Master Rock

Maria Fusco

Online (originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4)
17 October 2015

Audio: Master Rock

42 minutes 17 seconds
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Conceived as a work for radio, this experimental drama was performed and recorded live inside Cruachan Power Station, almost a mile beneath a reservoir on one of West Scotland’s highest mountains, Ben Cruachan. Half a century ago, explosives experts known as the tunnel tigers blasted their way through the granite rock to make an immense chamber for the power station. Fusing the documentary and lyric, Fusco tells the epic story of the hollowing out of the mountain.

Master Rock incorporates sound composed on site by Olivier Pasquet together with three distinctive voices: Irish actor Lalor Roddy as John Mulholland, one of the few surviving tunnel tigers; poet Denise Riley as Elizabeth Falconer, an amateur artist who made a vast marquetry mural inside the turbine hall; and musician Ceylan Hay as the voice of the ancient granite.

Performances took place over four consecutive days, the first on 15 October 2015, exactly 50 years after the opening of the power station. The first performance was recorded for broadcast and premiered on BBC Radio 4 on 17 October 2015. 

Master Rock is available here, left, to listen to online, it is preceded by a short introduction from the artist. It is also available to stream or download from Soundcloud.

Image: Cruachan Power Station during the inaugural performance of Master Rock, 15 October 2015. Photograph: Robert Ormerod

Video: Ben Cruachan

37 seconds
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Ben Cruachan: The Hollow Mountain

Ben Cruachan, a mountain that shares its name with a Celtic battle cry, is one of the highest peaks on the west coast of Scotland.

Its 450 million-year-old granite was excavated by explosive experts, hollowing out a vast chamber in which to build a hydro-electric power station, accessible today via a kilometre-long tunnel.

Opened by Queen Elizabeth II in October 1965, Cruachan Power Station pumps water from Loch Awe to a reservoir more than 1000 feet up the mountain.

A radio documentary on Ben Cruachan Power Station, Inside the Rock, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 prior to their broadcast of Master Rock in October 2015. The documentary includes interviews with the artist, Maria Fusco and some of the individuals who inspired her characters in Master Rock, including the mural artist Elizabeth Falconer. Available to listen again on the BBC's website.

Talk: Maria Fusco in conversation with Joanna Walsh

41 minutes 20 seconds
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Talk: Maria Fusco in conversation with Joanna Walsh

To coincide with the London launch of Maria Fusco's book Master Rock, the writer was joined in conversation with fellow author Joanna Walsh. Exploring a range of issues including the importance of site, the space of radio, and writing for voices, Fusco and Walsh's conversation is interspersed with short excerpts featuring the different voices in Master Rock.

In association with Artangel and Book Works, the event was presented as part of Cutting an Object Into Slices: A Series of Lectures on Creative Critical Writing organised by Dr. Kristen Kreider for the Practice-based PhD Programme at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Recorded in Swedenborg Hall at the Swedenborg Society London, on Wednesday May 4 2016. Audio produced by Chalk & Blade

The talk is is also available to listen to on Soundcloud.

Image: Cruachan Power Station at the inaugural performance of Master Rock, 15 October 2015. Photograph: Robert Ormerod


About Maria Fusco

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Maria Fusco

Maria Fusco was selected as part of the 2014 Open call for proposals from Artangel and BBC Radio 4 and as a result produced Master Rock in 2015.

Fusco is a Belfast-born writer now based in Glasgow. She works across an interdisciplinary field of writing including fiction, criticism and theory, her work is translated into ten languages. Solo-authored books include With A Bao A Qu: Reading When Attitudes Become Form (Los Angeles/Vancouver: New Documents, 2013), GONDA (Berlin/New York: Sternberg Press, 2012), and The Mechanical Copula (Berlin/New York: Sternberg Press, 2011).

She is the founder/editor of The Happy Hypocrite, a journal for and about experimental writing and was Director of Art Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. She was the inaugural Writer-in-Residence at Whitechapel Gallery, is a Hawthornden Fellow, was awarded as a Jerwood Creative Catalyst and named as one of Canongate's Future 40. She is currently Professor at Northumbria University, Visiting Professor at Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach am Main, Frankfurt (2018-2021) and Research Fellow at Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam.

Find out more about Fusco's work on her website:

Images: (left) Maria Fusco during the production of Master Rock, September 2015. Photograph: Martin Clark; (above) Maria Fusco by Ross Fraser McLean / StudioRoR.


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Fusco's interpretation...activates archetypes, rendering the construction of the station and its channelling of the elements as a primal confrontation with embodied forces. – David Keenan, The Wire, February 2016

Selected Press

Fusco's interpretation...activates archetypes, rendering the construction of the station and its channelling of the elements as a primal confrontation with embodied forces. – David Keenan, The Wire, February 2016

At the heart of Fusco’s radio play is the question of the unseen. Cruachan is all but invisible to the external eye but the mountain conceals a turbine hall the size of a football pitch and a 19km network of tunnels and pipes. – Moira Jeffrey, a-n, 16 October 2015

The following words explore how accent and dialect might be shaped by physical forces and how, within Master Rock, they become solid and abrasive through the actors’ delivery...The voice of the granite is multi-layered, musical, and sounds like a force grappling to harmonise many voices. – Claire Walsh, Map Magazine, 11 December 2015

They continue to work... their voices, notionally independent yet in concert, knead, manipulate and tease out something unfinished. – James Gormley, This Is Tomorrow, 22 December 2015

“Is it possible to shape that which you haven’t seen?” Fusco asks us. Master Rock is about the conundrum of the unseen and the unseeable and thus also about the urgent telling of hidden histories. – Moira Jeffrey, The Scotsman, 16 October 2015

Book: Master Rock

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Master Rock

£12.00 from Book Works

Never pass one conversation the whole time we are down here. Haven't a spare breath except for work. Can't even hear so much as ourselves breathing. Effing and blinding, and worse even the whole time but. Do you know how we know that? We'll tell you how we know that, for drilling up close we can see by the way mouths move. Drilling's our conversation. – John Mulholland, tunnel tiger, in Master Rock

This book comprises extracts from the script of the radio production alongside extensive archival imagery.

  • Co-published by Artangel and Book Works, as part of Co-series, No. 11
  • Designed by A Practice for Everyday Life
  • Edition of 1,250, 92pp
  • Duotone
  • Hard cover
  • 210 x 135 mm
  • ISBN: 9781906012748

Production Credits

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Production Credits

Written and directed by Maria Fusco

Composition by Olivier Pasquet

Performed by Denise Riley as the voice of Elizabeth Falconer, Lalor Roddy as the voice of the tunnel tiger and Ceylan Hay as the voice of the granite

Project Manager: Sinéad McCarthy
Production Manager: Nick Millar
Lighting Designer: Nich Smith
Stage Manager: Carrie Taylor
Sound Engineer: Alex McNutt
Lighting Engineer: Grahame Gardner
Rigging: Kevin Murray

Produced for BBC Radio 4 by Somethin' Else
Producer: Joby Waldman
Sound Engineer: Eloise Whitmore


Olivier Pasquet is a composer, music producer and visual artist currently based in Berlin and Paris, where he has been part of the IRCAM team at the Pompidou Centre for the past 15 years.  

Professor Denise Riley was born in 1948 in Carlisle. She is Professor of the History of Ideas and of Poetry at the University of East Anglia and an author of both poetry and philosophical works.

Lalor Roddy was born in 1954 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He is an actor, known for Hunger (2008), Grabbers (2012 and The 18th Electricity Plan (2006).

Ceylan Hay is a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, currently studying for a Masters in Music at University of Edinburgh. 

Image: Olivier Pasquet (left) at the sound desk during the inaugural performance of Master Rock, 15 October 2015. Photograph: Robert Ormerod


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Who made this possible?


Commissioned by Artangel and BBC Radio 4, presented in association with Scottish Power, and supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland.

Artangel is generously supported by Arts Council England and the private patronage of the Artangel International Circle, Special Angels and The Company of Angels.