Category: Get Rid!

Listening to the sound of the A34 flooding across the fields of Oxfordshire

(Drayton FC v Hagbourne United Reserves at the Lockway)

It was in April this year that I began to take an interest in the way that traffic sound shapes the listening experience at several of the pitches used by teams in the North Berks League. In spring last year I wrote this about the experience of recording the sound of football not happening at the home of Drayton FC:

The A34 runs from Salford to Winchester. The Southern leg of the road cuts through Oxfordshire from North to South. The soundscape at Drayton FC to the East and Milton United FC to the West of the road is dominated by the sound of the internal combustion engine; the resonating tarmac; and the rattle of trailers and trucks . Drayton FC play in the North Berks League and their pitch is on the South-West edge of the village. The centre circle is 175m East of the A34. If you stand in the centre-circle – where this recording was made – there are benchless breeze block dugouts; a line of low trees; and an electricity pylon that stands in the field between the pitch and the road. The embankment of the A34 rises above the field and the sounds of the road flood down the embankment and saturate the surrounding area with a band of consistent high frequency noise. The rattle of trucks; the phasing of tyres on asphalt as they approach and depart; the liquid drone of the road – these are the sounds that dominate the listener’s attention.

 

 
This week I returned to the Lockway to listen to Drayton FC v Hagbourne Reserves in the North Berks League Division 3. There is no sound baffling between Drayton and the A34 not even a screen of trees. It made me wonder what a fence would do; a tightly packed screen of beech trees; a glass and steel acoustic shield. How long has the sound from the road been this pervasive? Has it got quieter as engine noise has reduced or was rubber on asphalt always the dominant sound at this distance? The calls of the players and coaches are submerged beneath shimmering white noise.
 

 
Only when the play came over to the eastern edge where I was standing was it possible to clearly hear the on-pitch communication. If i had been standing on the A4017 Steventon Road on the other side of the houses whose gardens back onto the pitch I am almost certain that the only sound I would have heard from the West would have been that of the A34. The shouts of players and coaches would be lost in the complex wave of traffic sound – hemmed in – unable to resonate across the surrounding streets and fields.

man on, man on, man on
one more
go to
well done
..two
well done boys
keep going – keep going
‘lucky mate
keep going – keep going

nil-nil start again – nil-nil start again
keep switched on it’s nil-nil

keepers – keepers
two again
stay there
…boys
easy
hey – hey
out wide
not too deep
head
have a go…
hit it
you bastard
early
big head
come up

country lanes, aeolian dugouts and another reversing truck

The more times that I travel between the same two fixed points the more I feel compelled to find new routes; seeking to exhaust the possible combinations of country lanes, trunk roads, suburban streets, village high roads and dual carriageways. Of course I prefer not to make the journey much longer than the quickest possible route but sometimes curiosity gets the better of me and I head down a country lane I’ve passed by hundreds of times in a bid to understand my surroundings; to surprise myself; to make strange. Perhaps the goal is to turn from the less travelled lane onto a road I have driven down a thousand times but fail to recognise it because I have approached it from a new direction.

Surviving my daily commute – then – means finding as many different combinations of routes as possible between the fixed points of home and office. One of the routes I have explored peels away from Oxford’s Eastern By-pass Road towards Horspath and passes – on the right – the training ground of Oxford United and – on the left – Horspath Sports Ground which is home to Horspath FC. On the most recent occasion that I took this route I was travelling home on a Saturday afternoon. I knew that Horspath FC Reserves had a match with Charlton United FC Reserves in Division Two of the Oxfordshire Senior League. So as I headed east along Horspath Road I turned left into the car park at the sports ground and walked past the athletics track towards the football pitch.


(players and spectators disperse after the final whistle at Horspath Sports Ground)

 

unlucky then
chin up
switch, switch
man on
man on – man on
away
well done
come here
turn and turn
get it back
corner flag, corner flag
man on
come and help me out
lino
get back
under
put him under
you can’t play a high line
drop in
don’t concede another
back a little bit
that’s the one
drop
middle
seconds
win it
why’ve i got one ‘ere?
why’ve i got one free?
ref
ref
just get behind the ball
come on
someone bring him over
do not lose him
watch your line
kick it
hey hey hey
pressure him
get ‘em up – get ‘em up
well in
winners
time
still on
fucking hell
chase it
did that go off?
well done
defensively get set up line
drop in
give it him
get rid mate
keepers
coming through
wide
going to make a decision isn’t they
don’t even say that
come on last minute
do me a favour
you’ve gotta see it out man
big head – big head – big head
man on – man on
clear your lines
yeah
box him in mate
fucking get up and box him in
listen to me
come over then
keep on talking
away you go
yeah
go on
fucking got – fucking – there’s no one behind you
seconds – seconds
get out
out out out out out
no foul
move away
man on
other side of him
no foul – no foul
time time
they don’t give him enough quality
come on raise it
we’ve got our heads down
come on we’re up here
we mustn’t concede boys
we haven’t been good
that’s three points
last little bit
turn it ‘round
go on put it through
keep it under control yeah
squeeze
go on
middle
behind you
lovely
corner
corner
less than a minute left
get out – get out – get out – get out
winners
winners
(you mean losers)
head home – head home
go right
pressure
big one
no bounce
free header
head it forward
oh fucking hell
get out there
feet feet feet
win that win that
just turn him ‘round
clear your lines now
good ball
time now boys – time
get rid
man on
time time
line
get up – get up – get up – get up
get out
keep pushing
man on man on
hold
hit it
oh for fuck’s sake
ref
fair play
you shouldn’t be up there
you don’t need to be there
ref
come on boys
last minute
c’mon
head
that’s time wasting
winners
what’s the point of that?
 
I returned to the sports ground the following Monday and sat in the dugout. There’s a City Council depot just to the north and a series of country paths frequented by dog walkers to the east. There was a strong wind and the perspex and aluminium dugouts became aeolian devices as the wind squeezed through gaps and rattled loose panels. Each dugout is different. One has what look like classroom chairs equally spaced within it and the other has a bench. Each has a small technical area marked out in front.

(the dugouts at Horspath Sports Ground)

7th November 2017
10.10 : Horspath Sports Ground
the call of a wren in the hedgerow; the perspex dugout creaks in the light breeze as the draught forces its way through the joins; traffic sound is constant from the eastern by-pass Road – A4142; passing cars and trucks on Horspath Road to the south emerge from the drone and then recede as they slow down and drive through the village; small birds overhead; distant call of Rooks; a single car passes on the nearby track; the perspex shakes again in a stronger wind now; the sound of tools; detailed birdsong from the hedgerows is hard to identify – perhaps a Robin; the whisper of wind in dry beach leaves; rattle of a trailer; a solitary crow calls three times; a reversing truck – distant; a dry leaf is blown along the turf; a hammer; no wood pigeons here; no red kites; air traffic is lost beneath the shimmering white noise of the bypass; wind begins to form recognisable tones as it squeezes through the gaps in the dugout; possible sound of a distant seagull; dog walker whistling, then shouting his dog’s name; another reversing truck; a small bird flies across the pitch in a series of inverted arcs; truck rattles away from the depot; jangle of a dog-lead beyond the screen of trees; finally the vibrations of a passing jet; another reversing truck.

 

Ligue de Football Nouvelle-Aquitaine, dishcloths and disalienation

For several years now I have been visiting a small hamlet in France called Chassagne located close to St.Amand-de-Coly a village with a distinctive fortified church. The nearest large town is Sarlat-le-Caneda to the south. We usually visit in August and although the Ligue 1, Ligue 2 and CFA (Championnat de France Amateur) seasons begin early in the month the local leagues tend to start several weeks later so it is rare that we are able to see any grassroots football. For some time now I seem to have developed a tendency to orientate myself in a place by seeking out local football pitches; investigating the material culture of the sites – the dugouts; scoreboards; fencing; goalposts; club-houses; advertising hoardings and floodlights. I’m never sure exactly what it is that I am trying to understand by contemplating these things. Perhaps there is a connection with my experiences of home and the terrain that I navigate in Oxfordshire – driving from one football pitch to another; from empty field to empty field. I find myself thinking about Frederic jameson’s Postmodernism or the cultural logic of late capitalism and in particular this:

Disalienation in the traditional city, then, involves the practical reconquest of a sense of place and the construction or reconstruction of an articulated ensemble which can be retained in memory and which the individual subject can map and remap along the moments of mobile, alternative trajectories.

(Jameson; Chapter 1)

The area we visit is full of hamlets and villages and is definitely not a city but perhaps any complex arrangement of spaces can be considered or read as such in the terms that Jameson uses.

During our visit this year I took a walk through Condat-sur-Vezere, headed to the stadium, and noticed that there was a match scheduled for the last Sunday of our stay – Condat-sur-Vezere FC v Limeuil FC in the first round of the Coupe Nouvelle-Aquitaine. In the weeks leading up to the match I visited the ground to record the sound of football not happening. The Coly a tributary of the Vezere River runs to the south of the stadium; the D62 to the north.

19th August 2017
14.19 : Condat-sur-Vezere

(the home dugout at Condat-sur-Vezere FC)

shifting cloud of white noise from the River Coly; wind through the screen of trees on the far bank; a voice; there seems to be a distant melody; flies buzz past; occasional waves of traffic on the D62 their sound rolling down the embankment spilling across the pitch and reflecting from the dugouts; the distant feral drone of an industrial process – perhaps the factory across the Vezere in Le Lardin; small birds in the low trees and bushes; slow moving waves of harmony as tyres sound asphalt moving from left to right – right to left; laughing; a blackbird sounds the alarm; a dog barks; a wood pigeon calls close by and then again in the distance; the drone of the factory is submerged by a breaking wave of birdsong and local traffic; someone cuts their way through the undergrowth; the white noise of the river is constant the slow flow sounding the rocks and banks; a large rattling truck with flat tyres grinds towards Saint Genies; clanking; chains; a shout; air vibrates with the distant rumble of jet engines; a magpie calls; the feral drone of the factory heads up the valley.

 

 

We arrived at the match during the second half and stood near the club-house and behind the assistant referee. There was a small bar and the constant sound of conversation; spectators on their phones; children playing; and sporadic applause. There were around seventy to eighty spectators at the game leaning up against the barrier that surrounds the pitch and gathered underneath the scoreboard.

(the club-house at Condat-sur-Vezere FC)

When I arrived back in England I asked a French friend – Gerald – who has lived in England for thirty years to listen to the recording and see how much of the on pitch communication he could transcribe. He also picked up some of the conversation amongst the spectators:

12s …pas que pour faire la fete…    :    Not only to party

47s Vas-yy’a pas de gardien    :    Go ahead there’s no keeper
1:24 Allez les bleus – on se les met    :    Go on the Blues, let’s have them
1:33 allez les gars on s’en…   :    Come on guys let’s…
1:51 la perd pas    :    Don’t lose it
2:12 bien joué Nathan elle est pas facile la …  Allez allez    :    Well played Nathan, it is not easy the… Come on…
2:19 y’a pas de caractère    :    There’s no character
2:38 En fait c’est lui le coach     :    In fact it’s him the coach
3:14 Nadège? Ah merde Janine    :    Nadege? Ah shit Janine
3:17 Ouais ou alors on lui enverra    :    Yeah or else we’ll send her…
3:20 Envoie moi la confirmation des ordres déjà    :    Send me the the order confirmation first
3:45 l’arbitres’il vous plait    –    Refereeplease
3:46 ca je m’en fou    :    this, I don’t care
3:48 je sais qu’y a Maurice… Maurice?    :    I know there’s Maurice… Maurice?
4:07 Cocorico    :    cock-a-doodle-doo
4:12 la partie de but au début mais alors    :    A game of goal at the beginning but then (doesn’t make sense)
4:41 Cocorico    :    cock-a-doodle-doo
4:48 Vous avez des mecs sérieux    :    You have some serious guys
4:52 mélange pas les torchons et les serviettes    :    Don’t mix dishcloths and tablecloths (…apples and oranges)
5:14 Cocorico    :    cock-a-doodle-doo
5:18 Moi je vois que ça après voila c’est Géraldine…    :    Me I can only see that and then after it’s Geraldine
7:00 Va dans le mur    :    Get in the wall
7:20 On est a Condat ici    :    We’re in Condat here
7:22 Allez les garsil faut y’aller    –    Come on guys, let’s go
8:37 Excuse je suis la j’ai loupé un but alors…    –    Excuse me I’m here, I missed a goal then…
11:12 Allez les gars montez les bleus    –    Come on guys go up blues
Gerald then summarises the transcription:
So to conclude it looks like someone called Janine (or perhaps Nadege) ordered some mixed dishcloths and tablecloths but the order was lost and Geraldine will look into it but if she can’t sort it out then Maurice will get involved. Maybe. And someone scored from a free kick around 7:05 possibly because Benoit didn’t get in the wall.

When I asked Gerald to listen to the recording I wasn’t specific about whether I just wanted the on-pitch communication or whether all of the conversation was of equal value. I have often recorded and transcribed pitch-side conversation relating to the game – for example discussion with the linesman here –  but have rarely concentrated on the everyday conversation evident in Gerald’s transcription; the discussion of dishcloths, tablecloths and relationships; the conversations of bar staff; and spectators catching up with each other is an essential element of  the sounding experience of the match.

Travel! [#5] Ashendon Playing Field

This is the fifth in a series of posts investigating the close-season soundscape of football pitches on the route between Brightwell-cum-Sotwell and Winslow. There are more details of the project here.
The village of Ashendon sits between Upper Pollicott to the south and Westcott to the north-east on a road that heads north from the Aylesbury Road and connects with the A41 to the north-west of Waddesdon. At its southern end the road – at that point called Cannon Hill – climbs to a crossroads and then descends into a shallow valley before rising to a ridge on top of which sits Ashendon. As I entered the village I noticed a set of goalposts; turned left into a small car-park; and headed up the hill to the west end of the pitch. I didn’t have any sound recording equipment with me so I sat, listened and made a note of what I could hear.
6th July 2017
13.57 : Ashendon Playing Field
(Sitting behind the goal looking down the slope)
1.
Reversing van pulses with white noise; passing car approaches and departs a slow-motion wave of sound; wood pigeons call in the distance; cars pass matching their sound envelopes – a meeting of waves; gentle breeze disturbs the trees; a blackbird calls from beyond the pavilion; a fly passes close by; the wings of a small bird – flapping; rattling cement mixer and white van meet, pause, continue; the squeal of brakes; a chaffinch calls; the leaves of the Oak treeshake in unison and form a barrier of sound between my position and the lane; two airplanes – one to the North, one to the South – the sound of their droning propellers rises and falls – left to right, right to left; one is dominant now and blends with the leaves in the breeze –  a drone powered by diesel and air pressure; a passenger jet – distant rumble; a rook calls in the gap between passing cars; antiphony between air traffic and the approaching protesting roar and squeak of a large trailer; a train sounds its horn to the South.
Ashendon Playing Field is the home of Ludgershall United FC who play in the Aylesbury and District League. The pitch has a distinctive slope and I imagine that a fair number of strikes on the goal at the east end of the pitch – at the bottom of the slope – finish with the ball being lost in the churchyard to the east.

On my second visit to Ashendon I had my equipment with me. There was a strong wind, so strong that many of the distinctive sounding characteristics of the area – the vibrations of distant jets, helicopters, and light aircraft; the phasing white noise of the passing traffic; the calls of red kites and wood pigeons – were obscured by the many and various sounds of the wind as it shook branches; whistled through bushes and shrubs; and turned the long grasses around the pitch into a multitude of whispering aeolian devices.

 

(looking west up the slope from the touchline)

Travel! [#4] Standing around on Warborough Green

This is the fourth in a series of posts investigating the close-season soundscape of football pitches on the route between Brightwell-cum-Sotwell and Winslow. There are more details of the project here.
Warborough Green lies to the east of the Parish Church and is flanked by ancient lanes to the north and south both of which peter out into the surrounding fields although the southern lane becomes a path that leads to the neighbouring village of Roke. To the east there are hedgerows, open fields and a view to the Chilterns. The church clock strikes eleven; the sound of horses hooves on the pathway are reflected by the white-washed walls of the timber framed houses to the south; a push-bike is walked across the grass; swifts sound their alarm and chase insects low across the cricket square; a dog walker is disturbed by my presence when I explain that I’m there to record the sound of football pitches not in use:
I just don’t like people standing around doing things like that actually
When looking on aerial maps the goalposts for the currently unused 11-a-side pitch are visible although I couldn’t locate the post holes. There weren’t any teams using the pitch in 2016-2017 although at various times prior to that Warborough & Shillingford FC and Warborough & Cross Keys FC used the pitch. Both teams have now folded as far as I can tell. I have only paid one visit to Warborough so far:
10th July 2017
10.43 : Warborough village green

 

(steel goalposts for small-sided football viewed from the former site of the 11-a-side pitch)

 

1.
Jet engines above; distant vibration; frequencies phasing in a slow motion Doppler effect; a fierce babble of birdsong from the hedgerows; a fly passes; shouts of children the wings of passing Wood Pigeons slap together; farm machinery passes on the A 329 beyond the church; horses hooves sound the lane accompanied on the opposite side of the green by a free-wheeling bicycle; the call of Red Kites; passing cars slowly skirting the green are almost inaudible; swallows dive  across the cricket square – their complex multiphonic calls beat against each other; a car door shuts and a wood pigeon is disturbed – flapping ineffectually to gain greater height; collared doves and red kites call simultaneously from opposite sides of the green; another jet – high above the cloud cover makes the air vibrate again – I begin to wonder whether we are ever entirely free of this vibrating presence; the horses hooves on the surface of the lane reflect back off the cottages on the south side of the green; a blackbird starts an alarm call; my ear catches the far distant sound of a train – at least that’s my first instinct – it could be a fast moving truck on the A4074; a trailer rattles; the alarm calls of the blackbird are joined by the high pitched percolating call of the red kite; the two bird calls cease almost simultaneously leaving a space in the soundscape for the occasional calls of swallow and swift; a dog walker approaches; dog panting; the clink of a chain.

 

 

(looking west towards the pavilion)

 

2.
The high-pitched sound of red kite calls counterpoint the slow phasing of aircraft; the sound of football boots being clapped together reflects off the buildings to the south; the flap of pigeon wings and the pointillist babble of birdsong mark the boundaries of the green; the church clock strikes eleven providing respite from the rumble of the vibrating air; the nearby vibrations of a light aircraft are replaced for a moment by the distant rumble of jets – I begin to wonder if the sound is a helicopter rather than a plane but I can’t see the source; a dog barks – just once; as the air traffic recedes the mid-range hiss of the road returns; swifts and swallows continue their brittle song; a distant collared dove calls from the east of the green whilst the sound of rooks arrives from the west; a tractor moves slowly on the A329; birdsong continues to articulate the boundaries of the open space; the clank of a trailer; a car engine – closer now.

 

 

While writing this I have just heard that Benjamin Mendy is set to join Manchester City from Monaco for £52M and that Kilian Mbappé may be joining Real Madrid for £161M. Curious to think that the football played on the village green at Warborough over the last hundred years is related to the sport of millionaires; corporate finance; and institutionalised narcissism that saturates the media. Instead of falling victim to the boundless details of the life of modern football I would prefer to take a moment to imagine myself sitting on the green at a future date listening to the calls of players and coaches – put ‘im under; get rid; time; straight back in – reflecting back from the pavilion; the occasional clapping of spectators; the ball striking the crossbar; a dog barking, straining, desperate to chase the football; the green falling back into silence as the players, coaches and spectators disperse; the call of wood pigeons as they return to the centre circle.

Travel! [#3] Cuddington Playing Fields

This is the third in a series of posts investigating the close-season soundscape of football pitches on the route between Brightwell-cum-Sotwell and Winslow. There are more details of the project here.

The second journey I took in this study consisted of visiting three pitches with a notebook as my only recording device. I began at Long Crendon, sitting on a bench and listening to the sound of the motorised roller on the cricket square, before heading north-east to Chearsley – which had led me to Towersey Park on my last journey – and then on to Cuddington and Ashenden. The shape of the playing fields at Cuddington is curious – like a rectangle with one corner cut off. The football pitch is marked out against the boundary that runs south-west to north-east. Beyond the pitch there are cornfields; rows of electricity pylons; and the A418. There is a white-washed breeze-block dugout with clearly marked home and away benches. I headed for that, took a seat, and listened:

10th July 2017
13.11 : Cuddington Playing Fields HP18 0AJ

(looking out from the away dugout)

A sheep in a distant field; the buzz of a fly comes and goes; distant sound of tyres sounding the road surface blends with the sound of the line of trees to the north of the playing field swaying in the breeze; the flap of wings as a small bird – perhaps a sparrow – dashes past the dugout; the fly returns – the buzz resonating against the white-washed breeze-block walls; air traffic lightly plays on the fringes of the soundscape – perhaps a helicopter on this occasion – with a tremolo of vibration from the rotor; a car door slams; cars pass slowly on the Aylesbury Road creating graceful waves of sound; the wings of a butterfly are occasionally audible as its erratic flightpath takes it in and out of the dugout; the call of swifts as they dive towards the centre circle then stay low; a babble of birdsong in the surrounding hedgerows – wrens, sparrows; the distant sound of geese calling in flight; a solitary crow punctuates the sounding world with four staccato calls; the light aircraft returns – twin propellers creating competing sound waves that buffet each other creating a vibrating tremolo.

I walk across the pitch and sit on a bench with my back to Aylesbury Road

The flutter of wood pigeons as I take a seat; a car passes and I can hear dry leaves and debris on the road sounding the tarmac and shifting in its wake; the breeze knocks the stems of the long grass together; collared doves call; the air is thick with the white noise of the gusting wind in the hedgerow, the grasses and the nearby trees that creates a dense shifting drone for the listener to dive into and explore; approaching cars emerge from the white noise and then sink back into it taking their sounding – their audible cloud of phasing frequencies – with them; a tractor and trailer pass by shaking and rattling – the sound reflects from the screen of trees.

Listening from the resonant shelter of the dugout made a distinct difference to what I could hear most particularly the delicate sound of butterflies wings and the buzz of insect flight. I returned to the playing fields a day later and once again sat in the away dugout:

11th July 2017
13.24 : Cuddington Playing Fields HP18 0AJ

(white lines)

The horn of a train; cars pass spraying water as they go; the calm after the rainstorm; light birdsong from the fringes of the playing field; perhaps a passenger jet overhead blending with the white noise of distant trees shaking; the unmistakeable sound of a high speed train spreading ripples of vibration up and down the tracks; police siren – perhaps two; the sound from the road returns – the standing water amplifies the sounding tyres; a cockerel in the distant – collared doves by the tennis courts; jackdaw calls as the air falls silent; a collective whisper – a wave of hush – as a flock of sparrows dive over the top of the dugout and head towards Bernard Close; a warbler begins to sing above the shining white noise of a passing truck; quietness falls and the polyphony of birdsong becomes audible again; red kite in the distance.

Wind sounding the hedgerow, trees and long grass; the pitch-shifting resonance of distant air-traffic; the wave of rising and falling sound activated by passing cars; the polyphony of birdsong; and the sounding results of the erratic flight of the wood pigeon have been the staple listening experiences of the time I have spent exploring the football pitches between Brightwell and Winslow. The listening process has been iterative as I have become more familiar with these elements attempting to analyse them in greater detail and understand how the sound – more precisely – is being made. There are, however, also more unique sounding moments. There is one of these in this recording – 5’14” – where the sound of a small group of sparrows – not enough to constitute a flock – head north across the playing field passing directly over the away dugout. In my listening notes I describe this as:

a collective whisper – a wave of hush.

It is hard to describe the sound – it lasts for less than a second but is distinctive as it is the only incidence of the sound on the recording – an ephemeral moment. I listened and re-listened again and again.

Travel! [#2] The Village Green, Stadhampton

This is the second in a series of posts investigating the close-season soundscape of football pitches on the route between Brightwell-cum-Sotwell and Winslow. There are more details of the project here.
The Village Green at Stadhampton sits at the north end of the village and is divided into several parts by the A329 that cuts north to south; the B480 that heads north-east to Chalgrove; and Cat Lane that winds south-eastwards and then peters out. The largest part of the green accommodates the football pitch that is the home of Stadhampton FC who – in 2016-2017 which was their first season – played in the First Division of the Upper Thames Valley Sunday League. The goalposts are still standing.

 

I have visited the Village Green a couple of times to listen and record:

 

6th july 2017
14.49 :  The Village Green – Stadhampton OX44 7UB

(looking north towards the B480)

Crow overhead – two calls made simultaneously with the sound of a passenger jet; swifts flying low; a large articulated lorry bounces through pot-holes that make an instrument of its trailer – the sound resonates across the green; a dog barks and the sounds of agricultural industry can be heard – perhaps a JCB moving earth or clearing a path – or perhaps the sound of outbuildings being removed; a single jackdaw call; the smooth white noise of the road like a wave receding from the shoreline on a beach of small pebbles – Aldeburgh perhaps – the sound is constant but rises and falls; a babble of hedgerow birds in the distance – a chaffinch the chief noisemaker amongst them; wood pigeons call from a rooftop; a group of rooks call; a fly passes my right ear; another light aircraft progresses slowly across the sky with the steady pulse of tremolo propellor sound; all of the sound-making activity is on the fringes of the green – only the darting swallows enter the space regularly; a car passes – tyres on grit and gravel – the sound fades quickly; the chaffinch is back and a military helicopter passes to the east hurling tremolo waves of sound to all sides; as the helicopter passes a passenger jet can be heard high above the clouds.

 

10th july 2017
11.26 :  The Village Green – Stadhampton OX44 7UB

(red clover flowers near the scorched markings of the centre circle)

Wind shakes the screen of trees along the Eastern edge of the village green; a single light aircraft overhead – distinctive tremolo of diesel engine; sounds of agricultural industry – a resonant metal trailer-ramp hits concrete – pallets are dropped; the bright droning sheen of tyres on asphalt blends with the wind; birdsong from several directions simultaneously; the sound of an accelerating engine rises above the road surface drone; a collared dove call duets briefly with an abandoned pasty wrapper that moves slowly across the grass with the erratic breeze – and then darts away caught by a sudden gust; rook calling; a chorus of wood pigeons now; twin copper beaches at the northern edge of the green are sounded by a sustained gust of wind that then moves on to the eastside of the green creating sound in its wake; a diesel-engine truck reversing; the rattle of trailer and grind of gears as a refuse truck passes and is swiftly followed by the call of a red kite and the distant flap of wings; a kazmierczak truck passes but its contact with the road surface is soundless at this distance until a dull thud as it hits a pot-hole – perhaps the truck is full and the weight of the trailer is deadening the sound; a flat-bed truck passes straight afterwards – its base a resonant metal sheet – rattling freely and accompanying the sound of children calling in the playground.

 

On this second visit to green on July 10th I also made a sound recording:

Travel! The corridor of uncertainty

(bare earth where the white lines were marked at the village green, Stadhampton)

This is the first in a series of posts investigating the close-season soundscape of football pitches on the route between Brightwell-cum-Sotwell and Winslow.

At the beginning of July we drove the short distance from Wallingford to Winslow in Buckinghamshire. I didn’t necessarily choose the most well-trodden route and we found ourselves on a series of roads where alongside severe subsidence – particularly on Carters’ Lane that runs between Blackgrove Road and North Marston – there seemed to be a very real chance that if we stayed out too late we might find that the dense hedgerows on either side of the tarmac had linked up by the time we returned and where we had set off on a decaying trunk road we would be returning on little more than a rural pathway. This reminded me of my interest in recently disused roads and the way that they can quickly recede into the undergrowth becoming narrow footpaths bordered by a wild profusion of plant-life. These sites are a chance to see the formerly vibrant arteries of our transport networks becoming archaeological sites before our eyes and ears as the tarmac sinks into the soil beneath and the sound of tyres on asphalt becomes the sound of dry leaves dancing along a narrow paved pathway; or the sound of  wood pigeons’ wings as their undulating flight takes them from tree to tree. Given my interest in rural football pitches and considering the descent of a site of activity and movement from the present into the past I began to think of pitches in close season as archaeological sites: traces of white lines or depressed channels in the grass; a slight dip in the goalmouths; a bare patch of soil where the centre circle had been marked with a mixture of white paint and weed-killer; round holes for goalposts perhaps now covered in weeds; uneven growth patterns along touchlines; discarded, rusting, goalposts abandoned in a nearby hedge or propped against a fence and now covered in dense creepers.

I felt that I had to return and travel this route again, to pause, get out of the car, spend time, listen. The area seemed curiously remote and in particular Carters’ Lane seemed to be a road that had lost itself and its purpose as it heads North but then peters out as lanes branching to either side head East to North Marston or West to Hogshaw. All that is left of the path North that eventually curves to the East towards Granborough is little more than a desire path that for brief moments passes between hedgerows as a lane would but for the most part simply follows the field’s edge. Having taken a look at the OS map of the area I can see that Carters’ Lane is marked as a Roman Road. I began to think of a way of combining my interest in this route with the discovery of rural football pitches in close season; of using the football pitches along the route as listening stations – sites from which to survey the soundscape; to consider the ephemeral nature of our occupation of space. I began looking at maps – both analogue and digital, searching for evidence of the presence of football pitches.

The pitches that I found were in a variety of conditions from those at Wallingford and Thame both looking sprightly as pre-season and the challenge of new leagues – the Hellenic and Southern respectively – approached; to long disused pitches at Little Milton; pitches with goalposts still standing and others covered in a profusion of flowering red and white clover. At Cuddington – home of Aylesbury Dynamos – white lines had been freshly marked whilst the lines had long since faded on the village green at Stadhampton but scars remained where chemicals mixed with the paint had made the soil barren.

(abandoned goalpost in long grass at Towersey Park)

My first attempt to retrace my steps on the route from Wallingford to Winslow was brief. I was in Long Crendon for a meeting and rather than head straight home I decided to strike out on the route. The first village I came across was Chearsley. Following investigation it seemed that the local football team Chearsley Cricketers FC had folded in February 2016. I found this message on their website:

After yet another frustrating week having to chase up people to even reply to text messages and ultimately an inability to field a competitive side the club have made the difficult decision to fold the club after 10 years. Those that have had the thankless task of running the club over the years deserved better.

The tagline on the website reads:

Welcome to the home of Chearsley Cricketers FC. Providing 10 years of footballing mediocrity 2005-2016.

 In the 2015-2016 season Chearsley Cricketers FC played in the Aylesbury Sunday Combination Premier. Home matches were at Towersey Fields so that’s where I headed to listen:
A bird-scarer sounds complete with reflections from the house fronts on the other side of Thame Road; a distant train – I hear undulations in the sound as it moves from rail to rail; a drone close by – or is it a chain-saw?; the shimmer of poplars in the breeze – the aeolian drone of wind through the leaves; the chain-saw returns – sporadic; birdsong is distant – articulating the hedgerow and fences that mark the boundaries of the playing field – silence in the open ground except for the occasional forays of swifts and a solitary Red Kite; abandoned goal-posts in the long grass; passing cars are not travelling fast enough to fully rise above the drone of the poplars – perhaps on a day when the road surface was wet with rain; a swallow calls – a dissonant multiphonic; a cow; the gentle pitch-phasing of a passing passenger jet; greenfinches in the car park; the bird scarer sounds three times – the third time lower and with a ricochet of rapid reflections; jet engines resonate through the cloud cover and blend with the aeolian drone of the poplars; the chain saw; a Red kite passes – calls once – I strain to hear the flap of its wings but hear nothing.
And record:

 

 

On the threshold of the car park with ChirpOMatic and the linguistic peculiarity of the heath

 

On the 11th April this year I visited Sutton Courtenay FC for an evening match in the North Berks League Division Two against  Westminster FC who eventually ran out as runners-up in the League. I have already posted sounds from the match and considered the ebb and flow of the game as a sounding event that articulates the playing area, the recreation ground,  and the fields and lanes that surround it.
As I have spent more time on football pitches in Oxfordshire – and around – with both the presence and absence of football I have found that two of the most dominant sounds are those of the wind in trees, hedgerows and grasses; and of birdsong. Both are complex and detailed sound worlds. When describing the sound of wind activating leaves, branches and grasses there are so many factors that impact on what we hear – the size and structure of the leaves; their density; whether they are fresh and supple, beginning to dry, or brittle; the strength and direction of the wind and whether it is moving whole branches or just gently shifting the position of individual leaves; and whether the leaves are coming into contact with each other or nearby objects such as fenceposts, wires, boundary walls and so on. The wind is never regular in speed, direction or pressure and so one of the real joys of listening to its impact on trees and hedgerows is the way that it shifts and moves its attention so that at one moment the leaves in the higher branches of the trees are sounding and then at the next they are silent whilst a gust is sounding the smaller leaves in a hedgerow twenty metres away – it is a shifting, ephemeral soundscape. Thomas Hardy’s account – from The Return of the native – of an Aeolian experience on heathland provides a musical analogue:

It might reasonably have been supposed that she was listening to the wind, which rose somewhat as the night advanced, and laid hold of the attention. The wind, indeed, seemed made for the scene, as the scene seemed made for the hour. Part of its tone was quite special; what was heard there could be heard nowhere else. Gusts in innumerable series followed each other from the northwest, and when each one of them raced past the sound of its progress resolved into three. Treble, tenor, and bass notes were to be found therein. The general ricochet of the whole over pits and prominences had the gravest pitch of the chime. Next there could be heard the baritone buzz of a holly tree. Below these in force, above them in pitch, a dwindled voice strove hard at a husky tune, which was the peculiar local sound alluded to. Thinner and less immediately traceable than the other two, it was far more impressive than either. In it lay what may be called the linguistic peculiarity of the heath; and being audible nowhere on earth off a heath, it afforded a shadow of reason for the woman’s tenseness, which continued as unbroken as ever.

Throughout the blowing of these plaintive November winds that note bore a great resemblance to the ruins of human song which remain to the throat of fourscore and ten. It was a worn whisper, dry and papery, and it brushed so distinctly across the ear that, by the accustomed, the material minutiae in which it originated could be realized as by touch. It was the united products of infinitesimal vegetable causes, and these were neither stems, leaves, fruit, blades, prickles, lichen, nor moss.

The Return of the Native (Hardy: 1878)

Alongside the sound of the wind the sound of birdsong is – as mentioned – one of the most dominant aspects of the soundscapes that I have experienced during the project. Up until this stage I haven’t really attempted to go beyond the description of the phenomenon as just that – birdsong. There has been no attempt to identify species or consider whether the song is coming from a long distance, from the treetops or from the hedgerows. I began to think that I should seek to rectify this but have precious little knowledge of bird calls beyond the most common participants, the Chaffinch, Blackbird, Jackdaw and Wood Pigeon. In order to begin to decode the birdsong in the recording featured below I enlisted the help of ChirpOMatic – an app that automatically identifies bird calls. It was developed by computer scientist Alex Wilson and biologist Hilary Lind. In 11″ episodes I applied the app to the recording. ChirpOMatic provides three top matches and two runners up for each recording it makes. I have included the top matches in the transcription below.

What soon became clear was that ChirpOMatic was perhaps hearing birdsong that wasn’t there – possibly as a result of the multiple sounds present – and was also missing some birdsong as a result of it being too distant or obscured by other more dominant sounds. For example, there is a constant chirp of Sparrows in the background of the recording and these are not picked up by ChirpOMatic and the call of the Peacock also fails to register. The combination of birdsong, shouts from players and managers and other sounds in the soundscape make ChirpOMatic‘s task a tough one. The Mallard identified at 1’50” is almost certainly the result of one of the substitutes walking to the carpark to get the mud off his boots by knocking their soles together; whilst the Lapwing’s alarm call identified on several occasions is probably the result of – amongst other things – a player calling hey! hey! hey! hey! at 2’45”. What I did establish through reference to the identifications of ChirpOMatic and my own research was that there were almost certainly calls from the Chaffinch, Blackbird, Wren, Robin, Peacock and Sparrow plus some that remain unidentified. Despite ChirpOMatic‘s insistence the presence of the Curlew, Green Woodpecker, Starling, Song Thrush, Pheasant and Mallard is unlikely on this occasion!

The recording in question was made on the threshold of the car park next to the gate post:

 

(0’00”- 0’11” ChirpOMatic)
Song Thrush; Curlew; Green Woodpecker
The drone of distant traffic can be heard from the A34 to the West and the A475 Abingdon Road to the North. There are occasional sounds of local traffic on the High Road.
look up
look up
look up
look up
A dog barks.
(0’11”-0’22” ChirpOMatic)
Robin; Blackbird; Green Woodpecker

 

up
up
up
up

 

(0’22”-0’33” ChirpOMatic)
Robin; Blackbird; Starling

 

drop
HEY!
one on one
there it is
there it is
one on one
one on one

 

(0’33″-0’44” ChirpOMatic)
Blue Tit; Green Woodpecker; Song Thrush
The whistle.
(0’44”-0’55” ChirpOMatic)
Robin; seep alarm call (Robin, Chaffinch, Blackbird Dunnock, Starling)
(0’55”-1’06” ChirpOMatic)
seep alarm call; Robin; Curlew

 

hey
walk
walk
midfield
midfield

 

(1’06”-1’17” ChirpOMatic)
Song Thrush; Robin; Curlew

 

walk
hold
The muffled thud of boot on ball.
come here

 

(1’17”-1’28” ChirpOMatic)
Song Thrush; seep alarm call; Robin
The whistle.
(1’28”-1’39” ChirpOMatic)
Robin; Song Thrush; Great Tit
The ball is closer now. A clear sound of contact.
Car keys.
(1’39”-1’50” ChirpOMatic)
Robin; seep; Song Thrush
The soles of a pair of football boots are tapped together to clear them of mud.
(1’50″-2’01″ ChirpOMatic)
Pheasant; Mallard; Black-cap
A goal-kick.
hey

 

(2’01″-2’12” ChirpOMatic) 
Robin; seep; Goldcrest

 

help him
come on

 

(2’12″-2’23″ ChirpOMatic)
Robin; Wren; seep
(2’23″-2’34″ ChirpOMatic)
Robin; Lapwing; Great Tit

 

ref
The whistle.
(2’34″-2’45″ ChirpOMatic)
Robin; Song Thrush; Starling
The sound of clapping.
A distant peacock.
(2’45″-2’56″ ChirpOMatic)
Song Thrush; Lapwing; Robin
The muffled thud of boot on ball.
walk
hey! – hey! – hey! – hey!

 

(2’56″-3’07″ ChirpOMatic)
Robin; Curlew; Carrion Crow
Clapping.
(3’07”-3’18” ChirpOMatic)
Curlew; Robin; Lapwing

 

have it

 

(3’18”-3’29” ChirpOMatic)
Wren; Blackbird; seep
Football boots on tarmac.
(3’29”-3’40” ChirpOMatic)
seep; Wren, Starling

 

go again

 

(3’40”-3’51” ChirpOMatic)
Blackbird; Curlew; Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
A car passes by.
(3’51”-4’02” ChirpOMatic)
Robin; Pheasant; Curlew

Listening to Steventon v Hanney 66 from the causeway

Stivetune (xi cent.); Estiventona (xii cent.); Stiveton (xiii cent.); Stivington, Estiventon, Stiventon, Stuvinton, Steveington (xiii cent.); Stephyngton (xvi cent.).

The parish, which contained two tithings, East End and West End, in the 14th and 15th centuries, comprises 2,401 acres. It is in the Vale of the White Horse, where the country gradually ascends from the Thames to the downs, the height varying from 200 ft. above the ordnance datum in the north to 300 ft. in the south, on Steventon Hill. The subsoil is Gault, Upper Greensand and Kimmeridge Clay, the soil cretaceous clay. The principal crops grown are wheat, beans and oats. There are 1,630 acres of arable land, 695 acres of permanent grass and 26 acres of woods and plantations. There were 268 acres of meadow in 1086, and the whole parish appears in 1294 as a large manorial farm, the manor containing 1,500 acres of arable land, 220 acres of meadow, 20 acres of pasture, two dovecotes and poultry worth 67s. 1d.

(from A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1924; quoted in british-history.ac.uk).

 

 

As mentioned in a previous post entitled Listening to Didcot Eagles the fleeting and ephemeral presence of the sounds of grassroots football matches on parish recreation grounds has become an important part of this project. I am fascinated by the way that the sounds of the match brush up against the dominant soundscape, that is, the sounds that through their continued presence are part of the everyday soundscape of the site. Didcot Eagles play at Brightwell Recreation Ground, a playing field at the Southern edge of Brightwell-cum-Sotwell on Mackney Lane. The village has been bypassed and so the sounds of life passing through have now been replaced by the distant white noise of the A4130. Steventon’s home ground is in the North East corner of the village but roads intersect at the South West corner of the green including the B4017 Abingdon Road. There is also sound from the Paddington to Bristol railway line that  lies to the South whilst the A34 is just a couple of fields away to the East and the Milton interchange is nearby. In short, the air in Steventon reverberates with the sounds of transit.

When I arrived for the North Berks League Division Five match against Hanney 66 I parked in the village hall car park and began to explore the surrounding area listening to the shouts of players and coaches. I moved towards the match and away again as I tried to find the boundary of encounter with the sounding presence of the match. At the back of the village hall and to the South of the village green I found a raised causeway, stepped up onto it and began to record:

 

As i began to think about writing this post I did some research about Steventon and discovered that the Causeway I had been standing on was part of a medieval causeway that runs from the church at the South-West edge of the village to the village green and beyond as Milton Lane becomes a track and then a narrow footpath. The football matches played on the green for the last hundred or more years, then, become part of the sounding history of the causeway, part of the evolving soundscape of the village, part of the auditory fabric of the inhabitant’s everyday experiences.

 

I moved along the causeway and began to hear the sounds of an air pump feeding the bouncy castle at the social club:

 

 

Walking around the back of the club house I stood at the edge of a small car park and listened as one of the players struggled with a padlock as he tried to get back into the changing rooms. I walked across the green towards a bench situated between the club house and the pitch. I took a seat, changed the batteries in my Edirol and listened to the ebb and flow of the match:

 

Having spent some time on the bench I wandered around the pitch and took up a position on the East side of the village green roughly parallel with the half-way line and spent some time listening to the match. One of the most distinctive aspects of the on pitch communication was the use of Stivvy as an abbreviation of Steventon. this interested me because up until the C16th Steventon had a variety of variants on the name most of which had i as the first vowel rather than the current e including Stivington, Estiventon and Stiventon. Perhaps, then, the abbreviation as heard here is a survival from an earlier iteration of the name of the village:

 

left and right
press left
make sure you come out
it’s going
it’s going
it’s going
get it under
your ball
it’s gone
it’s gone
behind you
turn
turn
turn
to your left
step to your left
there you go
sorry
sorry
it’s good enough
it’s good enough
getting further back here
in here
in here
you’re in
and challenge
challenge then
retain it
square
in the box
time
time
‘ead
great knock
unlucky
time
time
push out
push out
unlucky
good save
well done
right
set again yellow
let’s keep it loud Stivvy
let’s keep talkin’
drop a bit
drop with the kick
let’s call it
let’s turn, let’s turn
man on, man on
track him
get shape then
mark up
tuck ’round, tuck ‘round
man coming
man on
sit on
stand
well done
easy
time
sorry
not now
not now
not now
take him on
let’s go
blue ‘ead
time
unlucky mate
coming in here
squeeze on
no, not in there
in the middle
look for it
go left, go left, go left
drop, drop
winner
well done
stand
stand
stand
drop
good work Stivvy
come on
keep going
press
go on then
drop
man on
ref
ref
unlucky
get shape then
alright
i’ll dummy it for him
who wants it Hanney
drop for the kick
keep dropping
keep dropping
no fouls
take it in
take it in
six yard box
make something of it then Stivvy
drop
Stivvy
work
get your shape
well done
early ball
let’s get on it
shuffle over
shuffle over
option there
man on
let’s hold
hold
through ball
hold the ball
watch that
watch that
stand
no foul
ref
yes
pick him up
away
make him play
make him play
back if you want
there you go
ref
runners
run the ball
good play boys
pick him up
you’re giving him too much space
fucking joke
fucking joke
all the way then Stivvy
stay back
keep it going yellows
it’s not over yet
back in
let’s go again then yellows
tight then yellows
who wants it
time
time
sorry
wide
recover
recover

As the match drew to a close I walked back across the village green and sat on the grass near the club house and bouncy castle. There is an ensemble of sounds here brought together by the presence of the match – the sound of the air pump mingles with the calls and shouts of children; a radio plays music inside the club house; chat at the end of the match; adults sitting at tables talking in lower voices; a buzz of activity; the final whistle.