Fires of the Earth

A radiophonous composition by Werner Cee

Produced by: Südwestrundfunk, 2012
Radio Editor: Manfred Hess.

Based on the records by Jón Steingrímsson from 1784

„I watched the convulsions of the underground fires myself, and others know of them as well. They began with the earth heaving upwards, with a great screaming and noise of wind from its depths, then splitting asunder, ripping and tearing, as if a crazed animal were tearing something apart. (…)

In 1783, the Icelandic Laki volcano erupted, opening craters, creating huge explosions. Over the following eight months, the vulcano spewed sulphuric aerosols; their dispersion had dramatic consequences for life on Iceland. Jon Steingrímsson, parson in the affected area, recorded the events in writing.
Steingrímsson was not a scientist, but a godly man. His descriptions hold an archaic force, evoking biblical images, bleak , archetypical, sequences, reminding of old paintings, dismal and still beautiful.

All of us agreed, that the howl was coming from below, many hundred yards down under the ground, and gradually rising up under the house, its strength ebbing as it came closer, until it came to an end just under the floor on which I was standing. (…) Now I realised that all these sounds were of natural origin.“

The text conveys deep faith in the world ́s purpose, of being an integral part of the world, in the existence of a greater context. even as apocalypse seems to become reality. Similar to a gallery of ancient paintings, these dark, romantic sound paintings bring us, in their bleak beauty, news from times long gone.

For his international production entitled „Fires of the Earth“, Werner Cee invited several well-known musicians to react in musical terms on this text, this description of a historic natural disaster. Multiple studio sessions produced the rough sound material for the piece. It was from this material that Werner Cee composed a series of seven individual tableaus, a sequence of sounding images, scenes following the chronological course of events.

Fires of the Earth on Soundcloud



Freddie Wadling, voice,
from Göteborg, Sweden

Freddie Wadling has been called ”The best rock voice in Sweden” so many times that it could be regarded as a standing epithet, and in that case a well-deserved one. No one else has his ability to express velvety softness one moment, only to explode into ragged bursts of steel wool growling the next, or to contrast heartfelt vulnerability with bleeding chunks of underground darkness. A few notes from this peculiar, bizarrely beautiful voice convince the listener that Freddie’s life has not been one of ease and happiness, and that the pain he conveys is the real deal.

Stian Westerhus, guit,
from Oslo, Norway

Dirty, physical music that never lets you forget that at the heart of it is a human being playing a slab of wood with some strings on it.
Stian’s 2010 solo CD on Rune Grammofon Pitch Black Star Spangled brought out some interesting phrases in reviews: critics wrote about “anguished howls”, “forlorn melodies”, the “hiss and crackle of amps and pick-ups” and a “darkly beautiful experience”.

On stage Stian comes across as a fiercely uncompromising musician, totally in control of his instrument and his musical vision, unafraid to challenge himself and his audience.

Michael Wertmüller,
drumset / orchestral percussion, Berlin/Switzerland

Michael Wertmueller ́s music is, on the one hand, full of raw power, on the other, speculative. The drummer, who is strongly physical and sensual in his performing, has been drilled from his (good!) education in complex time processes.. On the one hand, latently linked to tradition, even weirdly a native in Switzerland, on the other hand (painfully?) settled in the computer world and in extremely technological procedures. On the one hand, secretly romantic, also as a jazz musician and in life: on the other hand, working with the most modern material.

Werner Cee, E-Chin/ Electronics:

Werner Cee’s e-ch’in displays an extraordinarily wide range of sounds. Drones are constantly oscillating, changing in timbre, structure, atmosphere, emotion. Again, generation merges with decomposition. In this sound world, distinction between tonal sound, noise, orchestral music, musique concrète, pop or avantgarde, din or trash is no longer relevant.


The radio piece Fires of the Earth is based on the records by Jón Steingrímsson of the same title. Translated from Icelandic into English by Keneva Kunz.
Text editing: Bettina Obrecht, Werner Cee
Music recordings: SWR Baden Baden.

Voice recordings: Svenska Grammofon Studion, Göteborg

Editing and Mixing: Prophetenmühle Productions, Werner Cee.

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Context information:

SWR Hörspiel


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