On a windy day, the forest of masts at Lymington yacht marina create their own mournful musical composition, as the breeze blows the metal rigging wires against the aluminium masts on dozens of moored yachts. At times, the wind itself also joins in to add its own, almost voice-like, drone to the proceedings.
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.
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.
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.
On any sunny, summer afternoon, the two tiny sailing clubs at Keyhaven — The New Forest’s coastal hamlet on the Solent — are filled with people launching their dinghies and floating off for a spin around the sheltered waters. There’s a uniquely tranquil ambience about the little place on days like this. I’ve tried to capture this feel in the composition, which features a combination of natural sounds from Keyhaven along with the music itself.
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.
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…
Deep in the night, when the air is quiet and still, the eerie sound of distant trains sometimes floats through the forest. This soundscape was recorded near Brockenhurst at 11pm.
I recorded this one quiet, early morning at Brockenhurst Railway Station. A train arrives and departs. The varied different sounds are quite amazing, and I loved the way that, after the train departed, gradually the sound of the rails faded away and nature took over once again.
This Sound Art composition has been created from recordings of the automated voice heard inside the Lymington to Brockenhurst train, together with the sound of the train interior. The interior has been transferred to analogue tape as a loop, which forms the basis of the piece.
The Lymington Railway, running between Brockenhurst and Lymington was established in 1856 and a temporary station opened at Lymington on 12 July 1858. A permanent station was opened at Lymington Town in 1860. Three years later the company acquired a ferry to the Isle of Wight. The company was absorbed by the London and South Western Railway in 1879. Services were extended to Lymington Pier in 1884.