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Bagpipes, church bells and Oxford May morning

May morning celebrations, Oxford
May morning celebrations, Oxford

May morning, Oxford – the city’s traditional celebration, rising at sunrise to hear a choir sing from the top of Magdalen College tower (in fact, you can hear a reimagined version of this here).

The entire city centre is filled with street performers and music – here, traditional costumed dancers are accompanied by bagpipers, and mixed in with this you can hear the ringing of bells from St. Mary’s Church.

The sound was taken on by Daniel Williams, who explains how he tackled the piece:
“This one started with me breaking the recording down into three “events”. Bagpipes, bells/chatter and applause. Starting with the bells/chatter, I made three copies and pitched one down an octave or so and applied a hi-pass filter to the second and a low-pass to the third; These were then later layered in Cubase.”

“One bagpipe recording is slowed right down and is present throughout most of the track. Whilst a pitched down bagpipe is present at the end, sounding quite woodwindish.”

“The glassy fractured intro is a granulation of the original recording rendered at different pitches using variations in the buffer size and then layered in the DAW. The strings are from a sample library and mostly follow a three note motif with two sine waves layered underneath from a soft synth.”

“As I began to assemble the piece I was struck by how the individual is subsumed into the “walla” of the crowd. And how for every seemingly happy voice there is a world of drama and sadness, a life, rolling away in the background.”

“So in the end the piece became an attempt to capture the melancholy of a crowd in the act of celebration.”

“The “Madonna and child” woman (if that is what she’s saying) has a very strange mix of emotion in her voice; I feel like she really makes this piece.”

City version:

Memory version: