Distal Bodies 43.2dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 26th May 2020

Time: 08:58 – 09:13

Weather: Sunny, light cloud with a gentle breeze

Temperature: 18oC

Average Sound Level: 43.2dBSPL (LAeq)

With only a distant peacock call for sonic novelty, the familiar soundscape and sun on my back allows me to slouch in to the park bench with considerable ease. Prompted by recollection of an earlier email, my mind meanders across the village green, resting itself on people, so as to imagine their experience of being present here today. The gentleman sitting on the park bench adjacent to me, drinking from a can, then hunched over, gazing in to his lap. The lady wandering past me on a brisk circuit of the field, politely slowing to say hello. The dad with daughter and dog in tow. Looking for an allegory that can communicate these thoughts and imaginings, my mind conjures documentary footage of bulging amphibian eyes, then nostrils, tongues and ear drums emerging and sinking back into some primeval soup. Scattered points of reception emerging to wonder at the whole from different angles, as a person might check their hair in a mirror, only to disintegrate as food for future insights.

Woodcote Village Green

Distal Bodies 40.1dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 25th May 2020

Time: 09:04 – 09:19

Weather: Sunny with a light wind

Temperature: 18oC

Average Sound Level: 40.1dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Distal Bodies 52.6dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 24th May 2020

Time: 08:52 – 09:07

Weather: Sunny intervals with a moderate breeze

Temperature: 15oC

Average Sound Level: 52.6dBSPL (LAeq)

I arrive at the green to the joyful sound of a dad singing ‘How much is that doggy in the window‘ to his two young daughters, whilst they circle a beech tree on their balance bikes. Shortly after, mum and third child wander over from the village hall to clap encouragingly. As they wander off in the direction of The Close, I attend to the rolls of white noise from the branches above, dominating the soundscape today. With no obstructions, the chilly breeze appears to gather momentum across the green, making me conscious of the tripod’s stability, top heavy with microphones and blimp precariously nesting on the apex. My inability to hear into the distance keeps my thoughts turned inward. A slow-moving tractor, trailer with entourage of patient motorists rumbling along the Goring Road and the occasional shriek of red kites pull my attention outward, but not far and not for long.

Woodcote Village Green

Distal Bodies 55.0dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 22nd May 2020

Time: 08:32 – 08:47

Weather: Cloudy with a moderate breeze

Temperature: 14oC

Average Sound Level: 55.0dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Distal Bodies 42.3dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 20th May 2020

Time: 08:59 – 09:14

Weather: Sunny, light cloud with a gentle breeze

Temperature: 19oC

Average Sound Level: 42.3dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Distal Bodies 49.4dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 18th May 2020

Time: 08:56 – 09:11

Weather: Sunny, largely clear skies with a light breeze

Temperature: 14oC

Average Sound Level: 49.4dBSPL (LAeq)

After spending the weekend working, converging my thinking on problems, process and product, I can sense the warm rays of the sun tempering this implacability and my mind open to the soundscape once again. Unlike on chillier, stormier days, the calm breeze buoys sounds to my ears and I can listen attentively. The alto wash of MPVs, four-by-fours and estates seems to dominate today, with no screaming sopranos and only the occasional rumble of tenors and basses. The counterpoint of birds, leaves and softly plosive wind noise across my ears creates a relaxing and familiar composition. I marvel at the size and gracefulness of a kite swooping low in front of me, while the surprisingly loud tumbling, sine-tone of a light aircraft drives the limiters on my recorder into action. It is only the presence of others that breaks my outward attention.

As people approach, pass, or even glance in my direction I feel the subtle distraction of expectation, as I become poised to explain my sedentary presence and conspicuous pile of technical paraphernalia. In company, listening becomes self-conscious, in solitude, my ears belong to the soundscape. The centrifuge of attention seems to modulate in force, anticipation drawing it inwards, present-centred openness allowing it to slow, swell and absorb itself in distance.

Woodcote Village Green
Woodcote Village Green

Distal Bodies 45.7dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 14th May 2020

Time: 08:58 – 09:13

Weather: Sunny, light cloud with a gentle breeze

Temperature: 9oC

Average Sound Level: 45.7dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Distal Bodies 40.1dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 8th May 2020

Time: 09:00 – 09:15

Weather: Sunny with light cloud and very light wind.

Temperature: 18oC

Average Sound Level: 40.1dBSPL (LAeq)

Walking to the green, past windows of brightly coloured-in VE Day bunting, the silence of the bank holiday lockdown is palpable. The passing whine of cars is separated by silences. Even the low hum of traffic from the A4074 seems all but absent. A home-delivery van is one of only five commercial vehicles passing the green throughout the fifteen minutes of logging sound levels. The cackle of a crow from the play park to my right, pierces the sound-bed of cooing pigeons, hidden from sight, but audibly present on all sides. Much maligned, today I find the pigeon’s soft call comfortingly familiar. Staying with the sound, I notice the lengthened, strained quality of the second note of their monotone call and its similarity with that of the cuckoo. To my left, a lady walking her border collie, coughs, a sound more distracting in these times. Ahead, three young boys pass a football between them, while discussing what player they will be when they reach the solitary goal in the adjacent field. Like the wavering screech of red kites, the modulating drone of aircraft on approach to Heathrow are ubiquitous here in Woodcote. This makes the tracing of a solitary aeroplane across the sky, seem both intrusive and proper. As the rumble of the aircraft fades, drifting out of focus, I attend to the trees, whispering faintly and revealing the shifting rustle of birds in the branches above.

With fifteen minutes passed, I collect the tripod and swap the meter for microphones. Sitting, recording, watching the slow movement of bodies at a distance, my thoughts turn to loss. The absence present in the soundscape prompts me to rifle through recent memories; VE Day bunting, newsworthy obituaries, furloughed workers and missing human connections. There is a vaguely-sensed impression that there is connection in these memories and some inarticulate resolution.

08052020
Woodcote Village Green

Distal Bodies 45.7dBSPL (LAeq)

The short daily listenings and recordings that comprise this project, document the changing soundscape in the village of Woodcote, South Oxfordshire during the Covid-19 lockdown and beyond. The writings and reflections investigate themes of social, spatial and temporal distance.

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 7th May 2020

Time: 08:55 – 09:10

Weather: Clear skies, sunny with a light wind.

Temperature: 16oC

Average Sound Level: 45.7dBSPL (LAeq)

My freshly downloaded ‘Chirp-o-matic’ app is proving to be an invaluable resource in identifying bird species. My discovery today was that the frantic, ear-splitting chirping from the bushes at the entrance to the green, were a flock of house sparrows. Making my way to what will become a very familiar park bench, I set up the decibel meter and settle in.

Along the far edge of the green, the B471 Goring Road seems quieter today, with fewer delivery vehicles. The tyres and engines of the cars produce an indistinct wash of sound that lies just below the slightly higher pitched layer of psithurism from the beech trees arching above me. In contrast, cars along Reading Road emerge from behind the village hall, engines roaring, climbing and brightening in tone as they pick up speed. Engrossed in typing these notes on my phone, it takes me a while to notice a friend and his small white dog in the distance. He keeps a wide birth, perhaps he hasn’t noticed me, maybe he needs space or is observing forty-meter distancing. More likely, he simply does not want to interrupt. I notice the reversing bleep of a delivery lorry, smeared by reflections. The biting metallic roar of a saw and the clatter of heavy materials being dropped, also smoothed and filtered with distance. A very vocal blackbird, makes his presence known in the tree to my left.


Sound is anchoring me in what is here and now. There is enough movement in the soundscape to hold my attention and anchor it, even if it is flitting from sound to thought to screen and round again. I don’t feel hurried or under pressure. I am making the decision to be open to the various streams that make up the soundscape, not being forced to attend to them by distraction. I lift my eyes up to the kites circling on the hilltop thermals and my gaze softens as I follow their winding flight path. With this, my mind stills briefly…then back. I’m swiftly grounded by my youngest daughter jogging across the field, out for a second day in a row! “I saw your weird spaceship looking thing, and knew it was you!” I looked at my phone, twenty minutes had passed. We sat and chatted on the park bench about the cute cat that she fell in love with yesterday. The penny drops. I see why she is suddenly so eager to leave the house.

07052020
Woodcote Village Green

Distal Bodies 45.7dBSPL (LAeq)

The short daily listenings and recordings that comprise this project, document the changing soundscape in the village of Woodcote, South Oxfordshire during the Covid-19 lockdown and beyond. The writings and reflections investigate themes of social, spatial and temporal distance.

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 6th May 2020

Time: 08:50 – 09:05

Weather: Clear skies, sunny with a gentle cool breeze.

Temperature: 11oC

Average Sound Level: 45.7dBSPL (LAeq)

The skies are clear blue and no vapour trails dissect the sky. Sitting on a bench at the periphery of the village green, the welcome warmth of the sun is slowly saturating the back of my hoodie. The cloaking wind has subsided today and the works vehicles and occasional car are audible as individual streams of sound. The blackbirds seem busier, darting above me between the line of trees bordering the school playground. A dog walker passes-by exercising her two Westies. The dogs are curious and eager to chat, panting and padding, jangling as they tug on their lead. The owner, a lady with a South African accent, stops to ask whether the tripod is mine and what I am doing with it. I explain and we exchange information about the local conservation group and the dawn chorus. I agree to share the recordings made for International Dawn Chorus Day on the pages of local groups. Saying goodbye, my attention returns to the gentle, cool breeze. A dog barks from the direction of ‘The Close’. The rustle of fresh green leaves and soft cooing of pigeons form a backdrop to the scene. Cawing crows dart, twisting and falling through the sky, chasing each other frantically above the cricket square, while red kites observe the commotion from higher above the green. The fifteen minutes it takes to measure the average sound level has passed quickly, and I return home, passing my youngest daughter on a rare excursion from the house.