Floating Limb

Floating Limb is a hub for the various projects of Oli Barrett.

Three pieces named for three people alleged to have been the executioner of King Charles I. The execution of King Charles I in 1649 was the defining act of the English Civil War, resulting in a temporary abolition of the monarchy and symbolising a significant step towards potential democracy in this country (one day, maybe). The identity of Charles I's executioner has never definitively been proved, as the executioner and his assistant wore face masks and wigs in order to avoid identification. Numerous people have been alleged to have carried out the act (including, implausibly, Oliver Cromwell himself) but there is no overall consensus. I've chosen two of the likeliest candidates - Captain William Hulet and Richard Brandon, who was the common hangman at the time - as well as one fringe candidate, parliamentarian soldier William Walker, who confessed to carrying out the execution several times and who has the same name as the Victorian diver that I previously devoted an entire album to; a coincidence too large to ignore. I'm not condoning murder, obviously. But it would have been nice if the royals had taken the hint in 1649. "We fought for the public good and would have enfranchised the people and secured the welfare of the whole groaning creation, if the nation had not more delighted in servitude than in freedom." - Prosecutor of Charles I, John Cook, shortly before his execution for "high treason" following the restoration of the monarchy with Charles II in 1660.

Three Royal Headsmen – Sphagnum Moss

A piece, split into four parts, attempting to imagine and evoke the interior world of a Common Swift (apus apus) in its first four years of life. After dropping from its nest and taking its first flight, a swift will spend this period almost entirely airborne, going months or years at a time without ever landing and then only briefly. Feeding and even sleeping in flight, swifts will only come back down for an extended period when they are old enough to mate. Even after this point, the vast remainder of their lives will be spent in the air, during which time they can travel over a million kilometres. I’ve always loved swifts, but they’ve held special meaning for me ever since I moved into my current flat in North Somerset a few years ago and realised that some were nesting in the roof here. Not three feet from my desk where I wrote and recorded this piece, I can hear them shuffling and rustling above me in the early summer. Seeing them scream and swoop overhead with seemingly boundless freedom for a couple of months of the year is one of my favourite things about living where I do. Common swifts spend most of the year in Africa, arriving back in the UK and across the rest of Northern Europe in late April / early May to breed and raise chicks. I started writing and recording this album when they left at the start of August in 2022, with the aim of finishing it by the time they returned. I heard my first swift of the year last week, so I think I just about managed it.

Four Years on the Wing – Oliver Barrett