Growing up in Suffolk, Nathaniel Mann, heard stories passed down by his grandma about a tradition of the village Rough Band, made up of pots and pans, iron and metal implements, including meat cleavers - delivering a sort of sonic warning to anyone stepping out of line, committing adultery or behaving in way considered unacceptable.
As part of the Avant-Folk trio ‘Dead Rat Orchestra’, Mann, a singer and composer, has long been playing music with strange percussive instruments. Coming across an old meat cleaver in his dad’s garage he was inspired to make a set of cleavers to play music on - so turned to a bronze bladesmith to help turn meat cleavers into musical gold.
I listened to this yesterday and found it fascinating. The sound that comes out of the bronze cleaver when struck is eerie and beautiful, and I love the poetic terms used in smithing like ‘The Cry of the Tin’. There are so many interesting layers here, including the social standing of blacksmiths (respected, but feared and mistrusted), the soundscape of traditional crafts, old traditions of social justice through ‘Rough Music’, and work songs from around the world. If you can access BBC radio, I definitely recommend giving this a listen.
BBC Radio 4: Dead Rats and Meat Cleavers →