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Dead Rat Orchestra: Tyburnia

The Dead Rat Orchestra (DRO) take the concept of the live film score to a new level as they tour their acclaimed score to James Holcombe’s Tyburnia around the country. They will be joined by groundbreaking singer Lisa Knapp, one of the UK’s finest interpreters of song, and Holcombe, who will perform the film live. Using multiple projectors and screens, locally sourced footage and stories he will create a new ‘Directors Cut’ at each date – which will be staged as close to a local place of execution as possible. 

The band release a special edition of their score featuring the original album packaged with a new text and cuttings of the film stock used in the creation of Tyburnia (Antigen Records) on 13 July. London’s Serpentine Gallery will also be publishing a book, On Tyburnia, detailing Holcombe’s unique and highly researched approach to creating the film.

‘brilliantly conceived, meticulously researched and compellingly delivered … challenges and coerces the listener to both muse on the past and consider the present state of power, punishment and dissent.’ – Froots Magazine

Shot on 8mm and 16mm film and using hand processing and historic chemical techniques Tyburnia is both visually and thematically engrossing, demonstrating how, despite the gallows having long since vanished, we still stand in the shadow of it’s punitive ideology. Now for this unique live presentation Holcombe will be utilising 6 film projectors and three screens, physically manipulating, distorting and occasionally destroying the film live, to create unique performances in each location. In addition each event will be introduced by a regional historian adding further context.

For over 700 years there was a site of execution at Tyburn in London (close to the current site of Marble Arch). Those who fell foul of political, religious and judicial reforms enacted by the state were executed for public entertainment and instruction. These executions chart a history of the UK, illustrating the twists and turns of monarchical and political whimsy, church and state, and the birth of capitalism. In the current climate of enforced austerity and social reform, Tyburnia explores the parallels between contemporary and historical notions of crime in relation to business and property, the spectacular nature of punishment, and the state’s use of the body as a site for political control.

DRO have seized this opportunity to breath new life back into some very peculiar and rare folk songs. With their gritty, rough hewn interpretations and dextrous multi-instrumentalism, the three-piece have created an evocative soundtrack featuring songs composed by, or for, those condemned to ‘dance the Tyburn jig’. Many of these broadside ballads have become a staple of folk music, but here, presented in close association to their original context, their power and resonance can be truly appreciated in a new light. DRO have also crafted contemporary versions of long forgotten songs in the luridly descriptive ‘thieves cant’ (a secret language used by thieves, beggars and hustlers of various disciplines).

Daniel Merrill of Dead Rat Orchestra said ‘Tyburnia is one of the most challenging and important projects we have undertaken. We’ve been working on it for three years, and it keeps getting more intense. The addition of Lisa’s voice and musicality opens up new avenues of song for us to enable us to really do justice to James’ extraordinary film’.’

 ‘(DRO) subverts the stolid conservatism that has come to be associated with much of today’s folk music and reconstruct it from the ground up.’ – The Quietus

One of the UK’s most innovative ensembles, The Dead Rat Orchestra’s music has been performed, installed and experienced across Europe, North America and the Middle East. Their soundtracks have featured on BBC Television and at Tate Modern. They have toured internationally with artists as diverse as Martin Carthy, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Pere Ubu, Silver Mount Zion, Eric Chenaux, Silver Apples and Baby Dee. They have composed works for the London Contemporary Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia and the Ukranian Conservertoire. Acutely haunting, occasionally brutal and raucously joyous, their music always attempts to enchant and entrance, be it emotionally or physically.Lisa Knapp’s new album ‘Till April is Dead – A Garland of May’ has received rave reviews (‘overflowing with warmth, light and waywardness★★★★★ The Guardian) and recently entered the top 40 Independent Albums chart.James Holcombe’s work has been exhibited throughout the UK and Europe including the Serpentine Gallery, Tate Modern and festivals and artist run spaces worldwide.Now, the new tour from one of the UK’s most innovative ensembles joined by the groundbreaking singer and interpreter of song that goes beyond live a soundtrack. Fimmaker Holcombe will use six projectors and three screens to create a new cut of the film for each venue using locally sourced footage and stories.[box type=”info” align=”” class=”” width=””]Tyburnia The Dead Rat Orchestra with special guest Lisa Knapp and filmmaker James Holcombe will be at the Norwich Arts Centre on the 27th July, 8pm. Pay what you can, to book or for more information call 01603 660 352 or visit  / / /[/box]

Grapevine Editor
Grapevine Magazine was first published in 1991. The small Editorial Team, based in Ipswich, Suffolk collate information about live entertainment across East Anglia for the magazine's well known listings. In addition the team publish reviews and interviews on all forms of entertainment. Send your PRESS RELEASES to

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