Wicken Fen is Britain’s oldest nature reserve, a fragment of the great wetland that once stretched from Cambridge to the Wash. It is a place where Cambridge students and staff, such as Eddington, loved to explore, with the sound of reed and sedge warblers in spring and the sight of bright yellow brimstone butterflies, and then the riot of wild flowers in the summer, with the air teeming with dragonflies and damselflies, and roach, rudd and perch in the water. It is indeed a place where humans can get closer to another world, an older and more natural one.
A sense of place is something primary to Drew Mulholland. He is the leader of a group of individual musicians who are pioneering a concept they call psychogeography – the idea that landscape shapes our minds deeply, not just our immediate perceptions but something that can affect mood, memory and behaviour.
In various recordings which he issued as Mount Vernon Arts Lab he has explored techniques of electronic music, He has been described as a one-man radiophonic workshop, and indeed he is an admirer of the work of the BBC’s Radiophonics Workshop and in particular the composer Delia Darbyshire, who created the original Dr Who theme in the early sixties.
He composes for instruments and for the human voice, including Geographia Mundi which he wrote for the centenary of Glasgow University’s Geography Department and which can be heard in the background of a video produced for the occasion.
Geographia Mundi was performed by the Mayfield Singers in the Cathedral concert, while On Wicken Fen, along with another of Drew Mulholland’s compositions, Stella Nova was played by a string group including members of Orkney Camerata, brought together by violinist Lesley Macleod.