MASTER ROCK by Maria Fusco recorded inside the Ben Cruachan mountain, Scotland

Men work on a tailrace tunnel for Cruachan Power Station, 1963.
Photographer unknown. Courtesy The Herald and Times Group

 

Master Rock – commissioned by Artangel and BBC Radio 4 – is the new project by writer Maria Fusco and inspired by a power station deep inside Ben Cruachan, one of the highest peaks in Western Scotland. A series of live performances in the power station itself will result in the broadcast of this new work on BBC Radio 4 on 17 and 19 October.

Ben Cruachan: a mountain that shares its name with a Celtic battle cry. Excavated by explosive experts known as the tunnel tigers in the 1960s, a hydro-electric power station was built deep inside. Ben Cruachan is one of the highest peaks on the west coast of Scotland. In the early 1960s the “tunnel tigers” blasted their way through the 450 million-year-old granite to hollow out a vast chamber for a new power station. Opened by Queen Elizabeth II in October 1965, Cruachan Power Station was a triumph of brute force and state-of-the-art technology. Storing, and then regenerating at times of high demand, excess energy from the national grid by pumping water up to a reservoir 1000 feet up the mountain into Loch Awe. It remains an important part of the national grid today.

 

Cruachan Reservoir at the top of Ben Cruachan as the dam nears completion.
Image courtesy of The Scotsman Publications Ltd.

 

Since winning a commission from Artangel and BBC Radio 4, Fusco has immersed herself in the history of this extraordinary site, researching the power station’s own archive, talking with the people involved in its creation 50 years ago and making field writings in the site. Master Rock is a result of that work and tells the story of the mountain.

Maria Fusco conceived Master Rock for three voices and live sound from the mountain, composed on site by Olivier Pasquet. Fusco’s narrative gives voice to the ancient granite itself, and to two figures closely involved in the story of Cruachan: John Mulholland, one of the few surviving tunnel tigers, and Elizabeth Falconer, the artist who made a vast mural inside the turbine hall to celebrate the opening of the new power station in such an ancient landscape.

Master Rock is Maria Fusco’s first piece of writing for radio and it is also a book which includes writer’s text and archival photographs. The book is published by Artangel and Book Works in October 2015.

Blast holes in the 450 million year old granite that act as the walls of the power station’s Machine Hall.
Photo by Martin Clark, 2015

 

 

Rough land, open palm. Bodies are machines that shake. Big boned faces, big hands, big claws, ah Jesus, well-used. Bore. Blast. Smash. Force on loan. Must be hard and clever to survive in this technological age. Granite knows the biological. Gods inside the mountain, just plain men outside. Maria Fusco

Master Rock premieres on BBC Radio 4 at 22:15, 17 October, and repeated at 14:15, 19 October 2015.

Fort further informations: ArtAngel, BBC Radio 4

To find out more about Maria Fusco follow this link.