Newspapers become music – Matthew Herbert’s “One Day”

It is the job of a newspaper’s culture section to review new music – but what happens when a musician decides to review a newspaper by turning it into a piece of music?

Musician and musical director Matthew Herbert has succeeded in turning the tables on those notorious Guardian critics. “One Day” set an issue of The Guardian (25 September 2010 if you want to backtrack it) to music, with the help of the London Sinfonietta, who described it on their own site as a “multi-sensory event”.

“One of the most compelling aspects of music is storytelling,” said Herbert. “Another way I get my information is[…] still the newspaper. I’m interested in the way you can take something that appears quite temporary and appears disposable and draw attention to it. You could take any edition of a newspaper and imagine what it would be like to look back at it after 500 years.”

In “treating the music as a score”, iinspiration came from politics to culture, with oil drums in one piece to represent the oil industry. Kitchen equipment was played while a real-live cookery demonstration went on at the same time (though we sadly miss the smells of this once the clips go online).

Of course, the Guardian’s critics did not exactly lose out. Charlotte Higgins waxed lyrical about the success of the piece when it was premiered on 20 November 2010. Since then, the Guardian website has played host to video clips about the making of the film. And it has spurred other commentators to praise the way the piece re-invigorated print journalism as the rest of the world condemns it as “dying”.

We may lose out on the cookery smells, and although we, like the audience at the premier, could still join in with newspaper rustling as the backing track from the privacy of our own homes, it doesn’t have quite the same appeal as being part of the live show. Still, a very exciting new blend of audio, journalism, and, thanks to the Guardian website, online.

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