Thursday, 12 March 2015

Upcoming Project Announcement: Black Dog Traditions of England

Black Dog Traditions of England 
Ian Humberstone and David Chatton Barker

Folklore is a kingdom unto itself, a world in which the past and the present, fact and fiction merge as one. The creatures that inhabit this wild and unkempt land are legion, the workings of many imaginations, with forms and powers cut roughly by the fireside and alehouse gossips of ages past. Our forthcoming series ‘Occultural Creatures’ presents these preternatural pests in the style of a radio ballad, with interviews, stories, acousmatic music and geographically informed sound-divination. Each edition will be housed in a presentation box containing an LP, book, map and short experimental film. We begin with ‘Black Dog Traditions of England.’

And a dreadful thing from the cliff did spring,
And its wild bark thill’d around—
Its eyes had the glow of the fires below—
‘Twas the form of the Spectre Hound!

Many and varied are the tales told of the black dog. To some it is a lane-haunting spectre whose appearance precedes a death, to others, the spirit guardian of thresholds or hidden treasures. Elsewhere still, it is none but a devil loosed of its chain, working evil in the realm of men. Yet wherever we catch a glimpse of this hound’s shadowy form, it is described in similar terms - as a dark entity in the shape of a great dog, with shaggy mane and tea-saucer eyes burning bright as hellfire.

Shuck, Shock, Skriker, Padfoot, Trash, Gytrash, Barguest, Hooter: there are many regional variations on the motif, each with their own traditions and stories. These four-footed beasts of the witching hour have kennelled themselves in the dimmer corners of our imaginations for centuries; how long, exactly, is a matter of debate.

Folklore Tapes’ Ian Humberstone has been researching these legends for more years than he cares to remember. Joined by David Chatton Barker, this study is being translated into an audio-visual format for Folklore Tapes. The pair are now wending their way about the country, collecting stories and field recordings from those places the hound has poked its fiery maw.

Work in progress. Expected autumn, 2015.

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