flooded: a landscape paused

Winnall moors: flooded path

winnall moors: flooded tree

Walking through the flood waters

The recent release of four walks around a year: winter, draws to a quiet close the seasonal quartet of soundwalks around winnall moors, which were slow released by Gruenrekorder through 2013/14. A review of the entire perambulated year by Richard Allen appears on a closer listen, whilst the artist and writer Nathan Thomas, having commented on two of the previous seasons for Fluid Radio, has concluded his discussion with a review of the winter walk.
In Allen’s review the solitude of listening comes to the surface. This solitude was always close and apparent, whilst collecting the sounds for the project. Even in the company of the Wildlife Trust’s wardens, scientist and volunteers, I always felt alone, remote and strangely paused. Perhaps this was a consequence of the enclosed isolation and amplified environment of the headphones. But the attention of listening, especially when focused upon the grains of sonic detail, (‘the sound of a few leaves’ rather than the noise of many), confers upon the listener a sense of remote introspective absence and solitude: we are alone with the sound we are listening to. At the conclusion of his review, in an extract from Wallace Stevens poem The Snow Man, Allen draws attention to the quiet emptiness of the winter landscape

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

winnall moors: flooded path with crisp packet

Sunken path: River Itchen flooding the boardwalk

Sunken path: flooded boardwalk

The nothingness we hear in the winter walk is a vacancy, an absence in time and place. There is a suggestion or perhaps expectation of return. In his review, Thomas, draws attention to these temporal undercurrents, which haunt the sounds and acoustic textures present, he writes: ‘Winnall Moors becomes a space crisscrossed with countless actual, remembered, and imagined paths’. Throughout the project the temporality of sound has always held my attention, the traces of presence and the familiarity of place returned to. Each walk begins in the same place and at the same time, so that the listener is placed in and returned to a familiar landscape.
A natural consequence of field-recording, is to make the fluid, concrete, fixing the sound present as a moment past. And yet conversely such permanence reveals change and makes manifest the variation of temporal patterns. Such patterns are not confined to nature’s seasonal calendars of migration and breeding, they also include the religious calendar of church bells and the social habits of place. The archival voices, which ‘introduce’ the winter walk, saturate the moors in history, as people remember previous winters when the flooded moors would freeze and become a temporary ice rink. This year the moors have flooded again, soaking the soundscape in the gush and lonely trickle of water. Closed to the public, the footfall of paths, which last year were crisp with the crackle of ice and crush of frost, are this year quietly submerged beneath the un-trodden slosh and broken banks of the river Itchen. The moors are covered in large pools of water, whose mirrored stillness adds to the sense of a landscape paused.  As I walk through the floodwater the ripples of my steps roll, return and dissipate. Looking at the surface of the water, I watch the trace of my presence slowly disappear as the wet mirror returns to stillness and pause. For Gaston Bachelard ‘water is the gaze of the earth, its instrument for looking at time’ (Gaston Bachelard, Water and Dreams). But time is also present in the voices of water. Listening to the breach of river, escaping across the paths, leaking into my wellingtons and the reedbeds of the reserve, rivulets of sound introduce trickles of movement and in the words of Thomas, ‘time becomes quietly audible’.

Nathan Thomas | Fluid Radio | Four walks around a year: winter
Richard Allen | a closer listen | Four walks around a year

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Winter: that which was then solid now melts

winnall moors winter crow


snow white: sebastiane hegarty

frozen: sebastiane hegarty

Winter with dawn and Sporty

Four walks around a year: winter
Gruenrekorder | GrDl 141

The final winter perambulation through a year in winnall moors is released by Gruenrekorder on January 15th 2014.
I find something intrinsically melancholic in the quartet of soundwalks, and in particular the insubstantial quiet of this final winter instalment. Perhaps it is the lack of significant audible presence, which seems to make nothing tangible. Or is it the loss of time that recording imposes upon the hush, reminding the listener that what was once now, is now no more? Perhaps it is something more personal. As I listen I remember my presence and hear my absence. Through the act of recording I  simultaneously trace my movement through the landscape and mark my disappearance from it: I  am a ghost listening to myself not now there.

The winter perambulation of the winnall moors quartet opens with the anonymous chat of conversation. Voices borrowed from the Wessex Film & Sound Archive provide an anecdotal entrance to the moors, flooding the landscape with history. Tales of previous winters accompany the listener out into a frozen dawn, occupied only by the occasional crack of ice and carrion caw. Acoustically the landscape lingers somewhere between presence and absence. Underneath the voices, my own steps proceed slowly across a frosted boardwalk, haunting the landscape with the weight of movement. The oscillation of presence suggested by my fragile steps and the disembodied voices, casts a pall of impermanence over the moors. This transience enters into the very substance of the landscape: that which once flowed now solidifies, that which was then solid now melts that which was concrete is becoming vapor.

winnall moors christmas day branches: sebastiane hegarty

frozen steps: sebastiane hegarty

winnall moors fire: sebastiane hegarty

Winter thawing

Winter with rain and helicopter

The crystallised air underfoot, traps within its photograph my own footfall and the tracks of animals now absent. The soundscape is shushed with the crackle and fizz of thaw as ice crystals soften into the hurry of water. A dissolving chalk sample taken from the bed of the River Itchen, adds to this harmony of quiet transubstantiation. Effervescent bubbles of ancient CO2 escape from the fossilised remains of Coccolithophores:  microscopic creatures that lived in the warm prehistoric oceans that once covered now visible land.

The archeological dig of this sonic dissolution serves only to reinforce the ephemerality of the landscape. Just as the intimately close cackle of fire, splits the felled substance of trees into aerial particles of static: the chemical process of combustion emitting audible heat and light. For the blind theologian John Hull, the acoustic world is temporal: sound comes and goes, taking place with it. As a Chinook helicopter flies through winter, it takes our ear toward the edges of place, extending the perimeters of the moors and of listening itself. Not only does the hypnogogic drone of the aircraft, remind the listener of the agency of war and events beyond the local geography of the reserve, it also extends the boundaries of the landscape perceptually. As I listen to the drone slowly fade into silence, it takes my listening away form here and into the inaudible and invisible, the peripheral nothing of distance.

As this final quarter draws a year to its close, the damp tick of rain on a barbed wire fence, washes away at the notion of place as bound and measured, the fluidity of its percussion echoed in a xylophone of wood piling. Winter concludes and disappears behind the arc and whine of a barn door closing. In the noise of this enclosure, place is at once disclosed and abandoned, in the words of John Hull: ‘Sound is always bringing us into the presence of nothingness’ (John M. Hull, Touching the Rock, 1991).

winter mist: sebastiane hegarty

Daw on winter solstice: sebastiane hegarty

sound descriptors: a list of sounds as they appear on the winter walk
Tales of winter, dawn on winter solstice, dawn on Christmas Day, carrion caw, footfall on frosted boards, ice cracking, snow melting, gate opening, footsteps on snow, melting ice, mini-stream flowing, wire in the river, water hole, river hatch, children pond-dipping, pond dripping, chalk sample releasing Co2, smoke, crackle and flame, branch on fire, fire-break, willow weaving, Chinook drone, rain on wire, rain on gate, sawing wood, tying bundles, shower of woodpile, mending fences, pulling nails, chainsaw, wood piling, walking through a puddle, a barn door closed.

Four walks around a year: winter,  is available from the 15th January 2014 at Gruenrekorder

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A remembered journey through a forgotten landscape

dawn of the autumnal equinox

first frost of autumn

Autumn Equinox with swans and rainfall

Four walks around a year: autumn
Gruenrekorder | GrDl 140/13

The penultimate seasonal release from the series,  four walks around a year, is released  on the 15th October, by the German field-recording and sound art label Gruenrekorder Digital .  The  25-minute soundwalk is available as a digital download in MP3 or FLAC format.

The walk opens quietly at the dawn of the autumnal equinox,  when day and night are of equal measure. Such a lull in progression solicits remembering and reverie, time thickens and the present and previous associate. Fragments of voice litter the soundscape, allowing splinters of human narratives to inhabit this remembered landscape. The notion of a sound walk implies a sense of narrative, a physical momentum and movement through a soundscape: a rhythm and succession of sounds, leading and accompany the listener through a place and time.  Although the autumn field-recordings form a seasonal diary from which the walk is composed, the chronology of the recordings does not restrict or determine the direction or progress of transit. The recorded hours of walking and listening were allowed to amble, recomposing a walk that never took place: a remembered journey through the sounds of a forgotten landscape

autumn traps: sebastiane hegarty

small mammal survey: sebastiane hegarty

Beaks , fence and fireworks.

There is a particular quality to the acoustics of autumnal water, which makes it distinct from the river and rainfall of summer. These qualities are present, not only in the explicit percussion of rainfall on the carpet of dry leaves, but also in a less distinct, almost synaesthetic change in the timbre of wetness, which, although gentle, becomes sharp and slightly angular.
The emptiness of the autumn soundscape is palpable, especially when preceded by the fecund chorus of spring and summer. A sense of distance seems to saturate a pallid landscape punctuated by small sonic details. Sound is intermittent, a foggy silence hangs in the air, interrupted by the occasional Hammer Horror squeal of a water rail or the sudden gravel and viscose chaff of a runner approaching, arriving and vanishing.
For the conservation team, autumn is suited to survey and repair.  A lack of procreation means that breeding animals are less likely to be disturbed and the environment can be scientifically assessed: The water vole population is at its highest and the small mammal survey is less likely to harm pregnant females. This survey introduces it’s own percussive spatiality, as the traps, laid with seeds, fly larvae and straw, offer up sharp oblongs of reverberation.

air through a metal fence

river sculpture with reflected tractor

A river sculpture.

The labour of repair introduces it’s own abstract qualities, extending an otherness to the spatiality and temporality of the world apprehended. In reforming the riverbed, using shingle to improve the subaquatic landscape for breeding trout, we hear the wet acoustic sculpture of form and substance: a rock thrown into the river, hollows out a sudden wet baseline; the cascade of shingle provides a curtain of damp percussion, whilst the gargling diesel engine of a tractor, retreats and disappears into the silence of distance.
Emergencies repairs to a collapsed hatch, which takes water from the River Itchen into the mini-stream and out across the reed-beds, result in a temporary interruption to the soundscape. The paths are closed with wire fences placed across the boardwalk and path at the rugby-field bridge. An area of sound is temporarily shut, but by attaching contact microphones to these fences we are allowed audible access to the Musique concrète of air sqaured in a net of wire and the echoing gait of people walking over the bridge. Into the moors and these dark reverberations, drifts the public address of Bonfire Night and the invisible static constellations of fireworks: a tiny big bang of acoustic space and a hardy annual soundmark in the autumnal soundscape of winnall moors.

autumn dew

sound descriptors: a list of sounds as they appear on the autumn walk
Dawn chorus on the autumn equinox, footsteps on the first crystals of frost, mini-stream, swans dipping and feeding, water rail railing, dog calling, flight path, breeze of dry reeds, water vole survey, water waders, small mammal survey, preparing traps, paddles and Sunday canoes, raft of ducks, mini-stream, prayer-bell, breeze through a metal fence, rain on leaves, bonfire night, public address, steps on leaves, rain on water, latch, low of cows, stones thrown in a river, tractor approaching, pouring gravel, sculpting a river, reeds in stream, blackbird evening alarm, snow steps, creaking ice cracked.

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a summer palimpsest

summers gate

Solstice_Blog

Four walks around a year: summer
Gruenrekorder | GrDl 130/13

The slow release of the four winnall moors soundwalks reaches summer. The full 25-minute perambulation is available as a digital download (MP3/FLAC) from the German field-recording and sound art label Gruenrekorder Digital.
The walk begins at dawn on the summer solstice, that moment when day equals night and the tilt of the planet is most inclined toward our star. The dawn chorus, though perhaps less complex than that of spring, seems to be of equal volume and quality. From here the listener walks out over the reed beds and into the working landscape of the northern moors, an area normally prohibited to even the most robustly booted public foot. Through this acoustic trespass, we gain admittance to the farms and working landscape of the moors. Hampshire Wildlife Volunteers meet beneath the corrugated shelter of a barn roof, whilst outside the rain pours down from blocked gutters. The sound, or if you prefer, noise, of work is an inherent part of this soundscape: the moors are not only a conservation area but also a farmed environment as it has been for centuries.
The intermittent percussion of hammers driving clips into wooden posts, sounds both distant and close, opening up a field of spatiality, which remains in a state of perpetual flux. It is perhaps fittingly ironic, that the sound of people fencing space in, should conjure up notions of place as emergent and unfixed:

Acoustic space has no favoured focus. It’s a sphere without fixed boundaries, a space made by the thing itself, not space containing the thing. It’s not pictorial space, boxed-in, but dynamic, always in flux, creating its own dimensions moment by moment.
(Edmund Carpenter, Eskimo)

In the sonic landscape, things that are there are always close to not being there. Auditory space is temporal; the presence of any sound haunted by its absence.

pool at evensong

rain on a river

Summer rain with coot and water boatman

Summer breeze with tree creaks

Walking through this field of summer, calendars of sounds, appear, disappear and return: the ‘centripetal’ bells of evensong, the abrasive electrical static of grasshoppers which, like acoustic pins in an empty map, establish momentary points or clusters of noise. These insect songs will fade with autumn, but reappear next spring, whilst others sounds are lost to any coming summer. A tree branch that has split and fallen over a wooden fence, introduces a transient Aeolian whine, a noise, which was there in this previous summer, but has now, with the removal of the branch, disappeared completely from the present field of sound. The use of contact microphones not only uncovers the sounds beneath the threshold of audition, allowing us to hear the stress of trees or the gnaw of wasp mandibles on a wooden fence, they also bring into presence the ghost of sounds now no longer here.

cutter_blog

summer wasp mandibles

Summer path with ice cream van

Wasp mandibles and grasshopper clusters

Today summer is here again, and I am reminded that the intention of the Winnall Moors sound walk was to not only discover and record the particular acoustic events and voices of this environment, but also to diffuse the borders of place and time: That the listener may walk through their present summer whilst listening to another. Sauntering through such a sonic palimpsest, the borders of time are as permeable as those of place.

bats above our heads

sound descriptors: a list of sounds as they appear on the summer walk
Dawn chorus, summer solstice, slow footfall on gravel path, a grasshopper warbler, a barn door opening, a barn door closing, overflowing gutter, a choir of hammers, two buzzards circling, cutting reeds, rain falling on barbed wire, wet leaves, , rainfall on the surface of the river Itchen, the mini-stream, a coot on the pond, pondweed photosynthesis, a water boatman, a forest of creaking tree, a cluster of grasshoppers, a bee’s proboscis, wasps chewing on a wooden fence, petrol engine mower, path strimming, ice cream van, children’s voices, cows chewing, Wednesday evening bell practice at Winchester Cathedral, river hatch, a wire in the mini-stream, an evening cloud of Pipistrelles.

hegarty_ four walks_grdl__130_cover_web

Four walks around a year: summer | Gruenrekorder | GrDl 130/13

Available from: Gruenrekorder Digital

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four walks around a year: spring

four walks around a year: spring
Gruenrekorder | GrDl 128/13

mist nets: winnall moors soundwalk / sebastiane hegarty

warbler: winnall moors soundwalk

Stepping into dawn

The four winnall moors soundwalks will be slow released during 2013 on the German field-recording and sound art label Gruenrekorder DigitalSuch a durational release of the soundwalks is not only sympathetic to the prolonged meander of composition, but also physically and poetically laces the sounds (like a tape player or pair of shoes) through the celestial calendar, unspooling the walks into the seasons of another year.
The spring walk is appropriately the first installment of the four, each acoustic perambulation released in sync with the season of composition. Re-composed from recordings made through March, April, May and June, the spring walk begins at dawn with the first isolated notes of birdsong and my own frosted footsteps upon a boardwalk over the reed beds. The birdsong builds in volume and complexity as several dawns combine to reveal a polyphonic chorus, surrounding the listener in territories of song. The company of my own footsteps lead the listener into an emerging landscape, simultaneously reminding them that another was present here and that this dawn is now passed.

river hatch: winnall moors soundwalk

spring reflected: winnall moors soundwalk

Kick sample: winnall moors soundwalk

Herd of tadpoles

When composing the walk I did not feel it important that the coordinates of the soundwalk be arranged in strict correspondence to the fixed geography of the moors: that is, I did not attempt to map precisely and chronologically a fixed circumnavigate movement through the landscape. I preferred to let the sounds organise their own path, although by chance the location of the dawn chorus, with which the walk opens, corresponds almost exactly to location of the creaking pagoda, with which it concludes. This suggestion of circular transit is echoed in the flight path of a bank of swans that are heard arriving and evaporating, before returning only once more to disappear. At the finale of the walk a bouquet of warblers, having returned here from Africa, throw their songs of DNA into the air, whilst a work party sinks a wooden post into the ground and a mobile phone adds a digital phrase to this chorus of territorial voices. The vibrations of human toil are telegraphed down a wire fence, surrounding the moors in one more acoustic circumference as the pagoda adagio closes in.

Pagoda Adagio: winnall moors soundwalk

wirefence_Gruen

mini-stream: winnall moors soundwalk

A bouquet of warblers, with wire and pagoda.

sound descriptors: a list of sounds as they appear on the spring walk
Crackling hesitant steps, a pause, a bird singing, another song, and another, brittle steps on the wire covering a boardwalk, a dawn chorus, geese fly past, another dawn, a green woodpecker, dismantling the ringing nets, a bird hanging in a cotton bag, ringing, a call of distress, release, feathers against cotton, dismantling the ringing nets, a stream, a kick sample, rolling the river bed, trickle of water, foot steps on gravel, river hatch, a girl screams, preening swans, pond dipping, nets dripping, pagoda bending, pond effervescing, a herd of tadpoles, a cuckoo, post hole pincers, shovel of earth, sinking post, swans circling, sedge warbling, swans returning, reed warbling, a creaking pagoda adagio.

Four walks around a year: spring | Gruenrekorder | GrDl 128/13

Available here: Gruenrekorder Digital

four walks around a year: spring | Gruenrekorder

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Walking on air: summer broadcast

summer solstice: sebastiane hegarty

sebastiane hegarty: the scratch of mandibles upon wood

The completed summer soundwalk, one of the four walks around a year in winnall moors, will be broadcast by Radeq Radio, in residence at the SoundFjord Gallery, London. The full twenty-five minute summer circuit of the moors is scheduled for broadcast at 02:00pm on Tuesday 28/08/12.
The walk is aired as part of The summer of 2012, on London’s short-term online radio experiment, Radeq (radeq.vacau.com), broadcasting a continuous stream of sun/summer of ’12 themed sonic material, performed live or prepared, beginning at sunrise (06:06 UK GMT) on Monday 27th August and continuing until sunset (19:48 UK GMT) on Friday 31st August: ‘120 hours of non-stop audio from sun-lit land.’ The curators Clair Urbahn & James Dunn state:

From sunrise: You’ll hear the sounds of a microphone placed outside Cafe OTO in Dalston, London – live until midday.
At sunset: We switch over to a microphone placed in None Gallery, Dunedin, New Zealand – live until we switch back to London’s sunrise , at Cafe OTO.
Up to 30 different shows are scheduled to take place from midday ’til sunset during the 120 hour sun salute, most of which will be coming live from SoundFjord Gallery, where Radeq is currently taking residence. Highlights in the programme include live improvised sounds (Daichi Yochikawa, Seymour Wright, Paul Abbott), sun stimulated sounds from Portland Oregon, live recordings and interviews with The Sun Ra Arkestra under the direction of Marshall Allen, archival audio from ResonanceFM and the FMA, underwater recordings from Canada, performance spoken word, summer field recordings, and a live ‘Two Organs’ performance (John Chantler & Carina Thoren).

The soundwalk around summer in winnall moors includes the sounds of:
dawn on summer solstice/walking on boardwalk/grasshopper warbler/barn doors/rain from barn gutter/replacing fences/buzzards/cutting reeds/rain on barbed wire/rain dripping from trees/rain on river/mini-stream/pondweed photosynthesis/water boatman/forest of tree creaks/cluster of grasshoppers/bee proboscis/wasps mandibles/path strimming/ice cream van/cows chewing/evening bell practice at Winchester Cathedral/mini-stream/river medley/evening cloud of Pipistrelles.

This is the first time that the full summer perambulation has been available to hear. For twenty-five minutes, anyone can walk around the summer moors, anywhere.

Listen: here

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World Listening Day: “Melancholy were the sounds on a winter’s night.”

mist dawns over winnall moors

Autumn walk: ice pond

a walk through winter: 25:00

“Melancholy were the sounds on a winter’s night.”
(Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room)

Wednesday the 18th July 2012 will be the third World Listening Day. Organised by The World Listening Project, the day takes place on the birthday of R. Murray-Schafer, the Canadian composer whose soundscape project led to the development of acoustic ecology and soundscape studies. The intention of the day is to foreground the sonic environment, shifting our attention to the sounds, which make up our everyday environment and: ‘to celebrate different ways we can focus on our soundscape’.
On this day events are organised at a public and/or private level, to give individual or shared attention to the activity of listening. Soundwalks are just one of the ways that organisations and individuals have chosen to celebrate the day. Walking and listening are sympathetic modes of transport that both place us within a landscape or environment. The philosopher Edmund Husserl ‘described walking as the experience by which we understand our body in relationship to the world’. The body and the sensations experienced through it, provide sides, distance, closeness and place to the space surrounding us, thereby diffusing the edges between our physical self and the landscape we inhabit.
In transporting us through a landscape, walking creates another innate relationship with the sensuous terrain of the environment, shifting weight and adjusting gait to create an immediate choreography in concert with the landscape. Walking also offers a method of encounter or composition, which privileges the unconsidered, values ‘casual contacts and facilitates contemplation.’ This encounter also uncovers the temporality of a landscape, as ‘the continuous “here” of the body ‘moves towards and through the various “theres.”’
In suggesting that ‘the treasures of the past environment pour into the living occasions […] of place and regions’, the philosopher A. N. Whitehead acknowledges that our present environment is to some extent informed by our previous environments: the physical and temporal ‘“there” ingresses into “here,” and vice versa.’
Listening to the winnall moors sound walks, we hear the absence and presence of somewhere and somewhen else. However, I am not intending to recreate a solid there (and then), but rather to shift attention to the moment as it appears here.  In their ideal ‘setting’ the walks are considered a form of audio guide (whispered Ariel like into the ear via headphones), enabling the listener to walk around the moors in the acoustic company of a previous season. Whilst the sounds of the present environment are welcome to spill into the previous and mingle, creating a unique temporal landscape that maintains sensuous notions of spatiality whilst ‘presencing’ itself immediately here, there and then.

Listening lets be, lets come into presence the unbidden giving of sound. In listening humankind belongs within the event. And as a presence, the sound is that which endures, which is brought to pass, the sound whiles away in the temporal presencing which is essential to it.’ Don Ihde (1976).

intermittent alarms from a solitary crow

frozen movements: sebastiane hegarty

It would seem appropriate, that the winnall moors sound walk project should celebrate and contribute to a worldwide day of listening. So here I share in full, the last of the four walks through a year in winnall moors.  That these final steps should circuit through winter, unintentionally leads me back to when I made my first recordings for the project in January 2010. Winter is where and when I feel the annual of soundscapes begins: as an edition of two CD’s the first, pair’s winter with spring and the second summer with autumn.  Each soundwalk is twenty-five minutes long; the time it takes to walk one full rotation of the reserve.
The anonymous voices that introduce winter, provide an anecdotal entrance to the moors. They accompany the listener into an empty landscape that lingers between presence and absence. These spoken memories disperse the borders of the moors out into the wider landscape, placing them within the cultural and personal histories of Winchester: then and there in free association with here and now. The oscillation of presence and substance suggested by the fragile disembodied voices, casts a pall of impermanence over the moors.  This transience enters into the very substance of the landscape: that which once flowed now solidifies, that which was then solid now melts or exchanges the concrete for the vaporous.
The air crystallizes underfoot, whilst ice traps the presence and absence of animals, which once walked on water. The soundscape creaks, crackles and fizzes in onomatopoeic exchange, the weight of my movement through the landscape, prefaced by the stressed tensile groans and clicks of boardwalks and the intermittent alarm of a solitary crow.
A sample of chalk taken from the bed of the River Itchen, adds to the harmony of quiet transubstantiation as ancient CO2 is released from the plates or bones of creatures that lived beneath millions of years of shallow warm seas: oceans that once existed where now this river flows.

There is something intrinsically melancholic in all of the sound walks and in particular the insubstantial quiet of the winter walk. Perhaps it is the lack of significant presence which seems to make nothing tangible or perhaps it is the audible loss of time that colours the sounds and reminds me (at least) what once was and now is no more. Or perhaps it is more personal, winter being the final walk, the ‘end’ of the project. As I listen I remember my presence but hear my absence. Through the act of recording I have surreptitiously traced my movement through and from the landscape: I have become a ghost listening to myself now no longer here.

snowfall over the boardwalk at winnall moors

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Remembering movement: time and place thickened

autumn walk: small mammal survey

Autumn walk: sharp oblongs of reverberation

As summer begins to amble through spring, the remaining sonic perambulations of autumn and winter within the moors are completed.
The recordings from which autumn is composed are now over a year old: the sonic remains of forgotten weather and belated days. It is always very difficult to know what sounds to include and which to leave out, especially when, as an artist working with sound I am interested in the distinct and sensuous qualities of all sounds, the abstract or concrete elements of each sonic detail. I am also interested in not only the sounds inhabiting the landscape, but also the changes and behaviours of that environment and therefore the acoustic ecology and temporality of the soundscape heard. The notion of a sound walk introduces momentum, a sense of movement and therefore narrative into the soundcape: the rhythm and succession of sounds leads the ear through place and time. Even though the seasonality of the sounds creates a palette from which the walk is composed, the strict chronology of the recordings is not allowed to determine direction or progress through the landscape: place and time are allowed to meander and mingle. The hours of walking and listening are reassembled to create a walk that never took place, a remembering movement through the sounds of a forgotten landscape. The narrative structure evolves as a non-linear movement, time and place are allowed to merge and coalesce, generating a temporal spatiality informed perhaps by that soporific listlessness which inhabits the films of Andre Tarkovsky. The sharp edit of a gate latch lifted, harshly attaches one place to another, opening and closing distance, whilst moving the listener through a permeable landscape. Slow cross fades suggest a somnambulant narrative of transition; place and time thicken as they emerge slowly within each other. This aural thickening of time and place is similar to that of the olfactory experience. In the aromatic world of the Rhinoceros this is how experience happens. With a nasal membrane the size of a human brain:

[the Rhinoceros] inhabits a universe of gradual cross-fades as other creatures fade into or out of his olfactory world. The slice of ‘present’ between past and future, which we, privileging vision over all other senses, experience as razor-thin…is for the rhino a thick juicy slab of time…’ Michael Bywater, Lost Worlds

The word ‘walking’ shares its origins in such thickening: a walker being ‘one who fulls or thickens cloth’ (Chambers Dictionary of Etymology). The composition of each sound walk also evolves through a thickening process in which each previous walk informs the content and direction of the present. Landmarks and reoccurring elements emerge, but all with a seasonal shadow. The sound of water, which flows through all the walks, changes from season to season. There is a particularity to the acoustics of autumnal water, which makes it distinct from the river and rainfall of summer. This particularity is present, not only the timpani of rainfall on dry leaves, but also perhaps in the discrete contrast of wetness seeping through the crackle of frost and drying reed-beds.
The emptiness of the autumn soundscape is palpable, especially when preceded by the fecund chorus of spring and summer. A vacant spatiality is revealed, a pallid landscape punctuated by small sonic details. Sound is intermittent, a foggy silence interrupted with the occasional Hammer Horror squeal of a water rail or the viscose chaff and spatial rent of a runner approaching and departing.
Autumn seems suited to survey and repair.  A lack of procreation means that breeding animals are less likely to be disturbed and the environment can be assessed: The water vole population is at its highest and the small mammal survey is less likely to harm pregnant females. This survey introduces it’s own percussive spatiality, as the traps, laid with seeds, fly larvae and straw, offer up sharp oblongs of reverberation.

Autumn walk: deciduous trees

Autumn walk:  air caught in a net of wire

Autumn walk: water sounds and river sculpture

The labour of repair introduces it’s own abstract qualities, extending an otherness to the spatiality and temporality of the world apprehended.
In reforming the riverbed, using shingle to improve the subaquatic landscape for breeding trout, we hear the acoustic sculpture of form and substance: a rock thrown into the river, hollows out a sudden wet baseline; the cascade of shingle provides a curtain of damp percussion, whilst the gargling diesel engine of a tractor, retreats and disappears into silence.
Emergencies repairs to a collapsed hatch, which takes water from the River Itchen into the mini-stream and out across the reed-beds, result in a temporary interruption to the soundscape. The paths are closed with wire fences placed across the boardwalk and path at the rugby-field bridge. An area of sound is temporarily shut, but by attaching contact microphones to these fences we are allowed audible access to the Musique concrète of air caught in a net of wire and the echoing gait of people walking over the bridge. Into the moors and these dark reverberations, drift the public address of Bonfire Night and the invisible static constellations of fireworks: a tiny big bang of acoustic space and an annual soundmark of autumn in the soundscape of winnall moors.

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A field of summer: ghosts of sounds now no longer here

sebastiane hegarty: boardwalk through summer sebastiane hegarty: the path to the pond sebastiane hegarty: the scratch of mandibles upon wood

sound walk through summer (edit): sounds now no longer here

sound walk through summer (edit): the teeth of a grass cutter hover over summer’s path

The sound walk through summer in the moors is now complete. Opening with dawn of summer solstice in 2010, the walk accompanies the listener over the reed beds and out into the working landscape of the northern moors. Through this acoustic trespass, admittance is provided to an area of the moors, normally off limits to even the most robustly booted public foot. In this farmed landscape, volunteers meet under the shelter of a barns corrugated roof, whilst outside rain pours down from blocked gutters. The sound (or noise if you prefer) of work is an inherent part of the moors soundscape: this is a maintained environment and has been so for hundreds of years.  The spatial percussion of hammers arriving simultaneously distant and close, as clips are driven into wooden posts, opens up a sound field, which remains in perpetual flux. It is perhaps fittingly ironic that the sound of people fencing in space, should conjure up notions of place as emergent and impermanent:  ‘Acoustic space has no favoured focus. It’s a sphere without fixed boundaries, a space made by the thing itself, not space containing the thing. It’s not pictorial space, boxed-in, but dynamic, always in flux, creating its own dimensions moment by moment’ (Edmund Carpenter, Eskimo. 1959). In the sonic landscape, things that are there are always close to not being there, disappearance is a constant companion to audition. For this reason, I sometimes feel the word soundscape, with its allusion to landscape, introduces a sense of the concrete and fixed where there is none. I think the word sound field may be a more appropriate term, introducing as it does, a fuzzy edged notion of place, which remains adequately open and unfixed. According to my beloved Chambers Dictionary of Etymology the word ‘field’ is developed from the Old English folde, and the Old Saxon folda, meaning ‘earth, land’ therefore relating to the substance of place rather than its edges. Other dictionaries reference ‘open land’; place that is boundless and unfilled; although there is later reference to field as ‘a parcel of land marked off and used for pasture or tillage’. If we consider other notions of field we find: the ‘electromagnetic field’; the ‘field of gravity’, and Mark Rothko’s colour field paintings. For these fields edges are blurred and substance appears vague and immersive. Is this not like our experience of the acoustic world surrounding us: edgeless and immersive with an un-favoured focus? Walking through this summer field, there are sounds that appear to disappear and return, whilst others are lost to any coming summer.

The intermittent and abrasive electrical static of grasshoppers produce points and clusters of noise, like pins on an empty map. This noise will fade with autumn, but reappear next year. A tree branch split and fallen over a wooden fence however, introduces a transient creak, which was there last summer, but, with the removal of the branch, has now disappeared completely from the present field of sound. The use of contact microphones not only uncovers the field beneath the threshold of audition, allowing us to hear the insides of trees or the delicate gnaw of wasp mandibles on a wooden fence, it also brings into presence the ghost of sounds now no longer here.

In a perfect abrasive counterpoint to the electrical static of grasshoppers and gnaw of wasp mandibles, the mechanical teeth of a grass cutter also hover over summer’s path. These approaching jaws rent open the sound field. As they close in, the oily mastication is perceptibly tactile and sound brims over into touch. The summer sound walk ends with the roll of a river’s tongue and an electrical cloud* of Pipistrelles (‘cloud’ being the collective noun for bats in flight).

sebastiane hegarty: the gloaming sebastiane hegarty: bat detecting

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Walking spring over summer and winter beneath winter

Ringing Sky: Sebastiane Hegarty

Spring soundwalk: enterance into dawn

Spring soundwalk: finale and pagoda adagio

The first sound walk is now complete and will take the listener upon a twenty-five minute circumnavigation through spring in Winnall Moors. Re-composed from recordings made through two springs over the moors, the walk begins at dawn with isolated notes of birdsong and my frosted steps upon the boardwalk over reed beds. The birdsong builds in volume and complexity as several dawns combine to reveal a polyphonic chorus, surrounding the listener in territories of song. The sounds of my own steps accompany the listener, reminding you that another was present here and this dawn has now passed. It is this ability of sound to meld present and previous experience, which interests me, perhaps just as much as the quality and temporal aspect of the sounds themselves. It is intended that the listener may use the sound walk as a poetic audio guide, a sonic ghost accompanying them upon a peripatetic amble around the moors. In this way, recorded sounds will freely associate themselves with those available in the present time and place of the listener, revealing a temporal palimpsest of acoustic and visual experience. The listener can walk around the moors in the company of a previous season, the same as that now present or in contrast to it: time thickens as we walk spring over summer or winter beneath winter.  For me it is not important that the coordinates of the sound walk be strictly arranged to correspond directly to the fixed geography of the moors: that is I do not attempt to map precisely and chronologically a fixed circumnavigate movement through the moors. I prefer to let the sounds determine their own path, although by chance the location of the dawn birdsong opening the spring walk, corresponds almost exactly to location of the creaking adagio (from a HWT pagoda set up as part of the Trust’s 50th anniversary celebrations) with which it concludes.
This circular transit is echoed in a bank of swans arriving and dissolving inaudibly into the distance before returning, once more to disappear.
At the finale of the walk a bouquet of warblers, having returned here from tropical Africa, throw their songs into the air, whilst a work party, sink a post into the ground, a mobile phone adding to the chorus of territorial voices. The toil of the work party is telegraphed down a wire fence, throwing one more acoustic circumference around the moors.

As I now begin work on the summer walk, I am aware that certain sound events reoccur, so that the geography of the landscape may be tacitly disclosed within the sound walks. However, the events do not necessarily arrive at the same point in time upon each walk.  The sounds of dawn open both the summer and spring walks, revealing changes in the songs and voices present, whilst the sound of the dipping pond and mini-stream, although occurring in both walks, appear at different points along each sonic path.
In recomposing the summer walk, I have also became aware of a latent desire to use sounds, which corresponded to my idea of what sounds should be heard in each seasons: those seasonal sonic clichés which are familiar to our ears. My imagined summer was to be a dry humming soundcsape, murmuring with soporific warmth. In fact the recordings reveal summer to be stubbornly and faithfully wet: the loud timpani of rainfall on wire fences, accompanied by a softly apparent drizzle and the damp caw-caw of a solitary crow. As always sound teaches the ear to listen: ‘let sounds be themselves rather than vehicles for man-made theories…’ (John Cage).

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