of gunfire at the front.
These vibrations were displayed on a graph, similar to a
seismograph, where the distances between peaks on different
lines could be used to pinpoint the location of enemy
armaments. This particular image showed the minute leading
up to 11am on 11th November 1918, and the minute
immediately after. One minute of oppressive, juddering noise
and one minute of near-silence. “We imagined the lines from
that image continuing across the next hundred years,” says
the band's David Brewis, “and we looked for stories which tied
back to specific events from the war or the immediate
aftermath.” If the original intention might have been to create a
mostly instrumental piece, this research forced and inspired a
different approach. These were stories itching to be told.
The songs are in a kind of chronological order, starting with
the end of the war itself; the uncertainty of heading home in a
profoundly altered world (“Coffee or Wine”). Later we hear a
song about the work of Dr Harold Gillies (the shimmering
ballad, “A Change of Heir”), whose pioneering work on skin
grafts for injured servicemen led him, in the 1940s, to perform
some of the very first gender reassignment surgeries. We see
how the horrors of the war led to the Dada movement and how
that artistic reaction was echoed in the extreme performance
art of the 60s and 70s (the mathematical head-spin of “A Shot
To The Arm”). And then in the funk stomp of Money Is A
Memory, we picture an office worker in the German Treasury
preparing documents for the final instalment on reparation
debts - a payment made in 2010, 91 years after the Treaty of
Versailles was signed. A defining, blood-spattered element of
20th century history becomes a humdrum administrative task
in a 21st century bureaucracy.
Field Music will tour Making A New World throughout 2020

Sound Ranging
Coffee or Wine
Best Kept Garden
I Thought You Were Something Else
Between Nations
A Change of Heir
Do You Read Me?
From a Dream, Into My Arms
Beyond That of Courtesy
A Shot To The Arm
A Common Language Pt 1
A Common Language Pt 2
Nikon Pt 1
Nikon Pt 2
If The Wind Blows Towards The Hospital
Only In a Mans World
Money Is a Memory
An Independent State

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