Saturday, 7 January 2017

Beyond the street lamps: The music of Richard Skelton.

What we revere in nature is not always natural. Fells blasted and quarried, grazed and shorn of trees.

How we see this world is not always as it is. We see something better than the sprawl and depravity of the city but nature is not some moral agent, not some harmonious balance.

Nature is a story of starvation, of disease, of territory and scavengers​. It is a story of flux. A story of tiny details and ugly beauty, of burrowing insects and fungus, of lichen and larvae.

There is nothing bucolic or idyllic about the fellside in the dark. The carcass of some creature lurking in the heather, stripped clean in a matter of days by the brutal ecosystem.

There are countless artists who make their mark in the world of 'darkness' imbuing the world with a presence of some kind of looming evil.

There are many who find their expression creating a sense of the 'light' giving the world a sense of optimism or beauty.

There are fewer who can record the world in such a way that it just is. Skelton sculpts vast soundscapes which evoke the soul cleansing majesty of landscapes like the West Pennine Moors and the quieter, wilder parts of Cumbria. Crucially though, he does this without recourse to sentiment and he captures both the light and shade.

Think the sheer primal delight of a mountain stream and the scent of thousands of tiny flowers but think also of the, plunge, grip and kill of the falcon, beak hungrily ripping life from bone or the vast expanse of nothingness swept by squall of icy rain or beset by a freezing, cloaking fog.

These landscapes may not be natural but they are something primal, something entirely separate from the faddish temporary fetishism of city life. There is something intrinsically timeless at least from our fragile human perspective of a landscape where the main physical features were moved by the last ice age.

In the glacial shifts of Skelton's music there is something beyond words, something that is almost (perhaps there is no need for the tentative qualifier almost) elemental. It is true. It is a music which speaks of life outside the narratives we construct to distract ourselves from the essential reality of life. It is the sound from the darkness beyond streetlights. If that sounds unwelcoming, ponder that the streetlights blind us from see seeing the stars. If we cannot gaze at the stars, how can we know who we are?

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