Sound Walking: a short walk through a year

December morning in the moors

We are now in the second stage of the project, the compositional stage: although, I am still occasionally enticed into the moors to have a surreptitious earful. On one such recent aural rummage, I found some gaseous ticking in the pond and bat detected the ultra sonic noise of grasshoppers: they are very loud occupants of the ultrascape.

In response to a number of requests, I have been working on a short sound walk through the moors, for the future listening ears of Radio Solent and Radio 3. Although, at six-minutes thirty, this walk is brief in duration, it offers an extended ‘view’ of time: beginning in December 2010 and wandering backwards and forwards through summer and spring to arrive under a Pagoda at this year’s 50th Anniversary of the Trust.
I have also been logging all the sounds recorded, which appeals to my slight OCD tendencies, but with over 100gb of sounds, it can prove rather a chore. The composition of the six-minute thirty vignette was a welcome and consuming escape.
The recording of a soundscape not only helps to reveal its pattern and temperament, but also allows for the subsequent re-composition of that soundscape: a shifting and pleating of time and place. Such composition allows the colour and texture of individual sounds to inform the placement and acoustic collage of the soundscape. This introduces a hypermobility and temporal plasticity, the sound walk is not necessarily limited to linear movement or narrative progression, in keeping with the nature of acoustic space, boundaries are temporal and emergent and the past mingles with the present.
The short walk begins at 6am on Christmas day, the ice crackling in front of my steps as I walk across the frozen boardwalk. My steps lead back into the dawn chorus of the summer solstice, overlaid with the spring bird ringing.
The movement of water through the moors serve produces a chorus of voices, which include the scientific sounds of measurement and observation as Dr Ben Rushbrook performs a Kick Sample, walking up the mini-stream rolling the riverbed with his feet and catching the disturbed creatures in a net. Ben is an expert in fly larvae, the diversity and quantity of which indicate the ecological health of the river and the broader reserve.
The moors are a maintained environment and have been so for hundreds of years, the maintenance and repair of the moors is an on-going process. Volunteers carry out much of this work and the noise of their labour introduces its own rhythms, conversations and narratives. The sound of a fence post being sunk into the ground, makes the moors resound with hammered percussion.
The use of contact microphones and hydrophones provide a form of electrical clairvoyance allowing the discrete sounds hidden beneath the surface of the soundscape to emerge; here are the sound of rain falling on barbed wire, the subaquatic gaseous songs of pondweed; the territorial rhythmic patterns of a water boatman.
The short acoustic excursion ends beneath a Pagoda on the 50th anniversary of the Hampshire Wildlife Trust. The Pagodas provided shade for different events (such as the creatures from the pond dipping, being put under the close-up lens of a camera). But for the contact microphone, the Pagoda offers an Aeolian shade, as the April breeze passing over the them, is amplified into a dissonant but glorious creak.
This short walk through the Moors provides me with a preliminary survey of the recorded temporal and acoustic geography of the reserve: a form of listening reconnaissance. From this point I walk  forward, listening for the seasonal soundscapes to be found amongst the recordings made in a year that now has passed.

This entry was posted in Autumn, River, sound walk, spring, Summer, Water, Winter and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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