Presented by Bertie Tumbleweed, FRSA. Reviewed by R T Faherty, Art Critic.
It's rare that one encounters a fellow human being who has made a career of rescuing records which have had teapots stood on them, but Tumbleweed can hold his head high. His lecture was billed as a seamless rendition, a feast for the senses of any lover of lower life forms. Well, thought I, I do know several of these arty types, don't I?
All agog, I bagged a seat right at the very front and availed myself of a catering sack of hula hoops which I lifted from behind the counter before the staff had had a chance of putting them out into those namby-pamby bowl things that cissies use. (Half-inched a wine box too - arf arf!) I then proceeded to crunch, munch, rustle and slurp my way through the presentation of the recordings - not forgetting to fold the packets neatly into long strips before tying them in knots. There were 47 in all. I found it was easier to take the bag OUT of the wine box and squirt it into my mouth as I went along.
I created some wonderful harmonies with the sounds on offer. The first recording was created from a fragment of a 78rpm record which had been retrieved from the bottom of a well. It was of a snail crawling through sycamore leaves, Savernake Forest, 1923. Tumbleweed then followed it by a subtly different one of a snail crawling through oak leaves, Hanbury Woods, 1927. Each recording lasted approximately 15 minutes and I greeted them enthusiastically.
He then moved on to the use of the death watch beetle as a means of creating a pleasing background rhythm in the days before houses had radios or anything like that. Apparently people used to harvest them and take them down the pub so that they could play mating rituals at each other. This part of the talk lasted approximately three hours; it was not illustrated, as it were, with any recordings, because early attempts to capture the enchanting sounds were foiled by the building falling down.
There was another five hours of this challenging yet strangely haunting material.
However, to hard-core types like myself, brought up on the sounds of 4'33" of Silence, this presented no challenge at all. I had another squirt. So to speak.
The final recording was an intriguing one; it actually departed from the theme of the lecture somewhat in that the subject was undeniably vertebrate. It was of a member of the public who had attended his previous lecture, who for some reason had acquired a tea chest, got inside, nailed down the lid and sent it to an unspecified destination. Never to return.
And - you know what? At the end of the lecture I turned round... and there was almost nobody left.
Apart from my old mate, Bogg. I'd recognise that flatulent aroma anywhere.