Slow Bees

Sound Art Composition

Take the sound of bees on flowering honeysuckle, and slow them down to a quarter of their normal speed, and suddenly we can enter a whole new and unusual soundworld. The bees sound just like little Spitfire propeller aircraft coming in to land on the flowers, and the birdsong takes on a strange tropical quality. Listen to my piece called “Busy Bees” to compare how the bees normally sound.

The Song of the Blackbird

Soundscape Recording

The song of the blackbird is beautiful, and provides us with some of best melodies of all the garden birds. The individual that I recorded here is a real virtuoso with a gift for improvisation too, producing a mellow flute-like song at a nice, leisurely pace from the apex of a New Forest village roof in late Spring. The song comprises soft, clear and liquid notes that, to me, sound very pleasant to listen to, especially as the phrases never seem to repeat exactly the same twice.

Dawn from a Window in May

Soundscape Recording.

Wednesday morning, 6.30am in the middle of May, and it’s dawned still and clear on the outskirts of this New Forest village. The early sun is rising up through the oak and beech trees, casting long, dappled shadows on the dew-covered lawn. Outside this open window, birds are singing enthusiastically greeting the advancing dawn.

Now and again a car hisses by on a nearby, quiet forest road, sounding like an ocean wave running up the shoreline and then fading away. Up above, sharing the blue sky with the sun, airliners hurry along at 30,000 feet or so, leaving fluffy, white vapour trails and adding their distant, rumbling voices to the soundscape. Listen for a while…

Soundwalk Along Ober Water

Soundwalk. Along a New forest stream called Ober Water.

Join me for a walk in The New Forest along a woodland stream called the Ober Water near the village of Brockenhurst. We’ll meet a dog splashing the stream, hear the bubbling water as it makes its way through the forest, crunch through some autumn leaves, encounter a wild forest pony coming to drink, be enveloped by the sound of birdsong, and perhaps even hear a woodpecker.

By the way, I recorded this soundwalk using a special production method, which will give you the feeling of really being immersed in the landscape and surrounded by the woodland and the stream, just like you’re really there – as long as you listen on headphones (the surround sound effect doesn’t work on speakers). For the technically-minded, it’s a recording technique known as ‘binaural’.

Dawn Rechorused

Sound Art Composition

A sound art composition, Dawn Rechorused takes a recording of the dawn chorus running initially at normal speed. Then, as the piece progresses, the birdsong gets slower. First to 1/2 then 1/4 then 1/8 of the original speed using imperceptible crossfades. I think it’s amazing how the birdsong changes. When it gets really slow it sounds almost tropical.

It serves to show the fascinating melodic variations of garden birds. The more the original is slowed down, the more varied and unusual the bird’s melodies become. Things that can’t be distinguished at normal speed become clear. Although it’s old-fashioned, slowing down analogue reel to reel tape in this way presents a much more organic and natural quality than trying to slow down modern digital recordings.