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.
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.
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.
There are several places in the National Park where the forest reaches down to the sea, and the familiar forest of trees turns into a forest of masts. This composition was inspired by visiting one of those unique locations.
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.
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’.
Imagine relaxing with a favourite book, or taking a picnic beside one of The New Forest’s mesmerising and beautiful meandering streams. If you can’t be there in person, then perhaps this may serve as the next best thing. Absolutely designed to be dreamy. Drift away….