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.
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).
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