Little Death Orchestra
LDO Track by Track Dedications from the 2002 album by Michael Burdett

Little Death Orchestra (Jodie Foster)

At school when I was about ten, our class was split into groups of six or seven and each group had to write and perform an original piece of music. There were some gifted instrumentalists even at that age. A string ensemble of girls, including one who was a ringer for Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver, created a sweet little number, which had the audience thrilled and proud.

When it came to my turn I had instructed the group, who were playing various percussion instruments, recorders and even an electric guitar to just hit, strum, blow or bang their instruments very gently at first and to slowly build up to a tremendous cacophonous climax. Then, on my signal, to start decreasing the volume until the sound died away to nothing. So what you had was three or four minutes of slowly building noise then a deafening roar and then the music dying away paying no attention to key or notation. The audience looked frightened but clapped anyway. "That was interesting, Michael" said the music teacher Mrs. Guest, "and what was that called?" "That," I said proudly, "was called Monster Coming And Then Going Away."

I think ever since then in my professional life I have been trying to recreate that piece. By way of homage Little Death Orchestra and The Nothing Room come quite close to that construction idea. As for the real Jodie Foster, I decided at a fairly early age that if we were ever to meet she would have loved me. I wasn't obsessed you understand. I mean I wouldn't have tried to kill a world leader over her. Just obsessed enough to dedicate this piece to her and the girl in the string ensemble.

Tiny crescent sun (Michael Collins)

Can you imagine flying to the moon in 1969 with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and not actually setting foot on the surface? I'm sure a lot has been said about this before, but Collins' name is barely remembered. He more than anybody deserves a melancholy piece of music dedicated to him. I play three piano parts on this track. I tried to get Collins in to play one of the simple piano parts - that would have been a coup! Actually I should have asked Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins into the studio, taught two of the parts to Armstrong and Aldrin, played the other myself, and left Collins in the corridor outside to make tea.

Putti in my hands (John Betjeman)

I was brought up in Ruislip in the suburbs of Metroland and all of my memories of that time seem to be in black and white. I skipped everywhere and distinctly remember that all of the workers who boarded the train in the morning with my Father wore bowler hats. This piece is all about the innocence of youth. Locally this was interrupted, when it was discovered that a couple down the road were Russian spies. To my childish mind this always meant machine-gun-clad-Cossack-hat-wearing baddies, which is reflected in the piece. In fact the Krogers, despite everything, seemed to be a nice elderly couple who regularly treated local kids to birthday gifts and sweets.

The talcum bride

For five days I was trapped in my cottage in Wales by snow. All that I could see out of the windows was the river flowing through a Narnia-like winter wonderland. I started writing precisely what I could see. I don't know exactly what it is about this track but listening to it takes me right back to The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway by Genesis and how I used to feel when I first heard it. This track has a dedication but I'm reluctant to name them.

The wintering (Buddy Rich)

When I was thirteen my brother and I were bought tickets to go and see Buddy Rich at Ronnie Scott's, but the day of the gig I was rushed into hospital, so I never got to see him playing. What rankled most is that whilst I was in hospital that night, young and afraid, my brother still got to see the legendary jazz drummer and gave my ticket to one of his friends who was a big Jethro Tull fan. I stayed in hospital quite a few weeks. I was in a big ward with lots of old guys and as fast as I would befriend them, they would die. I dreaded waking up in the morning to see whose bed was empty and freshly laundered, although I did win the ward sweepstake on a guy in one of the end beds by guessing his death time within eighteen minutes.

Ironically I was at Ronnie Scott's the other day and I recounted this story to my table, letting them know exactly how hip I was for having tickets to the club back in my early teens, when one of my party pointed at a photo of Buddy Rich on the wall directly next to our table. The caption underneath displayed the exact date of my admittance into hospital, spooky! This track was originally written for a contemporary dance group and for me it completely encapsulates how my life felt during that time in hospital. I still find it tough to listen to. It took a lot of effort to finish this piece. But I am relatively soft.

Just for a while we thought we were French (Nick Drake)

Working away in the cottage, writing very personal music, was starting to take its toll by this point. I was having terrible trouble with this melancholy little number and taking part in every displacement tactic known to the depressed man. I had rigged up an old Revox tape machine and was listening to some of my collection of old tapes. One was a copy of Cello Song by Nick Drake which had been in my collection for over twenty years. I'd never played it. It's main attraction to me being that it seemed to be inscribed by Nick on the box. When I put it on in the cottage I realised that this was a version that I had never heard before. It had a darker approach with the strings and a different sounding guitar part and then Nick's pure, sweet, unmistakable voice soaring over the top. Quite genuinely I was in heaven. Alone in this remote cottage I was probably the first person to hear this long forgotten version for nearly thirty years. It did make me stop and think about Nick and his ability to self- destruct and about what I was going through and it acted like a wake up call to keep going.

The nothing room (Steven Hawking)

Years ago I had a girlfriend who was part of a big family and on my first visit to her parent's large house everybody kept mentioning a room upstairs which they all seemed to refer to very naturally as the Nothing Room. Sitting in their kitchen whilst it was suggested that I slept in the Nothing Room that night I can still recall exactly how bizarre it felt. Apparently when all the kids were little they had had some debate as to what this room should be called, as it was used as a study, a playroom, a laundry room as well as a spare bedroom. Somehow the Nothing Room just stuck. I went there last Christmas and now those children have children and they seem at ease with the room's name.

Shudder (Jack Hargreaves)

Numerous dance companies have performed to this track. It has even reared its head minus the whispering on a series of relaxation tapes, which I find entirely strange because I can feel my whole body tense every time I hear it. Over three straight days we winged the overdubs in the studio with Cottle and Hanhart mixing as we went. These were possibly three of the toughest days we spent on the album, as it is an incredibly draining track to listen to over and over and over again. I am convinced you can tell a lot about someone's character depending on how they react to this track. Some find it menacing and some find it soporific. That's why I have dedicated it to the late, great Jack Hargreaves.

Six hands in transit (David Saunders)

When I was in my teens I was involved in a car crash. Not a bad one, but it was the result of road rage. We had accidentally cut up a car at a roundabout and the driver of the car chased us, overtook us and braked, so we collided. He got out of his car shouting, "Do you know who I am?" We didn't. He pointed at the newspaper folded on our dashboard and said, "Oh, you've a tabloid. Don't you read broadsheets?" We were kind of at a loss. He was very posh-sounding although he was driving a fairly decrepit old car. It turned out that he was The Cycling Correspondent of The Daily Telegraph. I often think back to that guy's sense of self and admire him for it. Some years later I read about his death in a car crash.

Gibraltar syndrome (John Le Mesurier)

I cannot possibly divulge what this track is all about but I will tell you why it is dedicated to John Le Mesurier. He once smoked dope at a BAFTA ceremony, liked jazz, and married Hatti Jacques. What a guy.

This and that way (Sacha Baron Cohen)

I always imagine two old cleaners looking like Scatman Crowthers sitting down at adjoining grand pianos after hours at a smoky club when they should have been emptying ashtrays, just jamming and nodding appreciatively at each other, and knocking out this tune.

Cough suite (The Man From Porlock)

In my early days in Wales I found myself in a pub where every week folk musicians would gather and play. A lone guitarist started playing what sounded like an English Civil War song. It was incredibly moving and one by one other musicians joined in with the chorus, which was plaintive and melancholy, until it seemed to me the whole pub was joining in. I was so moved by the ethereal quality of the event in this predominantly Welsh-speaking area that I was frightened that I was going to burst, scream and break the moment, like the man from Porlock. But I didn't. Instead I went back to the cottage, stole the structural idea of the piece, interrupted it in the middle with a cough, and called it the Cough Suite.