work party: meet me at the farm gates

08/03/10
I met Rachel Remnant (Winnall Moors Warden) at the farm gates in the north of the moors. The ground still had puddles of ice and Rachel took me to meet the work party who were clearing and burning the remains of felled trees.

Within moments of my arrival the flames escaped into the dry reeds, as everyone rushed for spades to beat down the flames and create a fire-break, I struggled to plug in my microphone and begin recording.
Later I attached stereo contact microphones to a branch in one of the fires. I managed to wedge the contacts into the splits of the branch. The short microphone lead meant I was quite close to the fire and I could feel the heat on my face. Every now and again, Mary returned to the fire dropping a pile of news branches onto the pyre. The sound was wonderful but as the wind changed the ash and sparks headed in my direction I had to make my retreat.

The sound of fire seems as warming as its flames, it gathers you close and memories begin to smoulder. The French philosopher Gaston Bachelard understood fires relationship to reverie: “Like a forgotten fire, a childhood can always flare up again within us”. As I listened to the branch spit and crackle I remembered the childhood excitement of starting a fire and the wonderful smell of smoke that lingers on your clothes and in your hair.

I recorded a tractor in another field as it traced the acoustic geometry of a square driving around the field’s edge. I wondered off to listen to the breeze passing through a metal gate and curled up wire fence.

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