The Observers is an audio novella written and produced by Richard Paul. It is narrated by Charles Nove, underpinned by a selection of motifs based on Schubert’s Winterreise, played on the hurdy-gurdy by Clare Salaman, and with audio design by Jack Mair.
A small photograph of a motley dressed group of men celebrating a Crossing the Line ritual becomes an anchor that stabilises a constellation of otherwise heterogeneous elements: an image of sailors covering their faces with their arms, photocopied from Life magazine and used as source material for a large painting many years ago; a snatch of a (horror) story told once but never forgotten; a letter in the LRB positing a materialist resurrection; the description of a painting from a postcard, animated; coming to terms with a father’s sudden illness, one with particularly temporal disturbances; Mary Hampton singing Schubert’s Der Leiermann (from Winterreise) on YouTube.
The Observers describes a journey, like Winterreise; it is also episodic in structure. Through Salaman’s playing and Mair’s audio design, the feel drifts between sea-shanty and darker tones. It eschews the Romantic melancholy of Schubert, relying mainly on description and dialogue, avoiding too much revelation of the characters’ interiority. It could be a love story too, although the two protagonists seem too exhausted by what they’ve experienced to initiate any romance. It is also a story about representation and spectacle, and tips a nod to Kenneth Hayes’s great book Milk and Melancholy. The epigraph – I see only from one point, but in my existence, I am looked at from all sides – taken from Henri Bergson’s book Matter and Memory, is intended to encapsulate these ideas and to express feelings of anxiety and paranoia, induced by the burgeoning consciousness of terrifying possibilities.
This album is dedicated to the memory of Jack Paul, who took the cover photograph as a young merchant seaman, somewhere on the Equator in the Pacific Ocean.
The observers is an audio novella available on vinyl only (edition of 300) costing £30. Please contact me rich[at]richardgpaul.co.uk to order a copy.