Black bags at the pavilion

 

As a committee member of a local youth football club I sometimes find myself assisting with clearing up the pavilion at the Bullcroft Playing Field in Wallingford – one of our venues. The pavilion is a timber-clad building which must have been constructed in the twenties or thirties. There is often talk about refurbishing it or replacing it but this is usually accompanied by discussion of the alleged status of the Bullcroft Playing Field as a scheduled monument as – at some stage in the C12th when Wallingford was a major centre – there was a priory here. There have been several archaeological explorations on the site but no conclusive evidence has been found to my knowledge but then I’ve never been to Wallingford Museum… What you can see on the site are Anglo-Saxon earthworks which are visible on the North and East perimeter and one of the pitches is just below these creating a natural North Bank for spectators.

When clearing out the pavilion we have been discarding the containers that the line-marking paint arrives in. This is a recording of me crushing the containers and putting them in black bags for disposal.

Listening to the River Exe

On my second visit to Fortescue Farm in February 2013 the flood waters had receded. I stood beside the seven-bar gate in Second Marsh and listened to the river. Here are some thoughts from  my blog:

I made this recording on my second visit to Fortescue Farm standing next to the seven bar gate at the former site of a ford across the exe. The river was running within its banks but was still very fast flowing and swollen. Several times during the recording you can hear trains passing on the mainline between Exeter St. David’s and Taunton and in the distance you can hear the sound of an excavator somewhere near Stears Cottage to the North of Stoke Cannon. Recently I have begun thinking that rather than record at the field I should consider how to create a permanent audio stream to the site perhaps because I see my recording activities not as creating documents of a specific moment – although they do – but of making the soundscape of the location audible beyond our boundary of encounter with the site. I’m looking forward to returning to the seven bar gate in April to see how the soundscape has changed in that time.

While I was making this recording I walked West across the site taking photographs of the remains of driftwood scattered across ‘third marsh’ and material that had become lodged against wooden posts of the fence that separates ‘second marsh’ from ‘third marsh’.

Hey, why aren’t we talking about who we’re picking up? Who are we picking up?

 

Grassroots football is  a game of variable intensity; of noise and silence; presence and absence; activity and inactivity. Substitutions are made; the ball takes a wild deflection and disappears into a garden followed by a player who climbs into the undergrowth to retrieve it; a free-kick is given and the game stalls; there’s an injury and the players stand around in small groups talking or looking at the ground. Then the game explodes with a high tackle; a controversial decision from the ref; a counter-attack; a coach barely able to prevent himself from running onto the pitch and who instead ends up kicking the dugout. The action comes in waves. The sound builds then recedes.

The quality that football pitches have as sites of presence and absence – of sound heard and sound imagined – is discussed in a previous post and will be discussed further as Get Rid! develops. This post concentrates on the presence, absence and qualities of the sounding events during two particular matches.

To listen to this recent recording of the match at Wallingford’s Hithercroft stadium in which they took on Berinsfield – leaders of the North Berks League Division One – is to experience an ephemeral and fragile soundscape. The sounding presence of the match is at times indicated by intense verbal activity whilst at other times there is little evidence of it at all. At these times of absence the sound of game-time activity – rather than being projected beyond the physical bounds of the players and the playing area – becomes localised. The sounds are denied to the spectator as they dissipate between the source and the listener: the sound of studs making small depressions in the soft surface; the sleeves of shirts brushing against the body; players catching their breath. There were times during the match when there was a real intensity in the communication between players, coaches and match officials; and times when those sounds were absent or indistinct and instead the ear was drawn to the conversations of small groups of spectators; the sound of a toddler exploring the stands; the sound of fast-moving cars on the bypass; and of birdsong. This variance in intensity of game-time communication may – on this occasion – result from the stage of the match as the recording was made in the last twenty minutes with the result already decided; or it may be the particular nature of these squads – perhaps they are not big talkers; or perhaps this ebb and flow is part of the syntax of the game.

 

 

Game-time communication in the match between Dorchester and Hungerford Town FC Swifts – who were the most vocal of the two sides – from the North Berks League Division Two was consistently intense despite one of the sides being several goals clear when the recording was made. I made this recording from behind one of the goals and the goalkeeper was vocal in instructing his defenders and encouraging the team. The culture of the squad was clearly predicated on a lot of talking – there was a sense that every action required an instruction – free header – and an assessment – tell you what, another lucky one, tell you what, we’re shocking at defending corners. A player making a forward run; an adventurous goal attempt; defensive positioning when in possession and out of possession – all of these activities were commented on. Perhaps this emanates from the methods of the coach or the way that training is conducted. Whatever the case the game-time soundscape provides an alternative behaviour to that recorded at Wallingford; one in which there is an almost constant chatter of instructional and reactive commentary.

 

 

come on
playing, playing
stand him up
get out boys
too deep, too deep
unlucky, unlucky
free ‘ead, free ‘ead, free ‘ead
man on
stay high, stay high
now drop
eh, come on let’s keep working
number eleven
get out, get out
stand, stand
help him
walk it up
lino, lino, sub please
well done
well done son
two touch two touch
fucking hell
movement
lino, lino
Hey, settle, settle
drop off
stand up
watch the flick
come on
put a challenge in there
cheers mate
just hold it
come on, gee it up, piss poor
free header, free header
left should, left shoulder
well done
and again
middle
leave
hey, we’ve all gone to sleep out here
superb
stay high, stay high
winners, winners
keep playing
hey shush come on let’s think about this now
hey boys let’s wake up come on
just do it
now we get up
all of us, come on, work
travel
time, time, good lad
ref
you going to kick the ball away every time it goes out are we
man-a-piece, man-a-piece
hold, hold
help ‘im, help ‘im
unlucky
middle
stand still
get it out
deliver
one more
leave, leave
ref, we’re just going to swap linesmen
no free headers in there
fucking compete
no free header boys, no free header
attack the ball
winners boys, winners boys come on
away
fucks sake
stand up, stand up stand up
get out
play it
drive
lob ‘im, lob ‘im
tell you what, another lucky one, tell you what, we’re shocking at defending corners
send it back and the second ball
get rid
time
channel
quick, quick
man-a-piece
man on, man on, man on
right shoulder, right shoulder
Fucking cunt
Can we keep the fucking ball?
we don’t want that
well done
that’s alright, that’s alright son, head up
stay organised
let’s attack this ball blues
ref, ref, ref
hey, why aren’t we talking about who we’re picking up? who are we picking up?
stay tight to your men, that’s good tight
and again, same again
concentrate, concentrate
get out, get out, get out
want it, get some chalk on your boots
travel, travel
good area, unlucky, that’s unlucky, good area
come on blues, let’s keep working
get that ball down
come on boys
feet
time
that’s handball ref
great save
let’s have a blue win this time
let’s compete in the air
man on
good boy
free header, free header
stand him up, stand him up Jack
unlucky
get out get out
time, time
good area
that’s great ball
can you do him, go on son
ref
hey come on
ref
ref, ref, ref, come over here for me
nice goal
don’t switch off
last ten, hundred percent, come on
come on ref
come on ref
give us the width out there
seconds, seconds
far too easy
ref
walk it out, walk it out when we can
great ball, great ball
track him, track him
hold, hold
time
tight, tighter
stay here, stay here
get rid, GET RID!
switch it
time
ref, referee
two touch, two touch
well done
get out
seconds, seconds

 

(partial transcription of on-pitch communication Dorchester v Hungerford Town FC Swifts 28.02.2017)

 

 

 

Listening to the wind through gate posts and violins

The fields that I have been exploring at Fortescue Farm are very exposed to the elements. There is a rise to the North that provides some protection for the field nearest the farmhouse – known as First Marsh – but the landscape is open to the East, South and West so the wind can sweep across the fields at a fearsome pace. This particular quality of the site provides a ready supply of aeolian sound as the wind activates gateposts; fence wire; tall grasses; the small copse of trees near the dry river-bed; and any other objects that might vibrate in the wind. Following serious flooding, which had damaged the fencing in the fields new gates and gateposts are installed. This is the blog post from a  particularly windy visit:

On April 16th I visited the site with Emma Welton. As we walked away from the relative shelter of Fortescue Farm it became evident that strongly gusting wind was going to be a strong feature of the day. The wind cut across the site making the sound of the wind in my ears the most prevalent sound of day. This always seems amplified when wearing headphones as the wind is channelled through the gaps between the headband and the earpieces. There’s very little shelter on the site until you get to the copse of trees in rough marsh so this made recording very difficult even with a blimp. We heard all manner of aeolian phenomena during the day including the crackle of dry grasses; the tapping of tree branches as they are pushed around; the flutter of boundary tape; and the rush of white noise as the wind got amongst the grass in rough marsh. The most distinctive aeolian phenomena of the day was the sound made by the passage of the wind through small holes in the new gates that had been installed to replace those damaged in the flooding earlier in the year. We set up next to one of them and spent some time listening.

 

Later that day we worked with the violin in the centre of one of the fields and listened as the wind activated the strings.

 

Was he not through on goal?

Wallingford Town FC are one of the bigger clubs in the North Berks League. They play in Division One and have a home ground that looks like it could belong at a higher level. There is a vast difference between this and the ephemeral situation of Didcot Eagles who play at Brightwell Recreation Ground in Division Five. There are regularly fifty to sixty spectators at Wallingford’s home games. On the occasion that I made this recording I was sitting in one of the stands so the conversations and comments of spectators – rather then the players and coaches – dominate the listening experience.

The most distinctive aspects of the sounding culture of the event on this occasion were spectators clashing with both the referee and the linesman. The first of these exchanges took place between a spectator and the referee. When I say exchange that might be inaccurate as it was – as far as I could tell – entirely one-sided. The spectator was trying to attract the attention of the referee regarding a decision but to my knowledge the referee didn’t respond which led to a series of rhetorical questions from the spectator – was he not through on goal? The spectator walked up and down at the front of the stand getting more and more frustrated as the referee chose to continue refereeing rather than halting play and coming across to discuss the spectator’s opinions. Referees at this level strike a lone figure. The assistant referees are supplied by the competing clubs and there is no other back-up so making controversial decisions or decisions that are unpopular with the most vocal team is a hazardous occupation.

 

 

    (that’s a penalty)
    (definitely inside the box)
    (it’s inside the box)
    (that’s a red card)
    (he’s through on goal)
    (he’s through on goal)
    (Jesus) 
    (he hasn’t even spoke to him has he)
    (useless)
 
    (Hey Ref!)
 
    (was he not through on goal there ref?)
 
    (was he not through on goal?) 
    (Ref!)
    (was that)
    (was that player not through on goal?)
    (Ref?)
 
    (was he not through on goal ref?) 
    (you didn’t even speak to him man)
    (absolutely useless)
    (useless)
    (through on goal ref)
    (through on goal)
 
The second interaction between spectators and match officials was between the assistant referee on our side of the pitch and another spectator who accused him of cheating. The Assistant Referee’s response was to challenge the spectator to a post-game discussion of the offside law – you explain the offside law to me after the game. Whether or not this discussion ever took place I couldn’t say.

 

how can he be offside from there?
give offside
offside lino 
I thought you’d give offside for that wouldn’t yah 
cheating little cunt 
that’s what i thought
what? 
cheater you are
you’re a cheater mate
cheater
cheater
cheater
cheater
 
    (explain to me the offside law) 
    (explain the offside law)
    (what do you know about it)
    (what do know about it)
    (nothing)
    (you know nothing)
    (nothing)
    (you’re good sitting there)
    (you come and do it out here)
    (you know nothing)
    (nothing)
 
we’ll see you next week
we’ll see you next week
 
    (you explain the offside law to me after the game)
    (in word)
    (in word for word)
    (explain offside)
 
Amidst the antagonism between spectators and match officials the verbal culture of the players and coaches communication – while playing a major part in the sounding experience – was indistinct at times. Lots of background noise – a real cacophony – but less clarity. These are the on-pitch comments that I could accurately transcribe:

 

help him
fucking walking init
Sorry
hit that
first time then
settle
time
talk to ‘im
time
press, press hard
hold
come on
two ‘ere
keep it
we’re not keeping the fucking ball!
second ball

 

Listening to the River Exe in flood

 

 

These two recordings made with hydrophones (Aquarian Audio) provide different perspectives on the River Exe in flood. The first is one of the first recordings that I made as part of somewhere a field in January 2013 whilst the second was made in May 2014. During many of my winter visits to the field in the first two years of the study the River Exe was either lapping at the top of its banks or was spreading out across the fields.

The first recording was made by hydrophones cast into the flow of the river. This is what I wrote in my blog:

This is a recording i made on my first visit to Fortescue Farm. The River Exe was in flood and had swept away parts of the river bank and there was driftwood scattered across the fields. Riverside fencing had been washed away by debris and it was hard to tell where the river ended and the fields began. I used two hydrophones to make this recording. One of them i cast as far out into the River as i could whilst the other was closer to the bank. The river was moving very quickly and in the recording its possible to hear the clatter of small stones as they are swept along past the hydrophone. 

 

The second recording – as noted above – was made in May 2014. I arrived in the field just as the River was breaking its banks and stretching out across the fields. As I left the River was lapping at the top of my boots:

…the River Exe was just beginning to break its banks. As I arrived the water was seeping into First Marsh. By the time I left several hours later their was a foot of water across the field flowing swiftly towards the River on the other side of the fields and short circuiting the passage of the Exe – making small islands across the landscape. As the River rose I placed a hydrophone in the soil and listened. As soon as the banks were breached the water sped down the slope and eventually created a channel across the site linking up with the Exe again as it headed North West towards Brampford Speke.

Presence and absence at Brightwell Recreation Ground

The parameters for Get Rid! and my approach to collecting sounds for the project have developed over the last eighteen months or so. At first I imagined that I would largely document my experience of coaching youth football as it somehow seemed curious to have an area of my life – so rich in sounding material – that was entirely devoid of field recording activity. However, it was only when I started to think about broadening my approach to include my wider experiences of grassroots football that I began to see how this could work. I began to explore the five divisions of the North Berks Football League taking my boys to matches. The exploration began with Wallingford Town FC who are in the First Division and have what looks and feels like a stadium including a tuck shop which is always a bonus on a damp Saturday afternoon in October. One such afternoon we headed off to see the second half of Wallingford’s match v East Hendred. We walked from our house down to Brightwell Recreation ground with a view to cutting across the fields to Wallingford. When we reached the Rec there was a match in progress. I had no way of identifying the teams immediately but investigated later and found that this was the home of Didcot Eagles who play in the North Berks League Division Five. On this occasion they were taking on Steventon Reserves. As the boys walked on towards Wallingford I paused for a couple of minutes by the corner flag and made a recording with my Edirol R-09HR. What immediately struck me was the verbal sound culture of the event – the game time dialect of grassroots footballers – man on; get rid; options; REF!  It was almost like sifting through the contents of a sonic time capsule with each phrase taking me back to a past football match; to the mud-clogged fields of Mid-Devon; to our coach screaming – YOU’VE ALL GONE QUIET! As I listened I began to think of possible explorations of regional varieties or even varieties of game time dialect that might exist between the different divisions of the North Berks League.

 

ref
now get out
up we go, up we go
get ‘im in,
everyone on a man boys
it’s coming
working ‘ard
mate yeah
got one in then, yeah
seconds, seconds
pressure
e don’t want that
options boys
go on take that
2 v 1, two of you
our ball, our ball
stay in there, stay in there mate
yeah
man on now, man on now
pressure
whip it in
and again, and again
linesman
ref
well done mate, yeah
time

(partial transcription of Didcot Eagles v Steventon 29.10.2016)

 

Having established that the rec was the home of Didcot Eagles I looked up future fixtures and so later in December I took the short walk to the Rec to see the last few minutes of Didcot Eagles v Grove Rangers. As I walked down Mackney Lane I was expecting to begin to encounter the sound of the game as it bled into the surrounding countryside and travelled across the woodland towards me – but instead I only sensed absence. There were no shouts of man on, no options or LINO! The boundary of encounter with the expected sounding events remained elusive. As I turned into the recreation ground the reason for this became clear – there was no match. The Rec was empty except for some children fighting with sticks and a few dog walkers. I walked over to the pitch looking for evidence of recent action. The white lines looked recently painted and the goalmouths were muddy but whether or not the match had taken place at an earlier time that day I couldn’t be sure. The goalposts were neatly stacked against the pavilion and there was no sign of the nets. I leant against a railing and recorded the situation with my Edirol R-09-HR and imagined the sound of the ball being struck; of players shouting instructions and their voices bouncing off the flat surfaces of the pavilion and back onto the pitch; of the referee’s whistle; and the frustrated exclamations of the coach. In the absence of these sounds the ear was drawn to the wider soundscape – distant tyres on the asphalt of the bypass; the air vibrating with the movement of the rotary blades of helicopters from RAF Benson; the conversations of dog walkers; and the chatter of children in the play park.

 

 

Read more about Get Rid! here.

Painting white lines on the Bullcroft

Since becoming a youth coach with a grassroots football club in South Oxfordshire I have found myself spending a lot of time measuring and marking out pitches and then repainting the white lines week after week from September to May. During the course of the season through the multiple iterations of this activity certain characteristics of the pitch can become exaggerated – a goal-line with an ever more pronounced kink; a centre-circle that just seems to get bigger every time it is painted. You also find yourself revisiting and repeating mistakes. At the beginning of one season I made a mistake when marking out the D on the edge of each penalty area so that it was more than a metre too big. I then – somehow – repeated this mistake the following season so that every time I returned to paint the lines I had the familiar  experience of thinking ‘I must fix that’ and yet somehow never got ’round to it – much like the various dysfunctional door handles at home that need to be fixed but somehow manage to maintain their idiosyncratic qualities year after year.

This recording was made in January 2016 on the Bullcroft in Wallingford. It starts as I set off from the pavilion with the white-line marker and ends as I return having marked out the pitch. I made the recording with a pair of binaural microphones and my R-09HR. The sound moves from the auditory experience of public security – scrolling through the combination on a padlock, opening the latch on the iron gates – to the rhythmic movement of the line-marker with an ever decreasing quantity of paint so that the sound changes gradually across the duration of the recording. For any listeners who have actually undertaken this activity they will know that there is a distinct difference between the sound of a line-marker where all the parts are moving and one where one or more of the wheels just won’t move. There is plenty of shaking and rattling of the machine to get everything moving regularly.

Line-marking is an unexpected pleasure; a time to contemplate; to drift off; to dream; to embrace the outdoors whatever the weather; to tramp the grass and dream of perfectly timed and weighted defence-splitting passes. 

 

 

 

Get Rid! or Cultures of Sound in Grassroots Football

Get Rid! or Cultures of Sound in Grassroots Football is a project that has grown out of my engagement with grassroots football in Oxfordshire. Without a particular plan or framework in mind I will be making sound recordings of my experiences as a youth team coach; as a spectator at matches in the North Berks or other local grassroots adult leagues; as a groundsman marking out pitches; and as a member of a club committee. Grassroots Football refers to football played by amateur football clubs at youth and adult level so I won’t be visiting Didcot Town any time soon – other than for entertainment – as they are too far up the league pyramid.

Since I began making recordings for this project – and as noted above there has been no particular pattern at play – one of the most notable aspects of the experience has been the verbal culture of communication between players, coaches, officials and – when present – spectators. I am fascinated by the transformation of quiet parish council run local parks into sites of conflict and exuberant communication during the matches I have listened to.

This recording was made during the North Berks League Division Four match between Long Wittenham Athletic Reserves and Berinsfield Reserves (07.01.2017). I was driving through Long Wittenham and noticed the match taking place. I didn’t have my sound recorder to hand so had to make do with my iPhone 5s so there isn’t as much depth in the recording as I would have liked. Just before we arrived Berinsfield scored and Long Wittenham were under pressure while I was making this recording.There is a partial transcription below that provides a taste of the on pitch verbal culture accompanied by teenagers on the nearby swings discussing earlier matches in the FA Cup Third Round.

 

put ‘im under
time
options
send it back, send it back
AJ’s there
away again
options
it’s off…it’s off                      (go on)
get rid, get rid
come on lino
well played
use ‘im
                                              (John Stones scored it, no, do you know why, do you know what
back in then                          (5-0, 5-0)
mark up
                                              (Sterling)
hold, hold
good touch
AJ
away it goes…away it goes
man on, man on
keep on, keep on, keep on
let ‘im come, let ‘im come
who wants it
header
free ‘ead, free ‘ead
get round, get round
stick the man under
will’s there, will’s there
touch…touch,
ah, fuck off
unlucky, unlucky boys
yes
good ball
time Rob, time Rob
listen
options
away
ref, ref
(m)idfield, come on
good football
unlucky
well done
if you need
options…options
still ‘ere
one more
inside
nick that
one of you in the middle here
shield it out
it’s gone…it’s gone (it’s gone)
unlucky
Callum stay up, Callum stay up, stay up
quick…and back
stand there…, stand there…, stand there…
time
use ‘im
midfield, over
options
man on
on your right (on your right)
line, line
turn
Michael, Michael
handball
one more, one more
time
this way
away Andy
do ‘im, do ‘im
time
Rob, Rob, yes then, Rob
go on then
put it across then
unlucky
well done
kick ‘im Rob
midfield…midfield
yes, callum
yes, AJ
well done
keep going, keep going, keep going
spare man in the box
someone help ‘im
man on
Paul Whitty (2017)

 

Sonic Advent Calendar 2016

The sonic advent calendar is making a return this year, and will be meditating on thresholds and transitions of varying sorts.

You can listen to the sounds as they appear day by day here.

Enjoy!