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.

Woodcote Village Green

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