For this Sound Art composition, I’ve reverted to long-lost analogue tape recorder techniques, and realised the work entirely on my old Ferrograph 7 reel to reel tape machine; a lovingly restored British recorder from way back in 1968 that was originally owned by the military (see photo above).
This piece is a magnetic tape sound collage… which is just like a visual art collage, but made with sound. You’ll hear lots of different sounds from all over The New Forest, juxtaposed and combined with each other in unexpected ways and brought together to form a snapshot of the landscape and its people in just four and a half minutes. See how many of them your can recognise. Here’s a bit more information on the concept and history of the tape collage in case you’re interested…
While artists have been layering images and incorporating autonomous elements into their work since the advent of paper, collage truly emerged as a medium in its own right in the early years of the 20th century with the Cubist experiments of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. The duo coined the term “collage” (from the French verb “coller,” meaning “to glue” or “to stick”) to describe works composed from pasted pieces of colored paper, newsprint, and fabric, considered at the time to be an audacious intermingling of high and low culture. It revolutionized modern art.
The collage concept was later applied to sound; in 1948 two French composers, Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry, and their associates at Radiodiffusion et Télévision Française in Paris began to produce tape collages (analogous to collages in the visual arts), which they called musique concrète. All the materials they processed on tape were recorded sounds—sound effects, musical fragments, vocalizings, and other sounds and noises produced by man, his environment, and his artifacts. Such sounds were considered “concrete,” hence the term musique concrète.
Springtime Selection is the first of an occasional, carefully-curated, themed collection from my New Forest Sounds archive. This instalment takes you deep into the forest in Springtime, one of the most sonically interesting of all the seasons.
In Spring, with the bedroom window half-open, I wake up to the beautiful balm of the early dawn chorus of birdsong… and now, you can too!
If you have some quiet time, settle down with a pair of headphones for 20 minutes and enjoy immersing yourself in this soundscape…
Springtime in The New Forest woodlands is something quite magical, because the general birdsong chorus is often punctuated by soloists like the cuckoo, and percussionists like the woodpecker. Come with me and have a listen…
Lastly, I’ve got a piece of my Springtime Sound Art for you. What would it sound like if our New Forest woodpeckers all got together and created a musical arrangement? Well, listen below to find out! This composition uses the manipulated sound of a woodpecker in the woods and features slowed down sounds, delay and a variety of note pitches. I’ve called it “The Woodpecker Variations”.
Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed my little Springtime Collection. Look out for more curated selections from the archive in the future.
This beautiful and iconic forest sound comes from a lone horse and rider accompanied by her dog, passing slowly by early on one deliciously clear and still morning at Aldridge Hill near Brockenhurst, deep in The New Forest.
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.
Soundscape piece. The sound of summer bees on yellow honeysuckle flowers in a New Forest village garden. For an interesting different perspective on this soundscape, take a listen to my “Slow Bees” piece, where you can enter into an unusual soundworld!
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.
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…
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’.