Distal Bodies 45.6dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 9th June 2020

Time: 09:03 – 09:18

Weather: Light cloud and light winds

Temperature: 13oC

Average Sound Level: 45.6dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Distal Bodies 46.6dBSPL (LAeq)

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 8th June 2020

Time: 09:01 – 09:16

Weather: Sunny patches light cloud with a gentle breeze

Temperature: 13oC

Average Sound Level: 46.6dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Aligning and calibrating the sound meter, I stroll to the bench, stopping briefly to say hello to mums I know from the school run. The sounds of young children and their carers have returned with some force today, enlivening the air with chatter, squeals of laughter and the occasional cry of pain. Like the library, pubs, community centre and churches, the schools bring the community together, reinstating routines and regularity that structure the soundscape and encourage the conversations that connect us with neighbours. In a similar way, sitting on this park bench at the same time every morning surrounded by recording paraphernalia has provided a consistency and conspicuousness that facilitates conversation. Dog walkers understand this. The connections that bind community seem to be built upon this sharing and structuring of time and space.

With the school run over, I am left to ponder the contrast of this structured connection with my experience of listening to online communities, notably on social media, where I carefully maintain relations with two distinct pools of people. There are those that currently shout “Ginger Lives Matter”, share sounds of violence, looting, rioting, alongside speeches listing the past criminal acts of George Floyd. Then, there are those that depict Nigel Farage sobbing at the fall of Edward Colston’s statue, placards screaming ‘White Silence is Compliance’ and endless soundscapes of chants and peaceful protest. Neither seem aware of the others existence and when they occasionally do meet, angry exchanges hammered out on keyboards, have them retreating to recuperate amidst the familiar voices of like minds. As such, social distancing has been developing apace for many years now, nurtured by preferences and algorithms. The voices listened to online are largely our ‘heavy rotation’ playlist, personalised, portable and available to stream at almost any time we choose. In contrast, the public playlist provided by the soundscape of the village green, is on shuffle, added to by others, available only at given times to experience together with those who share the space with us.

Hearing faint, awkward footsteps in my headphones, my train of thought is broken. I look up to see a friend, wide grin, tiptoeing past the microphones in jest.

Woodcote Village Green

Distal Bodies 43.7dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 7th June 2020

Time: 8:59 – 09:14

Weather: Sunny, light cloud with a gentle breeze

Temperature: 13oC

Average Sound Level: 43.7dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

The stillness of a Sunday morning finds me capturing myself breathing.

A handful of cyclists converge in the car park to begin their descent, silent, spare the clattering prelude of pedals and chains. A red kite bursts out of the background, drawing my attention, it’s wings clipping the leaves above my head. It banks and circles, rising quickly as we make eye contact. A car horn, the cooing of a pigeon straining to be acknowledged, the intermittent buzzing of a hedge strimmer, crows, blackbirds, tits and psithurism. For a while the silence of familiarity offers a space to hear my thoughts; powerlessness, fake news, black lives, ignorance, inaction, meaning. Lost in circles of possibility, probability and conjecture, I drop the words and return to listening, as only listening seems to make any sense.

Distal Bodies 43.1dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 6th June 2020

Time: 09:01 – 09:16

Weather: Cloudy and dry with a strong wind

Temperature: 10oC

Average Sound Level: 43.1dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Distal Bodies 59.9dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 5th June 2020

Time: 09:00 – 09:15

Weather: Sunny, light cloud with a strong breeze

Temperature: 12oC

Average Sound Level: 59.9dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Distal Bodies 45.3dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 4th June 2020

Time: 09:03 – 09:18

Weather: Cloudy and dry with a gentle breeze

Temperature: 11oC

Average Sound Level: 45.3dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Distal Bodies 44.8dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 3rd June 2020

Time: 09:03 – 09:18

Weather: Sunny, largely clear skies with a gentle breeze

Temperature: 16oC

Average Sound Level: 44.8dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Distal Bodies 43.1dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 2nd June 2020

Time: 09:02 – 09:17

Weather: Sunny, largely clear skies with a gentle breeze

Temperature: 18oC

Average Sound Level: 43.1dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Distal Bodies 43.1dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 1st June 2020

Time: 09:01 – 09:16

Weather: Sunny, clear skies and a gentle breeze

Temperature: 18oC

Average Sound Level: 43.1dBSPL (LAeq)

Passing the Jubilee commemoration, through the shaded, narrow passage on the edge of the cricket pitch, I notice the village hall doors are open on to the green. Escaping are the commanding, motherly voices of staff reinitiating the young attendees of Woodcote Preschool, back from the lockdown break. Strolling across the pitch, I line-up the sound level meter with the park bench and zip-wire frame and head to my customary quiet position under the line of beech trees by the school. Now, with distance, only the occasional scrape of furniture and excited squeal from the hall can make it past the continuous throng of cars, trucks and delivery vans and the, still occasional, thunderous passage of aircraft. Behind me in the primary school, the sound of a bucket handle being picked up and dropped, reverberates around the playground. The droning tone from some mechanical device seems to blend seamlessly with a lorry’s pulsing reverse tone. Other proximal sounds provide a comfortingly familiar natural blanket; fresh leaves animated by the breeze, pigeons with their insistent mellow cooing, the mew-like cry of red kites, the virtuosic song of blackbirds and the other cheeps and chirps, indistinguishable to the untrained ear. Then, as I am about to leave, an electric scooter flies past, its foley sound; the clicking of a lawn sprinkler mixed with the whine of a milk float. The young gentleman driver, topless and tanned, turns his head in my direction, nodding and smiling in relaxed and confident self-recognition.

Woodcote Village Green

Distal Bodies 41.5dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 31st May 2020

Time: 09:00 – 09:15

Weather: Sunny, clear skies with a gentle breeze

Temperature: 20oC

Average Sound Level: 41.5dBSPL (LAeq)

On warm, half-awake mornings like these, measurements, labels, concepts and theories seem quite beside the point, a distraction. Yet, like the joggers and dog walkers I say good morning to, I acknowledge that it is the justification of purpose, responsibility, discipline and necessity that has brought me here.

Woodcote Village Green