St. Barbe, an art gallery and museum in Lymington, on the edge of the forest, asked me to compose and produce a soundtrack to accompany an art exhibition that they were running. It was called Unsettling Landscapes – The Art of the Eerie. Amongst the artworks, there were many paintings of strange eerie trees and dark woodlands. My task was to use these paintings as inspiration for the creation of an hour-long atmospheric, dark music mix. So here it is for you to enjoy. If you’ve ever felt that The New Forest was a bit scary in the deep woodlands, then you’ll get the vibe of this piece straight away. Although it’s unsettling, I think the music is somehow quite immersive and involving at the same time.
It’s best listened to on headphones late in the evening or beyond!
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.
A sound collage made from a variety of noises onboard my little one-man river kayak as I paddled downstream: captured with a small portable recorder safely wrapped in a protective plastic bag, and then combined back at my sound workshop using an audio sampler to form this sound art composition.
The hollow plastic kayak seemed to create, what I felt, was an interesting resonant sound similar to the soundbox of a big musical instrument such as a double bass.
Coastal Etude is a study of the seaside in summer. It comprises a wide variety of sound objects captured along the forest coastline. These have been manipulated using Musique Concrete techniques and organised to form the finished piece.
These include: Weather forecasts, the shipping forecast, seagulls, waves on the shore and bubbling over rocks, children having fun on the beach and engaged in crabbing, natural helicopters and rhythmically manipulated helicopter, percolating step-synth, wind in the rigging of small boats, manipulated glitch-rigging, kayak paddling and tonal wind.
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.
This composition is made from a recording of the sound of rigging wires on several small dinghies rattling against their metal masts in the wind. I’ve modified the pitches and turned the sounds into a musical piece using just those original sounds. The photograph shows Keyhaven, a beautiful sailing village within the New Forest National Park on the shores of The Solent. The landscape in the distance is the Isle of Wight. It’s very close from near here.
An electronic concerto for six country pursuit commentators, stationary engine and analog step-sequencer. The source field recordings used in this work were captured at The New Forest and Hampshire County Show in July 2015, Brockenhurst, Hampshire, England.
Six manipulated commentaries revolving around country pursuits comprising log cutting, showjumping, hunting, dog handling, cattle and sheep competitions form the basis of the composition. The rhythmic percussion underpinning the piece is generated from field recordings of small, stationary agricultural engines (including the RA Lister and the Wolseley) produced in the early 20th Century.
This differs from The County Show 2, as this version doesn’t have any of the musical elements. It’s built from just the field-recorded sounds this time.
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.
A Sound Art composition created from raw material recorded at the Autumn Beaulieu Road Pony Sales. The idea was to create an organic piece that features the commoners, the sound of the ponies and the auctioneer, but compose it so that it has some unusual “listen again” elements, such as the modification of the auctioneer’s patter into a rhythmic pattern.
The Beaulieu Road pony sales yard is located on the Lyndhurst to Beaulieu road about three miles from Lyndhurst. The main pony sales occur late in the year there. All the New Forest ponies are rounded up by Agisters and commoners, taken off the Open Forest, counted and then health checks and necessary treatments given. The pony sales that occur soon afterwards provide the animals owners, (known as New Forest Commoners) the chance to sell their livestock, or to purchase more.