The Glitch Witch


The Glitch Witch is an audio experience, best enjoyed on headphones in a dark room. 

I wrote the text (which is available in my collection the mannequins are more real than you) and sent it to Abbie Foxton, who recorded herself reading it. Then I sent the audio file to Adam Wimbush, who worked his mad magic with Abbie’s voice and created the astonishing soundscape that is The Glitch Witch. 

Listen to it here.

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The birth of modern music

The Bird King’s favourite piece of music is a forgotten masterpiece by Hector Berlioz, the rousing Symphonie priapique.

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Mahler wrote the last movement of his 13th Symphony (a funeral march with braying donkeys and laughter) before he’d even started his first.

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Debussy is known for such mellifluous tone poems as La mer. A less celebrated work was La foule hystérique for demonically possessed choir.

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Igor Stravinsky intended Le Sacre du printemps to be performed by headless musicians. Unfortunately the idea was never realised, though decades later John Cage was to employ a decapitated pianist in 4’33”.

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A deleted passage from the draft of Varèse’s Amériques was scored for orchestra, vacuum cleaners, car horns, thunder and crying babies.

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Steve Reich wrote music to be performed in zero gravity, for example Monotony for violin, in which the musician plays a continuous E, stopping only when all the sand in an hourglass has fallen from the top bulb into the bottom, i.e. never.

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Iannis Xenakis’s best orchestral work is Chthon, performed 1000 metres under ground, the audience being above ground and out of earshot.

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With thanks to Sean Fraser for supplying the John Cage material.

Music into words

This evening, I listened for the first time to a piece of music called Realms by Adam Wimbush (who composed a brilliant piece for the Bird King recently). Whilst listening, I tweeted the words and images that Adam’s evocative piece put in my head. The exercise was like automatic writing, in that it was spontaneous and I had no opportunity to correct what I was writing as I went.

Below are the tweets, amalgamated and given headings (corresponding to the titles of the four tracks that comprise Realms) but otherwise unedited. Make of them what you will.

Realms can be downloaded FREE here.

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Realm A (Rococo)

A silence, an almost nothing. Something moving, watery, deep, growing.

Then rains and something rasping. An electric falling, a collapse.

A small voice, plaintive, bird like, in the storm.

Hints of speech in yellow and black, nature’s danger colours.
DO NOT CROSS THIS LINE.

Hammering hammering hammering in yellow and black, yellow and black.

Juddering fish.

Cut to an interior.

Your broken machines make milk, meat and faces. It’s close.

Can you hear the sea?

That nagging rhythm, sagging under the weight of water.

A beach – outside now – where the colours are gone. Metallic light on set sand.

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Realm B (Under the re-plosion

A pause, a scene change.

The next realm is made of insects. They flutter & pullulate in my ear, in my hair, in my head.

Other things too, dropping from the sky. Machines or creatures.

I feel as if I’m being laughed at. The rhythm again, insistent, cold.

All the lines and graphs here look like words, a forgotten tongue. Peering closer, wasps in my ear.

An aluminium sheet covers a corpse.

A hive of industry, a nerve centre, a nervous centre of electrical buzzing.

Buzz buzz, metal wasps.

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Realm C (The Permeated Anomaly)

Another breather. Another scene change.

The third realm seeps in like bad hypnosis, like a torrent, like light.

I can feel the wings of the mechanical birds as they flutter blindly across my forehead.

A voice chases them.

What are you saying?

DO NOT CROSS THE LINE. DO NOT ENTER.

Is that a gun? Why this furious activity?

Searchlights melt yellowing faces.

Then we’re processed. Their voices are indifferent. Orders, observations, conclusions.

Red light along the yellow and black lines.

What at first I took for a dialogue isn’t. Two hemispheres of one silicon brain exchange bursts of information.

Is this me thinking or you?

Finally we’re taken somewhere else. Units beep.

It grows dark.

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Realm D (In Loquaciousness Lay Insanity)

One more realm. Under the waves, morse code.

People walk by, trying not to look at the chirping tangled angular shape hovering above us.

On the horizon, the sea is being hoovered up.

The chirp is not a message. Don’t listen: it will drive you mad.

The sea is gone. Look up: the sky is a mirror.

You look like an android.

Still that sense of being laughed at. The light goes again and the textures change underfoot.

Sonic beacons or will-o-wisps?

The sensation of sinking, very slowly. The hovering creature or contraption or phantom or god is still there, invisible but felt.

Being sucked into it, engulfed by it. Lunatic loops.

The brain of god is a cloud of insects.

Cold cooperation, metallic harmony, glazed eyes.

In the brain of god there is something like a thought or an idea or something trying to speak but unable.

Everything gets greyer, weaker.

At the end, just a beach, a disappearing cloud.

And a maggot on the grey sand.

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All texts on this site are the copyright of James Knight. All rights reserved.

Mad Music for the Bird King

As a fan of electronic and acousmatic music, with a large collection of works by the likes of Bernard Parmegiani, Francis Dhomont and François Bayle, I am thrilled to announce that the Bird King now has his own electroacoustic soundtrack, in the form of The Madness of the Bird King (Sonically Reconstructed) by the talented composer and writer Adam Wimbush.

I approached Adam a few weeks ago, to ask if he’d be interested in composing a piece based on my twelve-part poem, The Madness of the Bird King. Having heard some of his work online, I thought he’d be able to capture the mystery, lunacy and whimsical nightmarishness of the Bird King’s world. I was right.

It’s very exciting to think that the Bird King now has a poet, a painter – the wonderful Diana Probstand a composer expressing his murmuring, murderous, mechanical soul.

The Bird King is a multimedia monster!

You can listen to Adam’s composition here.