Goodbye Twenty Twenty #4 : Hurst Water Meadow, Dorchester-on-Thames

Everyday sound has had a curious and extraordinary year in the midst of some of the toughest of times. Amongst the sounding memories we have of the last eleven months is the shuffle of papers, hushed voices and birdsong on the live feed from the Rose Garden at number ten Downing Street as journalists waited for Dominic Cummings to make a statement about his visit to Barnard Castle; the sound of rain falling on the turf at Elland Road, home of Leeds United, audible only because there was no crowd, no sound in the stadium other than the sporadic shouting of the players and coaches and the falling rain; the still quiet of the fields alongside the A34 usually saturated with the deafening sound-making of tyres on asphalt but during the first lockdown in England filled instead with the sound of birdsong and children playing.

Contributor: Stephen Eyre
Location: Hurst Water Meadow, Dorchester on Thames, Oxfordshire
Time and Date: 05122020

Hurst Water Meadow

I recorded this sound at the south-east corner of the meadow where the River Thame runs over a small weir and collects into a pool. The sounds of this and the birdsong are all but masked by the A4074 which runs directly behind. The effect is more pronounced in the recording than in situ but even in a pandemic and outside of a normal rush hour the road sound is dominant. Visually the site is wild meadow with some trees and bushes offering sight lines that contour the meadow into sections. It is possible to imagine you are in the New Forest, especially in winter when horses are put out to graze in the middle but the road noise is a reminder of the true order of things here!

Twenty-Eight Empty Fields #18 : Pangbourne Recreation Ground

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.

Pangbourne Recreation Ground

Twenty-Eight Empty Fields #13 : The Green, Steventon

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.

The Green, Steventon

Q&A: Marlo De Lara to Kathryn Tovey

In your piece for Sound Diaries, I very much appreciated your appreciation of lessons from canine companions and furthermore creating a piece I felt was heavily informed by Donna Haraway. Since then have you developed any works framed by her theories?

Currently, I am working on a community sound walking project in the West End of Morecambe focusing on the ecology of the area. I cannot say that my work since has been framed by Haraway’s theories as such, but they perhaps share a similar sense for the philosophy of her theories. They do, therefore, inform how I approach the process of thinking and making work.

Would you consider your work as being in dialogue with eco-feminism? Why or why not?

My work is in dialogue with threads of ecofeminism, though it is rarely a conscious association for me. The focus is mostly a curiosity with the movement of animals. In a previous work, I performed as a fictional sea creature informed by my own movements as a woman adapting to a damaged landscape. It was a futile attempt of anthropomorphism for me, to encourage critique of its own projection and to instead, embody wildness from within and to empathise with species. Growing up on the North East coast, I was personally drawn to the ecology of coastal landscapes. The sound of Kittiwakes, the shape of the caves carved by the ghosts of miners and the waves, the ship building that has now fallen silent, have all manifested into a visual present. Just as the pebbles are tinted red by the mines where my great grandfather worked. I also began to explore concepts of ‘making kin’ through human and canine relationships. It is in this process of mutual aid and participation as co-creation, that I feel connects with ecofeminism’s embrace of open diversity and care.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we often heard a narrative about the earth or nature fighting back during quarantine. In these heightened times, how do you think humanity/civilization could be, or is currently, able to learn from the environment?

I think that the public perception of these narratives has been influential, allowing more time for thinking, learning, and caring for one another (human and non-human). It seems the time offered a reconnection with nature, that hopefully can inspire communities to incorporate alternative ways of living. The stories we have heard of animals returning to areas otherwise occupied by humans, give the impression that nature is fighting back. This may, however, not be the case – but it is a projection of hope that animal and plant species can quickly return if given the chance.

Twenty Eight Empty Fields #08 : Woodcote Recreation Ground

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.

Woodcote Recreation Ground

Twenty-Eight Empty Fields #07 : East Hagbourne Recreation Ground

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.

East Hagbourne Recreation Ground

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 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

April 29th

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 Wednesday 29th April:

29042020

Jacek Smolicki

Alvik Electricity
Birds
Lake Fountain
Ventilation Shaft
Branches
Alvik Construction Site

Extract from Inaudible Cities (below) featured in Recording Life In Sound (SARU 2019).

Jacek Smolicki (b.1982, Kraków) is a cross-media artist, designer, researcher and “walker” who works at the intersection of aesthetics, technology, memory, and everyday life. He explores how transformations of communication, recording, and computing technologies have been affecting aesthetic, material, performative, and ethical aspects of archiving and memory practices, historically and at the present moment. In his design and art practice, besides engaging with existing archives and heritage, Smolicki develops new techniques for experiencing, documenting, remembering, and para-archiving human and other-than- human environments. In parallel to these activities, for the last several years he has been committed systematic experimentation with various recording techniques and technologies leads to a construction of a multifaceted para-archive of contemporary everyday life, culture, and environment (On-Going Project). One such practice is the archiving of one-minute field recordings executed every day since July 2010. He has exhibited, presented his works, performed, soundwalked, and gave workshops internationally (e.g. Madrid, Moscow, Helsinki, Stockholm, San Francisco, Budapest, Vienna, Sarajevo) to a set of documentary practices in which a systematic experimentation with various recording techniques and technologies leads to a construction of a multifaceted para-archive of contemporary everyday life, culture, and environment (On-Going Project). One such practice is the archiving of one-minute field recordings executed every day since July 2010. He has exhibited, presented his works, performed, soundwalked, and gave workshops internationally (e.g. Madrid, Moscow, Helsinki, Stockholm, San Francisco, Budapest, Vienna, Sarajevo)