May 21st

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 Thursday 21st May:

21052020

Distal Bodies 41.5dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Location: Village Green, Woodcote, Oxfordshire, UK

Date: 17th May 2020

Time: 08:54 – 09:09

Weather: Overcast, light cloud with a gentle breeze

Temperature: 11oC

Average Sound Level: 41.5dBSPL (LAeq)

Woodcote Village Green

Football not happening at Brightwell Recreation Ground

Goalposts lean against the pavilion at Brightwell Recreation Ground

During the lockdown, on Saturday afternoons between 15.00 and 16.45, I have been revisiting the parish recreation grounds, village greens and playing fields where I have listened both to the sound of football happening and football not happening.

On November 5th 2016 I came across a North Berks League Division Five match taking place between Didcot Eagles and Steventon Reserves. I was on my way to the Hithercroft in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, but had taken a short cut across Brightwell Recreation Ground. A football match on a parish recreation ground is an ephemeral event, ninety minutes of sound on the occasional Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning. This was Didcot Eagles first home match since October 1st and they didn’t play at home again until November 26th so the chances of coming across the match in that ninety minute window were slim. The sounding culture of rural grassroots football seeps out into the surrounding countryside, across fields, down lanes, through woodland and past graveyards. The chance encounter is the beauty of the situation as the calls of Jackdaws and Rooks transform into shouts of man on, stand him up, press. One of the first recordings I made for Get Rid! came as the result of stumbling across a match at Bodkins Playing Field in Long Wittenham:

This recording was made during the North Berks League Division Four match between Long Wittenham Athletic Reserves and Berinsfield Reserves. 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 phone so there isn’t as much depth in the recording as I would have liked. Just before I arrived Berinsfield had scored and Long Wittenham were under pressure while I was making this recording.

17012017

Of course there were successes and failures, chance encounters with matches and planned visits that delivered me to Village greens where nothing was happening. After a failed attempt to listen to Didcot Eagles later in the Autumn I wrote about the absence of football, about football not happening:

…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. As I turned into the recreation ground the reason for this became clear – there was no match. The Recreation Ground 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 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.

This is the recording that I made:

football not happening at Brightwell Recreation Ground

I pursued my interest in the everyday soundings of Village Greens, Playing Fields and Recreation Grounds, in the absence of football, and made multiple recordings, recordings of football not happening:

04032017

And as the deep quiet of the lockdown brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic spread I began to think about these recordings and started to revisit the sites where I made them to record the new absence, the everyday soundings of Village Greens, Playing Fields and Recreation Grounds in the pandemic. The drone of tyres on asphalt, the regular phasing of passenger jets, helicopters forcing the air to vibrate – these sounds are now rare, discrete, they arrive and depart, they are moments in a wilder and more diverse soundscape:

11042020

April 28th

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 Tuesday 28th April:

#21 Get up! Get up! Get on the spillage!

(Checkendon Recreation Ground)

 

The Get Rid! advent calendar returns to Sound Diaries this December with twenty four sounds of 24″ duration from our growing archive of audio documentation of grassroots football.

Expect last-gasp equalisers; feral goal celebrations; baffling explanations of the offside law; erratic grass mowing; overwrought full-backs; the diesel-powered tremolo of the floodlight generator; goalkeepers making it up as they go along; nothing happening at all and a lot of sending it long!

Get up! Get on the spillage!

Visit the Get Rid! archive on RADAR here, take a look at the blog, or get a copy of the book and cassette.

#5 Standing on the lane in Long Wittenham


(Long Wittenham)

The Get Rid! advent calendar returns to Sound Diaries this December with twenty four sounds of 24″ duration from our growing archive of audio documentation of grassroots football.

Expect last-gasp equalisers; feral goal celebrations; baffling explanations of the offside law; erratic grass mowing; overwrought full-backs; the diesel-powered tremolo of the floodlight generator; goalkeepers making it up as they go along; nothing happening at all and a lot of sending it long!

Get up! Get on the spillage!

Visit the Get Rid! archive on RADAR here, take a look at the blog, or get a copy of the book and cassette.