A thousand twangling instruments






A while ago Nat and I were lucky enough to work with Underworld’s design collective Tomato on an ad. Sadly (and unsurprisingly) Karl and Rick couldn’t do the music for it – they were a bit busy on a little project they were working on for their old chum Danny Boyle.

Having spent the weekend mesmerised by how good the opening to the Games was, (the only discernible flaws being Seb Coe’s mandroid delivery, and the discontinuity in the lighting during the Bond/Queen sequences) I’ve just bought the soundtrack and I implore you to do the same! Not just for the incredible music (two beautiful new tracks by Underworld that were so moving where they appeared in the ceremony – ‘Caliban’s Dream’ and ‘And I will Kiss’.

But also because you get  two very beautiful pieces of writing with it. One by Danny the Champion of the World. And one by Rick Smith, the man responsible for the sound. It’s such a lovely hymn to Britain’s aural landscape that I wanted to share it here in case you don’t buy the album.

“How do you soundtrack a city? Or a nation? Is there a score to be written for this green and pleasant land of song, our forever awe-inspiring country? How do you start to summarise the very sound of a place when – in just under two hundred years – one small border town is capable of producing both Edward Elgar and F Buttons? You can’t, so you don’t even try. You follow your heart and you look for the defining moments in culture, the sounds that continue to resonate.

It’s the peal of bells drifting miles across the Welsh valleys and it’s the shudder of bass that shakes the foundations of an underground house club in Dalston. It’s the gentle picking of guitar strings around a festival campfire and it’s the bombast of a band at the height of their powers playing beneath the impossible arch of Wembley Stadium. It’s the tinny sound of R&B coming from a mobile phone speaker on the top deck of a bus and it’s the children’s choir from Southwark. It’s the distant echo of steel pans. It’s the bosh of a drum. It’s the hum of traffic. It’s the London Symphony Orchestra and it’s the warmth of Studio 2 in Abbey Road. It’s all this and so much more.

Music is Britain’s cultural heartbeat; it’s a perpetual act of revolutionary thought. From William Blake to the Beatles via the Clash and the Chemical Brothers, the soundtrack to our lives fizzes and hums all around us like a stray signal from a radio dial that your internal antenna just can’t help but tune into.

Two hundred years ago Goethe said that architecture was like frozen music. Well in today’s Britain the inverse is true, music is the fluid architecture all around us.

The isle is full of noises. The soundtrack writes itself.”

Rick Smith Music Director London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.


What a genius. Here’s wishing him a speedy recovery from his exhaustion. To quote Caliban again, we can only dream of working with him now!