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
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.
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.
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.