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James Robertson & Aidan O'Rourke - 365: Stories + Music

02 Jan 2020

A sound installation of contemporary Scottish stories and music – touring August 2019 onwards

Commissioned by the Edinburgh International Book Festival supported by Creative Scotland

Bold, tender, full of old truths and distilled modern wit, 365: Stories and Music is an epic built on the beauty of the miniature. It’s a collaboration between artists steeped in tradition but constantly breaking new ground.

In 2013, James Robertson – one of Scotland’s leading authors – set himself the challenge of writing a short story every day for a year. Each story was to be 365 words, no more, no less. It became an enchanting, roaming collection of fairytales and memories and provocations published in 2014 by Penguin as 365:Stories. That was only the beginning.

Scottish fiddler and composer Aidan O’Rourke (of Lau) wrote a tune every day in response. The result is a major new body of 365 tunes – a significant addition to the Scottish traditional music canon. Aidan’s fiddle tunes are sparse and emotive; his playing is renowned for its lyricism, here paired with kaleidascopic harmonies from Mercury-nominated Kit Downes on harmonium and piano, guitarist Sorren Maclean and harpist Esther Swift.

The album 365: Volume 1 was released in May 2018. 365: Volume 2 was released in August 2019.

James’s stories and Aidan’s music now form a touring installation. There are spoken-word recordings of all 365 stories: James reads many himself, and other storytellers include rich and varied accents from artists, actors and young people around Scotland. The installation was commissioned by the Edinburgh International Book Festival supported by Creative Scotland and PRSF, and launches in August 2019 before going on tour. The EIBF describes the project as “a piece about storytelling: about how to tell stories without saying too much.”

Designed by inventor Yann Seznec in collaboration with design team Old School Fabrications, the installation is a piece of art in itself, beautifully crafted from wood and brass with no digital screens in sight. It allows up to six people at a time to browse and listen to the stories and music using headphones, maybe stopping at their birthday or a day with special meaning.

From January 2020, readers can also receive a daily story and tune to be delivered to their email inbox. With no need to buy a CD or book, the 365 Stories and Music will arrive every day free of charge – a daily miniature piece of public art. A son might sign his mum up to receive a tune and short story every day via email. A tourist might fall in love with Scottish fiddle playing. Couples will nod in recognition to one of James’s wise tales; children will get the creeps from his ghost stories, budding composers might feel inspired to create their own 365 day challenge.

This project has grown in ways James Robertson couldn’t have imagined when he began writing his stories. It has become a vast, rich and multiform patchwork of fiction woven with stunning melody – an expansive catalogue of public art whose multimedia format means it can be enjoyed in numerous ways.

You can listen to the releases so far/subscibe here.