Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Landings

Probably too late now to ask for these for Christmas: the new limited edition LPs of Richard Skelton's Landings... The latest Wire magazine includes a review of the music by Keith Moliné from which I'd like to quote a paragraph (you'll see why): 'All Skelton's work, whether under the name of A Broken Consort, Carousell or Clouwbeck, is intimately connected to the landscape.  He treats the act of creation as a form of site-specific ritual in which the sense of place imprints itself on the work.  Indeed, Landings originally involved a reciprocal arrangement with the land, with Skelton secretly depositing individual CD-Rs back into locations in which the recording had taken place.  Unlike field recordists like Jez riley French, Skelton aims for a distillation of the emotional resonance of a particular locale mediated through instrumental work, rather than recontextualising location sounds as music itself.  His approach is closer to that of the Jewelled Antler Collective's Blithe Sons, whose recordings document the sonic characteristics of their chosen locations by sounding them with the music they improvise.  Skelton's dialogue with the landscape is at once more nebulous - it borders on a weirdly private kind of gestural performance art - and less esoteric; it's geared towards producing personal, emotionally resonant music rather than investigating sonic phenomena.'

The landscape Skelton explores in this work is that of the Pennines, centering on Anglezarke.  In an interview at The Line of Best Fit, Skelton says he "felt compelled to play music in this landscape – I’d get up at 5 or 6am, drive out to the moor and play guitar, violin or concertina in the ruins of old farmhouses, as the morning light began to blush over the moor. ...  I was initially quite dogmatic about making all my Landings recordings in the field. I felt that the connection between the landscape and the music was only valid if the recordings were made in situ. I somehow wanted the landscape to impress itself onto the recordings directly, and felt that simply adding a flavour of the environment (bird song, river sounds etc) to studio recordings would be a kind of trickery. But after a few years of recording in this way, I became increasingly dissatisfied with the results themselves. My memory of events often conflicted wildly with the recorded documents, and what’s more, many of them were marred by the intrusion of unwanted sounds, such as wind or traffic noise."

"I then began to observe how my writing about the landscape wasn’t contingent on proximity, and that, if anything, I could write more clearly when away from the place of inspiration. Increasingly, I began to visit the moor without instruments, simply to experience it. I began to realise that my music making had mediated my previous experiences of the landscape – that in some ways it was an intrusion, and that I needed to witness these places alone, devoid of the props of my art. Furthermore, I realised that I could still represent Anglezarke in my recordings – in miniature, by using the small stones, bark and other natural ephemera which I’d collected from my previous visits. These things could act as a synecdoche for the landscape, as well as physically colluding with my instruments, by being used as plectra, or as sound sources in their own right."

The accompanying book, described on Skelton's website, 'is a loose-fitting collection of writings that obliquely articulate ideas about memory, mark making, proximity and loss, a sense of place and the landscape (its voices, history and folklore). Along with diary entries, the book gathers together word lists, poetry and prose fragments from 2004 to 2008'  He includes a sample chapter - from which I've extracted a few lines below:

The shifting half-light briefly traces ghost tracks across the fields. I
look out towards Alance Bridge and the mouth of the Yarrow, retracing
its course back up the tree-lined channel towards Anglezarke
Moor. And somewhere far up there. Beyond sight. Old Rachel’s.

I suffuse this place with the sounds recorded at that ruin, near the
head of the river, many months ago.

Stones dislodged from a bitter and brittle dam.
A well of music and memory.
Alluvium and fragments of melody.
Stirring in the still water.
Finally flowing downstream.

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