Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Human Chord

by Algernon Blackwood

The Human Chord (Dodo Press)


A Review Fantasia plus Spoilers in 3 Acts and a Prelude


A young man - ROBERT SPINROBIN - sensitive and effeminate in appearance, sits in a threadbare apartment in turn-of-the-century London, with a newspaper in his lap.

SPINROBIN (to the audience): "Alas! Where is adventure? Where is the expansion of my mind? I - who possess the mystical vision of a poet - cannot be content with lowly drudge-work in an office! Oh how I long for my imaginary childhood companion - little Winky! - to take me on some soul-expanding journey! Oh, Winky! I miss our adventures!

But what is this!" (He looks down towards his paper)

SPINROBIN (reading from the newspaper): "'Wanted, by Retired Clergyman, Secretarial Assistant with courage and imagination. Tenor voice and some knowledge of Hebrew essential; single; unworldly. Apply Philip Skale.'"

SPINROBIN (to the audience): "I have found my grand adventure!"


An empty rail station with a lonely but inspiring natural landscape looming in the background. Spinrobin stands waiting with his bags. A tall, imposing, heavily bearded man clad in knickerbockers - REVEREND SKALE - approaches.

SPINROBIN (to the audience): "Could this fearsome being be the Reverend Skale? My adventure approaches!"

SPINROBIN (to the approaching man): "Dear sir, I am at your service! Pray tell me what is required! My tenor is strong! My knowledge of Hebrew is improving! I have no woman! I am singularly unworldly! Tell me, Reverend Sir, are you leading me to some great adventure of the mind - indeed, of the very soul?"

SKALE: "Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah! Sure!"


A dinner table inside of a gloomy mansion, lit by candlelight. The sound of moaning wind. At the head of the table sits Reverend Skale; on one side of him sits a nervous-looking Spinrobin and on the other side sits a young lady MIRIAM, who is staring at Spinrobin with a cow-like expression of - presumably - devotion and love. Standing behind Skale is an old woman and servant, MRS MAWLE, whose withered left arm is in a sling and who is holding an ear horn to her right ear.

SPINROBIN: "Dear Sir! Please tell me of the adventure that awaits us all! I understand it involves singing and the coming together of voices, the forming of some sort of "Human Chord"... but for what purpose? Pray tell!"

SKALE: "Night time sharpens, heightens each sensation
Darkness stirs and wakes imagination
Silently the senses abandon their defenses

Slowly, gently night unfurls its splendor
Grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender
Turn your face away from the garish light of day
Turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light
And listen to the music of the night!"

The stage is suddenly darkened.

SKALE (in baritone, slowly increasing in volume: "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa...

There is a flash and then a spotlight focuses on the table and there appears a little dancing mannequin of Reverend Skale.

MANNIQUIN SKALE (in tiny, childlike voice): "See what I do! I become small! He-hehehehe!"

The spotlight goes off and footlights illuminate a huge puppet version of Skale looming in the background, face contorted in maniacal laughter.

GIANT PUPPET SKALE (in huge, booming voice): "See what I do! I become large! Ho-hohohoho!"

Light returns to the stage; the mannikin and the puppet have disappeared. Skale is smiling widely like a madman. So is Mrs. Mawle. Miriam is still mooning at Spinrobin, whose mouth is hanging open in surprise and fear.

MIRIAM (to Spinrobin): "Oh Spinrobin! You are so tender, so wise, so very sensitive! I am yours! You are my Master!"

SPINROBIN (nervously, to Skale): "Bu-bu-bu-but what is thi-thi-this? The human voice is capable of such unnatural wonders by simply uttering the right notes? By naming the unnameable? I have always imagined this to be so, even as a child when playing with my beloved imaginary companion, Winky! But what will our human chord provoke? And what shall happen if a human chord is sung... incorrectly? (He looks significantly at Mrs. Mawle's ear horn and withered arm). What is your ultimate goal, Reverend Sir? Into what shall we be transformed?"

SKALE: "We shall become GOD, you dullard!



A forest. Spinrobin and Miriam lie huddled behind some bushes, gazing at the back of the stage. There in the background is a huge mansion engulfed in flames (painted backdrop) and the sounds of a woman's alto and man's baritone can be heard singing fervently. The singing voices suddenly turn into agonized shrieks before being drowned in the sounds of crackling flames and a mansion collapsing.

SPINROBIN: "So that didn't go as expected."

MIRIAM: "You carried me away! Oh brave Spinrobin, my beloved, my Master! We shall live happily ever after! (She laughs hysterically, then covers his face with kisses.) There are many things I can do for you that we couldn't do in Heaven! Oh my sweet darling... let me meet Mr. Winky!"

SPINROBIN: "Well I guess I really didn't want to become God anyway. Heaven can wait."

(Sound of flames crackling increase.)


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