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David Attenborough seeks remixes for his old field recordings

A remix competition will be judged by a panel including the legendary broadcaster himself…

David Attenborough’s field recording remix
David Attenborough’s field recording remix

David Attenborough is looking for producers to remix his 70-year-old field recordings.

As part of a new competition launched by Songlines magazines and PRS Foundation, music makers are being invited to remix recordings captured by the legendary broadcaster – who celebrates his 93rd birthday this week – in Bali over 70 years ago.

An album of Attenborough’s field recordings, ‘My Field Recordings From Across The Planet’ was released in November 2018. These recordings were taken between 1954 and 1963 while Attenborough was travelling to remote parts of the world to film exotic animals for the BBC television series Zoo Quest. In his spare time, he used to use recording equipment to capture the numerous musical performances and rituals of the people he met.

The recording in question for the competition was captured in Bali in 1956, and features the sound of a gamelan orchestra he met while recording a documentary about the komodo dragon. Listen to the recording below. 

“The villagers will sit down while the leader of the gamelan orchestra will convey his composition, teaching them, one at a time how to play,” Attenborough told Songlines in an interview last year. "They then play this concerted music with extraordinary precision and real zest. So it is haunting music that you hear every night – or you did in those days, in the villages of Bali.”

"The traditions that had been developed over centuries were still continued with no knowledge of Western styles of music, which since then have enveloped the world," he addded. "So these sounds which I captured with that clumsy tape recorder 60 years ago have a quality that you wouldn't be able to replicate today."

The piece is called ‘Gender Wayang’, after a style of gamelan playing native to Bali, and is comprised of two metallophones and one pair of drums. You can hear it below.

It seems, however, that none of the royalties generated through the project will be given to the original musicians who Attenborough recorded or their families. The terms of the competition state that "All revenues generated from additional sub-licensing will be shared equally between the music creator, BBC Worldwide and Sir David Attenborough’s affiliated charity Fauna & Flora International."

Entries to the competition will initially be judged by a panel of experts, including Gilles Peterson, Ghostpoet, Matthew Herbert, Hannah Peel, Cerys Matthews and Attenborough himself. A shortlist of six remixes will be chosen by the judges before being passed to a public vote to decide the winner.

Entries close Monday 10th June. Voting will take place from 19th July to 15th September with the winner being announced on 1st November.

For more information on how to enter, click here

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