Woodpecker

Young, Nicholas (2018) Woodpecker. Performance.

Abstract

This output is a creative project comprising a song and a film based on the final years of the Cold War. ‘Woodpecker’ is a song about the Duga Over the Horizon radar system, told through an imagined dialogue between the residents of Pripyat and the gay community of San Francisco in the mid 1980s. It works in conjunction with a film that is played during the performance of the song. Research Process: For this project, Young wrote the lyrics, made the film and played the drums. He collaborated with 3 other musicians (The Shops), Janet Holmes (vocals), Alan Holmes (guitar) and Alex Russell (Synthesiser). In 2016, Young visited and climbed the Duga Radio structure, just outside Chernobyl in Ukraine. It was operational during the early to mid 1980s. The film that accompanies the performance of the song is made from photographs Young took at the site. Research insights: The Duga systems broadcast a repetitive tapping noise which led to it being nicknamed by short wave listeners as the ‘Russian Woodpecker’. This tapping sound is sampled in the song. Duga still stands in the 10km exclusion zone just outside the town of Pripyat. It does not appear on any maps. The radar was supposed to detect the launch of American nuclear missiles. After talking to people on the ground on site, Young discovered that the radar system never worked as intended. He also discovered that the Jupiter Radio factory in Pripyat was a cover for a nuclear weapon development site. This is referenced in the song. Dissemination: The song was performed by The Shops at the IASDR Conference 2019 at Manchester Metropolitan University on 2nd September 2019, in front of the accompanying film. R Fest, 5th July 2019, Manchester Club Academy, 28th June 2019, Manchester Night & Day, 19th April 2019, Manchester The Cavern, 7th November 2018, Liverpool Fuel Bar, 29th September 2018, Manchester

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