In late 2008, Autumn Richardson & Richard Skelton first encountered the landscape of Ulpha, in south-west Cumbria, UK. They were travelling along the Lake District’s lonelier roads on route to Scotland, through the backcountry between the Irish sea and the high peaks of Great Gable and Scafell – a region of crags and scars, acres of bracken, grassland and bogs, scattered with remnants of prehistoric settlements. They returned to the area in 2009, spending four months writing and recording sense impressions of the landscape, whilst researching its natural history and toponymy. The results of these endeavours were published in early 2011, as a series of texts, artefacts and musical recordings entitled Wolf Notes.
In late 2011 the artists returned to Cumbria once more, retracing their earlier footsteps and uncovering new pathways, contours, lines of thought and melody. Two years later, their accumulated experiences of the landscape have been distilled into a new collection of musical compositions, and a further series of texts and artefacts. The new work is particularly informed by the work of ecologists and palynologists, who, by analysing the occurrence of pollen in sediment layers, are able to construct an incredibly rich and profoundly beautiful narrative of plant succession over millennia, detailing the plant genera that slowly repopulated the post-glacial wasteland, eventually forming vast expanses of woodland before the arrival of early human settlers.
The sense created by these ecological records is of an environment in constant flux, perpetually in transition from one state to another. They also act as a reminder that the present state of the landscape is an accretion of its own pasts, deposited in skin-like layers, each sloughed in the process of transformation. The landscape therefore appears, not as a singular entity, but a multiplicity of different incarnations, each successively overlaid on the last.
It is this idea of multiplicity that inspired Autumn and Richard to transform the music of Wolf Notes – to reveal another hidden landscape within its own harmonic strata. Hence Succession is drawn entirely from the recordings the duo first made on visiting Ulpha, in early 2009. The process of recovering these fragments and threading them into song is analogous to the work of palynologists, reconstructing images of past landscape ecologies from the layers of sediment. It is a kind of archaeology, a work of archivism.
Taken together, the music of Succession and the accompanying publications constitute a sustained engagement with a particular landscape, and a deepening of the work started with Wolf Notes.
Succession is available as a music CD, and a special edition, which includes the pamphlets Relics, Wolfhou, and the otherwise unavailable A List of Probable Flora.
It is published by Corbel Stone Press on the 16th of September, 2013.