One Pig

Matthew Herbert's latest creation tracks the sonic life of a pig from birth to butcher


You can always count on Matthew Herbert. The counter-cultural electronic music icon has done a lot with his talent, uncompromising ear, and dedication to using found sounds in his music. Composed entirely of sounds sourced from the life and death of a British pig, One Pig is the artist’s most recent (and most controversial) album. Most of the buzz surrounding the release came from outraged animal rights activists who saw the album as an affront to their cause, but considering Herbert’s no-nonsense approach to social responsibility the criticism may be unwarranted. Rather than exploiting the gruesome process with the album Herbert’s music gives voice to something we don’t hear enough from: Our food.

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The album starts in August 2009 with the birth of the pig and follows its life until slaughter 24 weeks later. One Pig doesn’t feature sounds from the slaughter—a stipulation in the country’s food laws prevented Herbert from recording the event—but it does include noises from the butchering and the subsequent meal. Unique to the album is a host of instruments made from pig parts, including a drum made of the flesh, bones used as percussion instruments, and a one-of-a-kind creation that makes notes by forcing pig’s blood through tuned reeds.

Concept art like One Pig is often misguided, sacrificing art for shock and intrigue. One Pig doesn’t. It’s a great album, and Herbert’s vision is able to morph isolated grunts into blissful swine song. It may not be fit for the club scene—particularly August 2010—a track that includes digestive sounds of the final feast, but it’s true art and the kind you should sit down to listen to. To learn more about the artist’s uncompromising approach, check out his manifesto and listen to the album at the Guardian. The above video shows Herbert talking about the project, with footage from the recording, and in case you missed it, here is our video of Herbert from 2007.