A Computer’s Carol

In 2008 James Houston turned Radiohead’s Nude into a dreamy symphony played out by printers and hard drives. This year he’s created Glasgow School of Art’s Christmas e-card: a rewritten version of Carol of the Bells sung by a choir of vintage Macs, a Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum+ and a Sega Megadrive

In 2008 James Houston turned Radiohead’s Nude into a dreamy symphony played out by printers and hard drives. This year he’s created Glasgow School of Art’s Christmas e-card: a rewritten version of Carol of the Bells sung by a choir of vintage Macs, a Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum+1 and a Sega Mega Drive…

For his degree show five years ago, Houston created a video and track remix of Nude entitled Big Ideas, Don’t Get Any (currently on 2m plays on YouTube). Now working in Glasgow as a moving image maker, he was asked to make a new film for the GSA in time for Christmas. Houston decided to use several computerised Christmas gifts of the past which had the ability to synthesise speech – and from which a choir was born.

Houston also approached comedy writers Robert Florence and Philip Larkin to write new lyrics for the chosen carol, which can be read at the bottom of this post (taken from the GSA’s Vimeo page).

In the video the ‘choir’ is positioned as if around a Christmas dinner table and, continuing in the celebration of giving and receiving, Houston also wears a jacket at the beginning which was designed by Alan Moore, a fellow GSA 2008 graduate, and made through Houston’s 1030 studio.

Producer/art dept: Jennifer Hanlon. DOP: David Liddell. Location sound: David McKeitch. Software engineer: John McNulty.

Carol of the Bells remixed

Hail the machines
Sweet old machines

Blow off the dust
wipe off the rust

Christmas has come
Joy is foretold

For those of us
You never sold

Still we are here
Still full of cheer
Just plug us in
It will begin

Hey friend, fear not
Blow in the slot
Solder re-glue
We will come through

Bleep Bloop Beep Bong
hear our sweet song
If none of our
coding is wrong

By the way we remind you that you could
Play with us every day of the year

Just ignore that our casing is all mucky
We’ll still load for you if we are lucky

Friends us and you
Friends we are true
We have nothing
Better to do

But on this day
If you can play
Things from back when…
You’re young again

Phone in your hand
Best in the land
Can’t take you back
To wonderland

But we can bring
Back everything
Just reminisce
Digital bliss

By the way we remind you that you could
Play with us every day of the year

A computer’s not only just for Christmas
Sometimes it’s like you don’t even miss us

Safe to shut down
We mustn’t frown
Our song is done
Loft here we come

Beep beep beep.
Like and retweet.

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