Richard Skelton and the Elysian Quartet

Participants: Elysian Quartet, Richard Skelton

Series: Faster Than Sound

Ideas explored: developing new work, music influenced by current events

Richard Skelton composes work specific to geographic place, using local place names to create word poem threads for visual, text and musical pieces. His work is almost never performed live but for Faster Than Sound, Skelton will draw on the inspirational environment of Snape and its surrounding landscape to weave a new narrative, performable live by ensemble and exploring an entirely different sound world.

In December 2013, Richard visited Snape for the first time to develop his knowledge and feel for the place. The visit coincided with the worst tidal surge in 50 years, an event that left much of the surrounding countryside flooded, and gave him much to reflect on, some of which he shared in this blog post on his landings site.

He currently lives not far from the Duddon Estuary, in Cumbria, and his experiences of mountain ‘becks’ and ‘ghylls’ inspired his 2012 work, Limnology – a musical composition and book containing poetic arrangements of over 1,000 ‘water-words’, beginning with the local dialect and taking on tributaries from Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, Welsh, Manx, Gaelic and Irish.

Continuing this theme, Richard will be incorporating East-Anglian water-words into a new work – part poetic text, part musical score – to be interpreted and performed at Snape by Elysian Quartet. He will also be working directly with the quartet to enable them to evolve a musical vocabulary that engages with the floral and avian life of the Alde Estuary, resulting in a piece which draws connecting threads between the earth-bound and air-borne. Finally, if time permits, he will also be asking the quartet to respond to a series of drawings he made at Snape during the floods of December, 2013.

‘If Skelton were any more eager to share the rural world that inspires his music, he’d be dragging his instruments through your front door, his boots trailing moorland mud across your carpet.’
- The Wire