Tag: absence

Twenty-Eight Empty Fields #28 : Hithercroft Sports Park, Wallingford

Recreation Grounds, Playing Fields and Village Greens have fallen silent – football isn’t happening. A twenty-eight day suspension is in place as part of measures to reduce the incidence of Covid-19. On each of the twenty-eight days I will be visiting a football pitch and recording the sounding absence of football.

Hithercroft Sports Park, Wallingford

Twenty-Eight Empty Fields #26 : Loyd Recreation Park, Didcot

Recreation Grounds, Playing Fields and Village Greens have fallen silent – football isn’t happening. A twenty-eight day suspension is in place as part of measures to reduce the incidence of Covid-19. On each of the twenty-eight days I will be visiting a football pitch and recording the sounding absence of football.

Loyd Recreation Park, Didcot

Twenty-Eight Empty Fields #25 : Memorial Playing Fields, Hanney

Recreation Grounds, Playing Fields and Village Greens have fallen silent – football isn’t happening. A twenty-eight day suspension is in place as part of measures to reduce the incidence of Covid-19. On each of the twenty-eight days I will be visiting a football pitch and recording the sounding absence of football.

Memorial Playing Fields, Hanney

Twenty-Eight Empty Fields #24 : Great Bedwyn Memorial Playing Field

Recreation Grounds, Playing Fields and Village Greens have fallen silent – football isn’t happening. A twenty-eight day suspension is in place as part of measures to reduce the incidence of Covid-19. On each of the twenty-eight days I will be visiting a football pitch and recording the sounding absence of football.

Great Bedwyn Memorial Playing Field

Twenty-Eight Empty Fields #17 : Lambourn Sports Club

Recreation Grounds, Playing Fields and Village Greens have fallen silent – football isn’t happening. A twenty-eight day suspension is in place as part of measures to reduce the incidence of Covid-19. On each of the twenty-eight days I will be visiting a football pitch and recording the sounding absence of football.

Lambourn Sports Club

Behind Closed Doors #1

Dortmund v Shalke 04 : RB Leipzig v SC Freiburg 16052020

…the collective song and intoxicating sound of the crowd does not just provide an accompaniment to the beautiful action of the players, but is the sublime matrix out of which play emerges, the force field that energizes the action, taking the form of competitive song and counter-song, strophe and antistrophe. This is why games played in front of empty stadia, say as a punishment for the fans’ racist behaviour, are such an abomination. A game without fans is a kind of category mistake; a mere training ground exercise devoid of sense. The key to football is the complex, configured interaction between sublime music and the beautiful image, Dionysos and Apollo, the fans and the team.

Simon Critchley What We think About When We Think About Football (2017 : p.70-71)

Dortmund v Schalke 04

The category mistake described by Simon Critchley has arrived, it is here, it is abundant. The Bundesliga has returned with all matches taking place behind closed doors. On March 15th this year, before many nations had entered lockdown and shortly after Valencia met Atalanta behind closed doors in the Champions League, Tim Lewis wrote this in The Guardian:

The Mestalla in Valencia has to be one of the most intimidating stadiums in the world for visiting football teams. Its stands, which have the pitch of a ski jump, allow home fans to create a claustrophobic wall of noise. The rabid screams of 55,000 Valencians, bouncing off the concrete foundations, have made it something of a fortress for the local team and a popular venue for Spain’s home fixtures. A while back, I watched Valencia play Barcelona at the Mestalla, and there was a febrile menace in the air that night unlike any other I have experienced in a football ground.

The vibe at the Mestalla was rather different last week, when Valencia hosted Atalanta in the second leg of the sides’ Champions League last-16 tie. If ever a team needed a boost from their 12th man, their fans, it was now: Valencia had to make up a 4-1 deficit from the first leg. But, because of the coronavirus outbreak, the fixture was played behind closed doors. Watching the match on TV was eerie: you could hear the players shouting for the ball or celebrating or appealing for a foul. At times you had to remind yourself that it wasn’t a training exercise.

The febrile energy of Simon Critchley’s ‘sublime matrix‘ is now absent and so I started thinking about the sounding spaces that fans were now watching matches in, their domestic spaces. We watched Dortmund v Schalke 04 from the Westfalenstadion in our kitchen.

In the 29th minute at the Westfalenstadion Thorgan Hazard sent a beautiful curling cross into the Schalke penalty area from the right. It eluded the defender at the near post and arrived in the six-yard box at the same time as Erling Haaland who despatched the ball past the goalkeeper with a single, delightful, touch. The football was beautiful. It was no less beautiful in itself because of the absence of spectators but it was somehow diminished. It felt like the idea of a beautiful goal, a simulation, without the vibrating air, the seismic response of the crowd. There was no roar, just the crack of the net as the ball struck home. Of course, there was the beauty of the sound of the ball striking Hazard’s boot, bouncing, striking Haaland’s boot and then the net – dum-ba-dum-ka – but frayed, unleashed quivering air, the venting of thousands of lungs was absent. I documented the situation in the kitchen, watching the game, sweeping the floor, emptying the bin, making a cup of tea, tidying .

Dortmund v Shalke 04 16052020

As the phenomenon of games being played behind closed doors continues I will document the situations in which I experience the matches. Listening to the resonance of the empty stadium seeping into domestic space and then, in turn, imagining the thousands of domestic environments in which the game is being watched, returning to the stadium, resonating, filling the stadium with domestic noise and action.

In Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno’s film Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, Zidane talks about the sound of the crowd and how instead of hearing the mass sounding event his attention is often directed towards the sounding of individual events.

When you are immersed in the game, you don’t really hear the crowd. You can almost decide for yourself what you want to hear. You are never alone. I can hear someone shift around in their chair. I can hear someone coughing. I can hear someone whisper in the ear of the person next to them. I can imagine that I can hear the ticking of a watch.’ 

Zinedine Zidane Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait by Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno (2006)

I find myself imagining Erling Haaland’s attention being caught by the click of a kettle, Matts Hummels waiting for a goal-kick to be taken and becoming distracted by the sound of a breadknife cutting through a crust, the clank of bottles in the fridge, the rattle of cutlery in the dishwasher.

As Dortmund scored their fourth we switched matches and caught part of the second half of RB Leipzig v SC Freiburg at the Red Bull Arena while I emptied the dishwasher, cleaned the surfaces.

RB Leipzig v SC Freiburg 16052020

24th April

Somewhere near a field in Oxfordshire

At daybreak, my face still turned to the wall, and before I had seen above the big window-curtains what tone the first streaks of light assumed, I could already tell what the weather was like. The first sounds from the street had told me, according to weather they came to my ears deadened and distorted by the moisture of the atmosphere or quivering like arrows in the resonant, empty expanses of a spacious, frosty, pure morning; as soon as I heard the rumble of the first tramcar, I could tell whether it was sodden with rain or setting forth into the blue.

Marcel Proust The Captive (1925)

Leaning out of an upstairs window I can hear the sound of hedgerow birds, chickens running in one of the nearby gardens; a football bouncing on a paving slab and then being kicked into the shrubbery; a lone car heading West on the A4130 sounding the asphalt; a Red Kite circling overhead. I lean out further, listening into the distance, into the future, waiting for the tide of mechanised sound to return, for the drone of tyres on asphalt, not the phasing passage of a single car, but the sweeping tide of traffic sound flooding across fields, down lanes, through dense woodland. Perhaps it is still here, cars pass in groups, the air vibrates, the X2 pauses at the bus stop. Covid 19 has transformed our sounding environment, but how much is that transformation felt in any one place, in a place on the periphery of the situation? Can I hear it from my window? Is it evident in my everyday? And when will the tide of sound turn? and when it does turn how will we feel about it? As the air begins to vibrate with the phasing of distant jets will we want to step back or will we embrace the return to the normative sounding of the world? The soundscape is ambivalent. It represents the reduction of pollutants in the atmosphere but also signals the absence of loved ones. The temporary absence of friends but also the permanent absence of those who have lost their lives. This is a soundscape of hope and a soundscape of loss. It is a soundscape of a brighter future, one where listening to the world is part of the decision-making process we undertake when we chose to travel or not to travel; but it is also a soundscape of a brighter past, a past where now lost loved ones were still with us, where we could hear the sounds of their voices vibrating in the air and not just in memory.

I made this recording on Friday 24th April:

24042020

Get out! Get out! Get out!

As mentioned in previous posts the parameters  of Get Rid! are under development. As part of the process of investigation into the sounding cultures of grassroots football I have begun to visit each of the match day venues of the teams in all five divisions of the North Berks League – a total of fifty-one teams for the 2016-2017 season. This number  does include multiple teams from the same club. Wallingford Town – for example – have three teams – First in Division One; Reserves in Division Three; and A in Division Five. As you would expect venues are shared or pitches are adjacent. In total it looks like there will be around thirty-four venues in use this season. My recording process at present involves visting each of these venues during a match and at a time when there isn’t a match. At this stage I am making relatively brief recordings so that I can begin to understand the soundscape. It is likely that I will make much longer recordings later in the process.

 

The two  recordings here were made at the Hithercroft home of Wallingford Town AFC and were both made in the same location behind and slightly to the right of the goal at the South end of the stadium. The first recording was made during the second half of Wallingford Town AFC reserves v Watlington Town FC. For the duration of the recording Watlington exerted almost continuous pressure on the Wallingford goal which I was only metres away from. As the action moves toward or away from my position the voices of the players emerge from or are submerged by the sounds of the by-pass; the high frequency sounds of the wind in the grasses; and the air conditioning system of the industrial unit to my right. In this recording I began to get a sense of the resonant qualities of the stadium as the voices of players rebounded from the stand and low-level building on the West side of the pitch. There is a partial transcription of the on-pitch communication below.

 

head, head, head
good lad
yeah
it’s off
are you fucked, i’m on the line, oh my…
back in
(laughs)
keep working
well done
one more
header
space, space, space
time
ref, ref, ref
relax
OI!
pass it
passing
free ‘ead, free ‘ead, free ‘ead
one more
and again
round the back
time
let’s go, let’s keep walking up towards them
get out, get out, get out
centre half’s on
man on
‘ead
unlucky
sixteen
seconds
boys!
‘ead, ‘ead
no deeper
get out!
head, head, head, head, head
hold that, hold that, hold that
(partial transcription of on-pitch communication at Wallingford Town AFC reserves v Watlington Town)

 

I returned to the same spot later in the week and made a recording in the absence of football. I could hear a lot more detail in the sound of the surrounding network of roads with clear distinction between vehicles travelling quickly on the bypass and those moving more slowly on Hithercroft Road. There was sound from air-conditioning and occasional release of air pressure from the adjacent industrial units; more distinct birdsong and air traffic. The fence behind the goal is a complex construction and there is some twine in one place the end of which occasionally strikes one of the metal uprights.

 

 

 

You can find out more about the North Berks League here. Of particular interest is the geographic spread of the competing teams. Participants need to be within twenty miles of Steventon Green – a playing field at the centre of Steventon – a village around four miles West of Didcot. Given this geographical limitation it is likely that the main sound-making features of the region – in particular the A34 and its tributaries – will have a major impact on the soundscape in each of these locations. There may be common traits in the wildlife of the area too. For example I have seen Red Kites at four of the venues I have recorded at but haven’t yet heard their call.