A Great Body Rising and Falling and Another Hand are a pair of 24-minute pieces that accompany a new multi-media work by Richard Skelton. Dark Hollow Dark is also a softbound poetry book and a visual venture. Each facet of the experience works in tandem with the other.
The poetry is ritualistic, drawing on mythology and etymology to create a text for rumination and repetition. The iterations of yes are reminiscent of E.E. Cummings’ love is a place and to a lesser extent i thank you God for most this amazing day; the literary undulations recall the studies of Robert Macfarlane; the deliberate use of sevens in word and line connect to the symbolism of worship. In like fashion, the script ~ or shall we say, artistic layers of script ~ implies language and meaning, smudged and written over, abraded and erased, ghosts of cultures and histories crying from the bottom strata for recognition.
Those familiar with Skelton’s music will find the above a perfect match for the artist’s timbres, which are built layer upon layer, time-stretched, smoothed in some places, roughened in others. This music contains a visceral depth that invites one to descend into the sounds like a a rapeller into a cavern. “A Great Body Rising and Falling” sounds like the breath of an ancient creature, the listener unaware that the cavern is alive. The music morphs slowly, in increments. Four major chords dominate this stage but refuse to demand the spotlight, which is ceded to their harmonic accompaniment. If one had the patience to read the poetry one line at a time, connecting each line to a musical phrase, one might approximate a three-dimensional experience.
Another Hand is a different beast, a slow-grower with a clear trajectory. While the undulations remain in play, they increase in volume, as insistent as awareness, creating a space in which they must be heard. One might argue that they represent the weight of the past, demanding tribute, prepared to extract a great toll if ignored. There is nothing mean about this history; if anything, former generations of flora and fauna wish their stories to be heard to ensure the existence of future generations. While it is tempting to read the thickest lines first, or to concentrate on the loudest voices, the key to survival may dwell in lost knowledge and quiet whispers: as Skelton writes, something faintly heard scrawled. Just as the music seems ready to burst, it recedes, giving way to series of meditative chimes ~ some shimmering and others struck ~ suggesting a Buddhist ceremony. At last there is equilibrium, the darkness driven back yet still continuing to hover on the periphery, the brightness with the final word ~ for now. The rest is up to us. Will we study every story in a quest to discover the truth, or will we settle for the stories that are told to us without nuance by the brash, the loud, the insistent? (Richard Allen)