Show 190: Black Water Brown Water by David Prior

Black Water Brown Water is an evolving sound piece, originally commissioned as a sound walk for the Stourport canal basins in Worcestershire, UK. The basins form an intersection between the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal and the river Severn and the piece is really about the relationship between these two water systems.

My ‘way in’ was the experience of standing on a lock-gate that separates the canal and the river and on one side there was this chaotic, gushing, brown water and on the other, the water was controlled, black and serene. Black Water Brown Water. The piece is based on an imagined dialogue between the great canal engineer James Brindley and Sabrina, Goddess of the river Severn – but in a way it is a dialogue between the two water systems themselves with these two characters giving voice to the myths that represent them.
The language of the work draws heavily on John Milton¹s Comus and to a lesser extent Michael Drayton¹s Poly Olbion, both of which make reference to Sabrina. Additionally, I¹ve taken a lot from the biography of James Brindley – both real and imagined.

In the original walk, visitors pick up an mp3 player and listen to the piece on a small, man-made island that sits between these water systems. This version though has been re-edited specifically for RADIA.


In Black Water Brown Water, the readers were John Hall as James Brindley and Ella Turk-Richards as Sabrina.

The Pieces was commissioned by British Waterways with funds from the Arts Council of England, Arts & Business new partners, Advantage West Midlands, Wyre Forest District Council, Heritage Lottery Fund and Stourport Forward.

Black Water Brown Water was created by David Prior for liminal and this radio mix comes from Sound Art Radio, Dartington.

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