Making lullabies with Hubbub | Holly Pester

The Lullaby Workshops have brought together members of Hubbub including poets, artists, sociologists, cultural historians and composers to collaborate in devising an expanded field for what might be thought of as a lullaby.

What and who do lullabies represent in culture? Through personal testimony and intuitive research we saw these cradle songs as portraits of socio-economic conditions of the time in which they were sung, which often reflect the roles and work of family members at that time. We shared lullabies that represented the gendered histories of the social factory; ‘Father’s gone a hunting/fishing/drinking’, ‘go to sleep so I can clean/mend/cook dumplings for you’, etc. We shared lullabies that contained a threat, a curse or a prayer. We shared dark lullabies of horror and anxiety, as well as ones of material promise and market cure. Each one contained a folk memory that showed us the scene of two bodies in isolation, yet also pointed towards a trans-historical network of sailors, traders, drinkers, domestic workers, sleepers and nomads.

We thought about the contemporary condition of labourers and their dependents, and we thought about what our fully-grown bodies would need from a song that could transfer us into a rest state. In the Lullaby Workshop we are parents, workers, artists, academics; people with privilege in the neo-liberal context we sing from, which must be recognised in our relationship with work and its converses. Through our collaborative workshops we ultimately considered the lullaby as a scene of bodies standing, swaying, rocking and reclining in relation to one another.

Definitions of this expanded notion of lullaby have ranged from:

A (mother’s) work song
A rhythmical sonic object that moves two bodies towards a “compromise of tensions”
A protest song
A radical refusal
An act of affective labour
A gift
An anti-work song
A technology
A machine
A folk art

Our method of research was to scout for materials, in and around the cultural field of cradlesongs and improvise through our mostly non-expert use of song and vocal experiment. We took text from works of historical scholarship, lines from our childhood memories and consumer feedback relating to a modern sleep aid for babies. Through this practice we developed knowledge and understanding, as well as a community of voices around fragments of text. We employed concepts and poetics of exhaustion, harmony, repetition and chorality.

We have collected the recordings, and left them in a state of raw edits, with our laughter, errors and general unravelling maintained in the audio. The sound files will be installed in the Hubbub Late on September 4th, and titled ‘Workshop Lullabies’ to maintain the integrity of the work-in-process nature, as well as our resistance to claim any definitive idea of the lullaby; something so plural and largely outside official cultural histories.

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