The Seal Woman Suite

by The Boy Who Spoke Clouds

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Fabian Toonen
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Fabian Toonen A beautiful realisation of this tale. The blending of art, music and storytelling make this a perfect escape from one's own existence to contemplate the world of The Seal Woman. The Boy Who Spoke Clouds creates lush soundscapes with this soundtrack album, the music enriching the story with its portrayal of nature and the emotions of the characters. I love the dynamic of The Seal Woman's Dance with its trance like effect on the listener, transplanted into the world of ice.. Favorite track: The Seal Woman's Dance.
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  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    Limited to 50 copies, this release is a CD locked safely away inside a handmade illustrated storybook. The book is made up of 42 pages of hand-pulped/recycled paper & is bound by twine. Every edition is different, with pieces of straw, dirt and other anomalies strewn through the paper-fibre. I've also hand drawn different colours into the images with soft pastels.

    Includes unlimited streaming of The Seal Woman Suite via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    ships out within 1 day
    edition of 50 

      $30 AUD or more 

     

  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

    Digital downloads come with pdf copy of the storybook.

      $10 AUD  or more

     

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01:24
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04:05
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00:27
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about

'The Seal Woman Suite' is the musical component to an illustrated storybook, a reinterpretation of the ancient myth told throughout Scandinavia, northern Canada and Ireland among other places. It was conceived, written, recorded and illustrated over a period of 6 months with a ten year gap in-between.

The digital download comes with a pdf document containing the illustrated story. I recommend you read and listen at separate times, and allow the story to become whole upon reflection. Both mediums offer insight to the other; a richer textual experience, a deeper musical experience.

I'd like to thank Katie Walsh, Caleb & Kendra Casey, Christina deWater, Ben Pfeiffer, my Mum & Dad, and to all who have supported The Boy Who Spoke Clouds over the last 10 years. Gratitude.

‘When spirit becomes heavy, it turns to water.’
Carl Gustav Jung

credits

released May 23, 2014

Music recorded & mastered at The True Vine, Melbourne June-August, 2004; March-May, 2014

All instruments and voices by Adam Casey except: #6, Katie Walsh &
Kendra Casey (choir), & #7, Caleb Casey (child’s voice)

Text, illustrations & layout by Adam Casey
Chapter symbols adapted from the Edward Fuglø ‘kópakonan’ stamp series

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about

The Boy Who Spoke Clouds Melbourne, Australia

The Boy Who Spoke Clouds, moniker of Melbourne, Australia’s Adam Casey, is a musical project preoccupied with the ritualistic intent of mesmerism through liminal engagement. A blend of 'exotic’ and Western instruments are utilised in recordings and performances including the hurdy gurdy, hackbrett, guitars, throat singing, bowed saw, daf , piano, dan mooi and much more. ... more

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Track Name: Loneliness
Here it comes. A mountain of clouds slowly rolls across the horizon, over the tundra. The clouds are propped up by a dark, swirling snowstorm, which appears as a soft misty hue, the separation between land and sky dissolved. But I know when it hits, there will be nothing soft about it. There was a time when I would appreciate an oncoming storm from afar with my family, but not now. I quickly secure the capstone, and scuttle inside the long entrance of my igloo. I pull my gloves off and watch my blue hands slowly regain colour as I hold them close to the tiny warmth of the kudluk, praying I have not offended Anirniq, and the storm would pass before the burning seal oil.

And there it is, the deep breath of Qailertetang, walloping the igloo with a loud, dull foomp, the kudluk flame blowing out. I fall to my knees, fumbling for my seal pelt. I carefully roll myself into it and lie on my mat and wait. As a child, I loved being held in my aama’s arms, wrapped in fur during a snowstorm. I always hear her in the wind crying out: ‘Don’t send him away! Please! He is family!’ My mouth fills with the taste of iron; blood of a time past, still lurks in my gums.

Fear always comes first. I am jolted from my sleep by the shifting sound of the wind. I dig out an exit; it is morning and, somehow, the white tundra is covered in yet another layer of white. The distant mountains have also transformed, dust-covered and ancient.

I always must fish when Qailertetang allows it. I quickly put my boots on and begin a steady walk, hoping my canoe lasted the storm. The wind steadily whistles and I have to work hard to push my aama’s cries from my mind; wandering thoughts lead to nothing but a life ended. Once more, my people curse me, for when my con- returns, I am surrounded by the eternal white breath of Qailertetang.

I must keep walking, even though I am lost. My legs move without my will, and when I give up worrying about where I am going, I see them, strangers now, crowded around a fire, cooking fish.

‘No!’ I shout through the screeching wind. They are never there. What I do find is an even greater blessing: my canoe. I tip it upside down and get inside, praying, once more, that I may be spared.

It feels I have been hiding under my canoe all day, when the wind finally comes to a halt. Everything is silent and the moon is mirrored by the still ocean water. Surely this is a sign from Qailertetang that I must fish, or my stomach is empty enough to fool me into thinking that now is the perfect time to push my canoe out into the great sea. I row out further than usual in an attempt to bring some warmth to my body. Only until I feel a hot, stinging pain coursing through my arms do I come to a stop. I throw out my line and wait.

I grow angry as time goes on. The fish are not biting. I hunt and trap well. I have offended no animal; I have not eaten for many days. I scream: ‘You are cruel, Qailertetang! Why do you punish me?’ I see my breath travel a little longer than I am accustomed to. I begin to thump the canoe with my gloved fists and scream as loud as I can. My voice travels across the water rapidly; a red wind that slowly disintegrates into a fading mist. Tears fall down my face and stick to my cheeks. I push the oars deep into the water and begin rowing back.

Three strokes in and I hear a faint, but mesmerising sound. I have never heard it before. I forget everything; is this the sound of heaven? I take my hood off and listen intently. I look out to where the sound is coming from and notice a black shadow far out on the sea. It looks like a gigantic seal’s eye looking up toward the heavens. For the first time I can remember, I have a burning desire to travel to a specific place, a place that is somewhere.
Track Name: The Seal Woman's Dance
The sound from heaven grows around me. I can now clearly see the large, black rock, shining wet, as if it has suddenly emerged from below. After I moor my canoe to the rock, I find it hard to stand; the sound is making me dizzy as it seems to be resounding from everything, or maybe I am the source of it? I can feel the air, the ground and the water vibrate.

I step onto the magnificent rock, only to fall back in my canoe at the shock of what is before me. I look again, and can still see the same extraordinary scene: six beautiful women dance in a circle, their naked white bodies glistening in the moonlight, almost blindingly. They move so slowly, their hands gracefully rising and falling in front of their bodies. Their eyes are deep black, their fingers abnormally long and thin. And then, to my shock, they all cry out in unison and I quickly push my hands over my ears as the sound forces me to my knees. Their mouths don’t seem to open, but I cannot trust my senses.

I suddenly realise that I’m kneeling in complete view, staring at the creatures. I dash behind some rocks and see a pile of sealskins lying on top of one another, and, without thinking, I grab one and roughly shove it into my anorak. As I kneel behind the rocks, I hear one of the women let out another high-pitched wail that sends shivers through the soles of my feet. Their soft, padded footsteps grow louder. I dive back into my canoe. One by one they put their skins back on and leap into the sea with a final cry. One woman remains, who anxiously searches under the crevices of the rocks I had hid behind. I step out to face her. She looks at me with her deep black eyes and I feel all the hair stand up on my neck and back, but I plant my feet firmly on the ground and take a sharp breath inward.

‘Be my wife.’

‘I am not from here. I am from temeqvanek, beneath. I am not like you. I cannot,’ she says, without moving her lips.

I present her skin in my open arms. Her black eyes widen and she leaps forward to grab it. I quickly hide it behind my back and she throws me fiercely to the ground. I am badly winded and let out a whimper. Her grip on my arms is inhumanly tight, and I feel my shoulders crack. I have trouble seeing. Her black eyes search around me as she hisses ferociusly. ‘I’ll give it back to you after seven summers,’ I croak, my hands desperately holding onto her pelt.

‘What is “seven summers”?’

‘It is a time...a short time,’ I manage to murmur. ‘After this, you are free to come or go as you please.’

She looks deep into my eyes-- an eternity passes-- then slowly lets me go. She hops off me and, to my surprise, steps into my canoe. I follow her, and almost forget myself, feeling the urge to wrap her naked body in her own pelt as it is bitterly cold. I instead wrap myself in her pelt. I expect to notice her shivering, but she sits on the opposite side of the canoe, perfectly still, her back straight, her webbed hands clasped together facing upwards, her inhuman black eyes reflecting the full moon.

As I row back, I am filled with an unfamiliar, yet, most welcome elation. She looks at me curiously, her eyes slowly dilating. She grows more and more human the closer we get to shore. She is the most beautiful creature I have ever seen. I smile at her. She tries to mimic my smile awkwardly. This is the happiest moment of my life.
Track Name: Seven Summers (Drying Out and Crippling)
He creates a bright light that hurts my skin and eyes. I try to push it away, but it angrily bites my hand. I fall backwards. He rushes to my side and looks closely at my fingers. His hot breath stings my palm and I rip it away, letting out a low shriek and baring my teeth. He jumps back. ‘Fire,’ he slowly articulates, holding his hands out in surrender.

‘Fire,’ I mimic.

I don’t like the fire, but he huddles in close to it all night. I wonder how it doesn’t hurt him too. Eventually, he falls asleep, covered in my skin. I am relieved to watch the fire grow smaller overnight; he is swallowing a little more of it with every breath he takes.

He does not smile. He occasionally grimaces from the cold wind, or when chopping wood. He has deep chasms running from his eyes, down his cheeks, that once held passageway to an ocean of tears. He does not show the tears to me.

‘They led me to you, so now they stop,’ he says, his face unmoving.

He is happy to have me by his side. He brings back fish frequently and keeps a fire running day and night. As I begin to learn more of his language, I make protest when he lights the fire, but I soon learn he needs it to stay alive. I see fear in his face when he touches my cold human skin. He beds me next to the fire, and I feel myself grow weaker each night.

I think about my skin throughout the first four seasons above. But we soon have a child together and it leaves my mind. We name him Ooruk and he is the most stunning boy: I am proud of him. He needs the fire too, like his ddwa, and my mind grows used to it, but my body does not.

I paid a price for his birth; I grew very sick after he was born and never recovered. No matter how much food my husband brings, I cannot put weight on. As Ooruk grows, he notices my suffering.

‘Aama, why is your skin so cold and dry,’ he says, as he touches his skin, then mine.

My skin is just different to yours, Ooruk. I am fine.’

In winter I happily tell Ooruk the stories of my family who roam below the land--the whale, walrus, seal and salmon--but I never want him to know who I was. I cannot seem to stop myself from withering away, but holding on to my stories keeps me alive.

My husband grows impatient with me the more afflicted I become. I know he is terrified of one thing: being alone. He blames me for growing ill; he throws pots at me and speaks poorly of me in front of our son. I do my best to hide my suffering.

The seventh summer comes upon us and now, my hair is falling out and my sight is failing. It starts off as a haziness, but soon my entire world is consumed by a grey fog. I can’t see anything unless I hold it right up to my face. Ooruk soon notices I am bumping into things as I walk. One evening, I forget I have heated up some water and put my hand in it and scald it badly.

‘You can’t see, can you?’ Ooruk asks quietly.

I cry as I shake my head.

‘Why can’t you see, Aama?’

I have no words now, only tears. My body shakes. Ooruk pushes a wood stump up close to me and stands on it. He leans in and I feel his small lips rub up against my ear. ‘It will be okay, Aama,’ he whispers.

That night I dream of plunging into the ocean and swimming down...temeqvanek - home. I have not dreamt of my family for many seasons. My ddwa greets me and tells me I must return. We swim deeper and I see my kind again. They move happily around me, their tails gliding along my back. For a moment, I lose myself and dance again with my kind. But the sun shines harshly through the water, and I can’t help but look above, frightened my husband and Ooruk are watching.

I wake up frozen and stiff, my legs glued to the ground. I try to get up, but my legs will not hold me. When my husband returns from his hunt, he is furious.

‘You are not up? We need to eat: where is our fire?’

‘I cannot get up. I cannot walk.’

He leaves abruptly, and comes back at the end of the day with a walking stick that he has carved. He throws it at me. ‘Now you can walk.’
Track Name: A Gift
I awake. I’d never heard them argue before.

‘You promised me!’ Aama cries.

‘We have a child together - he needs you. How could you leave us now?’

Aama tries to explain, but chokes on her tears. Ddwa begins to walk out, when Aama shrieks: ‘Where is it?’

‘I threw it away,’ he says in disgust.

As Ddwa walks out, I sit up. Aama does not notice me as I crawl into her lap. She lets out a quiet gasp. ‘Go to sleep, Ooruk.’

‘I cannot sleep, Aama. When you are sad, I am also sad.’

Aama brushes my cheeks with her cold, bony hands. She looks deep in my eyes. In the light of the fire, her eyes are blacker than a moonless night. Her tears drop upon my face. They are as salty as the sea.

That morning, as I collect wood, I hear a strange yelping sound. At first I think it is Aama calling out from afar, but as I walk closer to the ocean, the sound gets louder. I climb up onto the rocks, close my eyes and focus, like Ddwa taught me. The sound seems to be coming from an animal, but there is something different about it. The moment I think it is coming from one direction, it shifts. I start to feel very sleepy. I can’t fight the urge to lay down and fall asleep.

I wake to the ripping sound of a snow storm and a gigantic seal sits over me. I scream. It wobbles away and jumps back into the ocean. My heart thumps inside my head.

As my breath returns, I notice it is also very dark. Aama and Ddwa will be angry that I am gone. I stand up and a heavy skin falls to the ground. It is a seal skin. I run my hand along the bristly texture. The skin is slick and seems alive. I put my nose up to it; it is full of the scent of my aama. I breathe it in ecstatically, yearning to be held by her.

I look out to the ocean and notice the large seal has its head out of the water and is watching me. It then dives under and flicks its tail up, then its head bobs out again. The seal starts to yelp. Tears stream down my face, but I do not know why. I cannot move.

I close my eyes and try to focus again. The skin is heavy and I am about to let it go when the image of the large seal lying over me re-enters my mind’s eye. I study its face, looking into its deep black eyes and a frightening jolt runs up my legs and spine.

I sling the skin over my arm and run towards our igloo as fast as I can, hoping I am heading in the right direction. The snow flies sideways and rips at my face. Finally, I see Aama searching for me. I run into her at full speed, throwing my arms around her. I forget about her featherweight body, and she falls hard into the snow. I put my face up to hers and realise she cannot breath. She smiles slightly and closes her eyes as her head falls back into the snow.

‘Aama! Aama! Wake up! I have something for you!’ I push the skin up to her nose.

She opens her eyes and they widen larger than I’ve ever seen. I am scared of her. She looks at me and begins to cry.

‘Here it is,’ I whisper, putting it in her hands. ‘Leave me now.’

Her hand tightens around the skin. We rub noses and she looks at me one last time, then runs toward the ocean at full speed. I try to follow, but I cannot keep up. I hear her feet stomping through the sand, then the water, then a deep splash. By the time I arrive on the shoreline, she is gone.
Track Name: Breathing Underwater
The light swallowed,
my body enveloped
by my home.
Plummeting into the dark, held again
by my tight skin.

All around
they are just like me,
yelping in agreement.
Surrounded by what is mine. Home again!
Here I am, home again!