Australian Sound Artist

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Winter Sounds of North East England

:: Recording site. North East Coastline, England ::

Recording England's wildlife in Winter is quite a challenge - particularly if wildlife is not your speciality. Unlike Australia (that seems to house a constant crowd of critters all year round), come Winter time in England a number of birds disappear. Along with the Winter closure of buildings whose acoustics I'd hoped to capture, these have been the two biggest hurdles that have arisen throughout this trip. On a positive note, what these unexpected 'exclusions' have given me is a shift of gaze from the obvious splendour of local historic castles and as-yet unheard (to me) birdcall - to the turning cogs in the local community that keep it ticking along year-in and year-out. I mentioned in an earlier post - the blessing-in-disguise of missing the tourism trade times and I think I am still only just beginning to appreciate the impact this will have on my work (with only four days to go....). 

Before I leave I hope to capture the sounds of the local trade. Its butchers it's bakers, its clock makers - those who have lived and worked in this part of the world their whole lives. After chatting to a number of local tradespeople I have found that they are often 3rd or 4th generation in a family business local to the area. It's quite touching to come to this gentle realisation - with each (sometimes a bit awkward) conversation that I have. These families are a part of the past, present and future of these towns. Their names may be found on a street name as they have become inexplicably interwoven into the history of their place of living. Quite a realisation to someone who has lived in four states in the past seven years (ish?) and countless houses... 

In contrast to the sound of industry I am also gathering the sounds of the beautifully wild and wooly nature that sustains the local communities. Crashing waves, churning waters and howling winds are all a part of the soundscape. Today I went recording near Craster, at the old Bathing House on the coastline. I had looked at images of the area but didn't have much of an idea about what to expect - except that the abundant nesting community of birds would not be present (Winter!). What I discovered was beautifully sculpted volcanic stones that have been carved over thousands of years - by the waves of the ocean. Their shapes looked mechanical, artificial and completely organic - all at once. Trying not to slip I managed to clamber on top of a raised ledge and hang my microphones down into carved pools and blow holes as the tide rose. I saw only one person today - an old man who smiled at me but would not speak as we passed each other. It was a beautiful day - with sounds so perfect that even this stranger would not unsettle it with his voice...