no man’s land

‘No Man’s Land’, an installation by sound recordist Chris Watson, on the curve of the cliff at Berry Head Quarry, Brixham, played for nine days in September 2017. This ambi-sonic installation included high-quality recordings from orcas to Weddell seals. Ranging across the frequency spectrum, there were high frequency bird sounds and low frequency humpback whale sounds including chest-thumping infrasonic frequencies.

Electronic sounds can be used to great effect in this kind of natural environment (but only outside of the nesting season). Using the natural acoustics of the cliffs (as the seabirds do), and the unexpected acoustic reflections from the concrete hut on the quay, the installation has a real impact, with remarkable sound quality.

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Sketch of the spatial arrangement of the installation
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The curved limestone cliff face with speakers and suspension cables just visible

pistol shrimps at dawn

Chris Watson, sound recordist and longstanding collaborator of David Attenborough, hosted a fascinating workshop at Berry Head Quarry, Brixham in September. With a storm raging outside we gathered in the Artillery Store for Chris’ introduction to sound recording and the acoustic world of the ocean. (As a novice sound recordist I had my Zoom H4n handy recorder with me, eager to pick up some tips). During a brief break in the weather we walked down to the Quarry Quay and Chris showed us how to set up the hydrophone (underwater microphone) equipment with plastic bottle floats, canes as fishing rods and cable lines – literally fishing for sounds. With a speaker set up under an umbrella, we could clearly hear the pistol shrimps (or snapping shrimps)

Pistol shrimps are common throughout the world’s oceans, and their sounds are the background fuzz of the underwater soundscape around any shoreline. The snapping sound is made by the implosion of an air bubble produced by the shrimp’s powerful claw, in order to stun their prey.

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Chris Watson at Berry Head Quay setting up the hydrophones with workshop participants
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Hydrophones in the water with plastic bottles as floats

water images from the hebrides

I am interested in the visual and acoustic qualities of water in the wild, and how these might inform the treatment of water in an urban public space.  These photographs from a trip to the Hebrides in August show the ocean in various states of animation, transparency and colour. Different states invoke different emotional responses. The water in motion makes its own sound, and the surface properties of the water affect the acoustic reflections of ambient sounds.

 

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From the CalMac Ferry between Mull and Tiree
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Shallow water over sand on a Tiree beach
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Water like cast glass on the Isle Of Seil
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From the CalMac Ferry between Mull and Tiree