NB This extract of In Search Of Captain Cat Of Llareggub starts at Item 42 in the transcription that can be downloaded from the below URL.
In Search of Captain Cat of Llareggub
(duration 25 minutes)
Inspired by the blind fictional character of Captain Tom Cat in Dylan Thomas’ classic BBC radio drama Under Milk Wood, this new radio art work unearths the captain’s secret soundworld that is based both on actual location recordings and constructed dreamscapes. It is a soundworld full of the lyrical, sonic charm of Welsh fishing villages, nuanced from Captain Cat’s melancholic and nostalgic yearning for the past. In a sense we are travelling along sonic pathways into memories that dissolve into acoustic dreams; as in Thomas’ work, ‘the long drowned nuzzle up’ against our ear and tease the living, in this new auditory experience.
In Search of Captain Cat of Llareggub crosses existing borders and genres … it’s a kind of musical work constructed chiefly from sound, but not exactly music concrete, nor is it a radio drama or documentary. It is a sonic painting, infused with the tantalizing echoes of Cardigan Bay (West Wales) and the breath of Dylan Thomas’s Captain Cat. In fact after Douglas Cleverdon produced Under Milk Wood for radio in 1954 he stated that it [Thomas’s work] ‘… has no rules determining what can or cannot be done. And though it may be in dramatic form, it has no need of a dramatic plot’ (British Radio Drama 1981: 9). In a sense Black is exploring this possibility in his new work … it has no rules but the goal of developing a language out of sound, from recordings gathered in Welsh fishing villages on Cardigan Bay. Moreover, it is a hybrid audio work that takes the listener into an exotic and imagined composed soundscape, a space where the sea sings.
Some key elements of this work include radiophonic arrangements of sea shanties sung by Gerald Morgan in Welsh, the traditional folk song “Y Wasgod Goch” [The Red Waistcoat] that tells the story of being haunted by a recently deceased lover, as sung by Mr Robert Pierce Roberts. These arrangements include a heterophonic textural approach where the melody is imperfectly traced (or varied) as an analogous reference to the futility of trying to trace the footsteps of a fictional character. The radiophonic arrangements also include Bach's “Fuga sopra il Magnificat” that has been augmented with a chiefly stratified texture of the sounds of sheep, the sea and a blacksmith at work, to evoke an imaginary soundscape of Llareggub. In addition to these, the work contains location recordings from Thomas’ house in Laugharne [Welsh: Talacharn], and New Quay [Welsh: Cei Newydd] (which are believed to be the inspiration for Under Milk Wood), sparse interviews with locals describing New Quay, Welsh maritime historian David Jenkins describing life at sea, archival recordings from the audiovisual archive at St Fagans, National History Museum including Mary Jane Rees’ interview explaining the Welsh myth of adderstones that are believed to cure blindness, sounds from aboard various ships in motion and other coastal locations in Wales. Finally, an acoustic theme that runs through this work is that, in sonic reality, the boats are heard as beached or docked and tethered by ropes to the quay, or attempting to start their motors. It is only in Captain Cat’s dreams and day-dreams that the boats are free to set sail on his emotional sea of nostalgia.
- radio art