Forma

The Miners' Hymns

The Miners' Hymns is an homage to the coal mining history of the north east of England and was the first collaboration between renowned American multimedia artist Bill Morrison and the late Icelandic musician and composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. 

Using rarely-seen archival footage of Durham and its coalfield, The Miners’ Hymns celebrates the social, cultural, and political aspects of an extinct industry. Structured around a series of activities, including the hardship of pit work, the role of Trade Unions in fighting for workers’ rights, the annual Miners’ Gala, and the pitched battles with the police during the 1984 strike, the film cuts between footage spanning 100 years. While almost entirely composed of black and white archival footage, the film also includes two contemporary sequences in colour, shot from a helicopter hovering over the sites of former collieries, now rendered invisible and replaced by temples of modern leisure and consumerism.

Jóhann Jóhannsson’s exquisite composition for the film draws upon the brass music tradition that was so intertwined with mining communities in the United Kingdom and adds an emotional, and at times visceral, weight to the archival imagery collected by Morrison. 

“Elegant, elegiac... enthralling” – New York Times

“With Jóhannsson’s gorgeous score providing mournful counterpoint to the visual world Morrison has both revived and created anew, The Miners’ Hymns leaves the audience with the ineffable sense of being between times, landscapes and emotions. True to the sacramental suggestion of the film’s title, the feeling is a lot like prayer” – The Washington Post


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The Miners' Hymns

Bill Morrison and Jóhann Jóhannsson

The Miners' Hymns is an homage to the coal mining history of the north east of England and was the first collaboration between renowned American multimedia artist Bill Morrison and the late Icelandic musician and composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. 

Using rarely-seen archival footage of Durham and its coalfield, The Miners’ Hymns celebrates the social, cultural, and political aspects of an extinct industry. Structured around a series of activities, including the hardship of pit work, the role of Trade Unions in fighting for workers’ rights, the annual Miners’ Gala, and the pitched battles with the police during the 1984 strike, the film cuts between footage spanning 100 years. While almost entirely composed of black and white archival footage, the film also includes two contemporary sequences in colour, shot from a helicopter hovering over the sites of former collieries, now rendered invisible and replaced by temples of modern leisure and consumerism.

Jóhann Jóhannsson’s exquisite composition for the film draws upon the brass music tradition that was so intertwined with mining communities in the United Kingdom and adds an emotional, and at times visceral, weight to the archival imagery collected by Morrison. 

“Elegant, elegiac... enthralling” – New York Times

“With Jóhannsson’s gorgeous score providing mournful counterpoint to the visual world Morrison has both revived and created anew, The Miners’ Hymns leaves the audience with the ineffable sense of being between times, landscapes and emotions. True to the sacramental suggestion of the film’s title, the feeling is a lot like prayer” – The Washington Post

Dates

  • 2015

    Rolduc Abbey, Kerkrade, Netherlands

  • 2014

    UCLA, Los Angeles, USA
    University of Denver, Colarado, USA
    Virginia Tech, Virginia, USA
    Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Barbican Centre, London, UK
    Sage Gateshead, UK
    Easington Social Welfare Centre, Durham, UK
    Iceland Airwaves, Reykjavík, Iceland

  • 2013

    Flanders Festival, Kortrijk, Belgium

  • 2012

    Ghent Festival of Flanders, Belgium

  • 2010

    BRASS: Durham International Festival, Durham, UK

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Performance of Bill Morrison and Jóhann Jóhannsson's The Miners' Hymns at BRASS: Durham International Festival, Durham, UK, 2010

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Bill Morrison and Jóhann Jóhannsson, The Miners' Hymns 2010 (still)​

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Bill Morrison and Jóhann Jóhannsson, The Miners' Hymns 2010 (still)​

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Performance of Bill Morrison and Jóhann Jóhannsson's The Miners' Hymns at Iceland Airwaves, Reykjavik, Iceland, 2014. Photo: Alexander Matukhno

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Bill Morrison and Jóhann Jóhannsson, The Miners' Hymns 2010 (still)​

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Bill Morrison and Jóhann Jóhannsson, The Miners' Hymns 2010 (still)​

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Performance of Bill Morrison and Jóhann Jóhannsson's The Miners' Hymns at Easington Social Welfare Centre, Durham, UK​, 2014

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Bill Morrison and Jóhann Jóhannsson, The Miners' Hymns 2010 (still)​

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The Miners’ Hymns was created by Bill Morrison and Jóhann Jóhannsson in 2010. Produced by Forma. Commissioned by BRASS: Durham International Festival 2010. Supported by Durham County Council, Arts Council England, British Film Institute, One North East, Northern Film + Media and the UK Film Council’s Digital Film Archive Fund supported by the National Lottery.

Bill Morrison is an American filmmaker and artist based in New York. His work often makes use of rare archival footage in which forgotten film imagery is reframed as part of our collective mythology. Over the past twenty years, Morrison has built a filmography of more than thirty projects presented worldwide, collaborating with composers including John Adams, Gavin Bryars, Bill Frisell, and Steve Reich. Morrison's films are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Nederlands Filmmuseum, and The Library of Congress. He is a Guggenheim fellow and has received the Alpert Award for the Arts, an NEA Creativity Grant, a Creative Capital grant, and a fellowship from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.

Jóhann Jóhannsson was an award-winning Icelandic composer, musician and producer whose work blends electronics with classical orchestrations, influenced by minimalism, the Baroque, and drone-based and electro-acoustic music. In 2016, Jóhannsson released his solo album Orphee, and his works in film include original scores for Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, Sicrario and Arrival, as well as the Golden Globe winning original score for James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything.

Press


An Industry Beneath The Surface
, New York Times, 7 February 2012

Ann Hornaday reviews Bill Morrison’s ‘The Miners’ Hymns’, The Washington Post, 15 June 2012

The Miners' Hymns review – a rich seam of music and mine, The Guardian, 16 March 2014


Background image: Bill Morrison and Jóhann Jóhannsson, The Miners' Hymns 2010 (still)