I’ve been working on the soundtrack for the piece, listening to and editing field recordings and matching them with the visual material. Here is a working draft for the first few minutes, representing the moors as they are now, and prior to any re-wilding.
Pylons, turbines, tussocks, rough pasture and managed grouse moor.
Some of the sounds from these places appear larger than life, blurring the edges between reality and hyper-reality. Pylons crackle, turbines creak, sheep munch and burp, fences and gates rattle and screech. The wind is ever-present in its different forms, swishing and swirling. A passing aeroplane casts a heavy downward drone.
At the end of this section, the entrance of a bee and faint call of a willow warbler signal imminent transition.
I took a trip out this week with a couple of people who will be working on the vocal elements of the piece. We went to some of the places where I’ve recorded sound and taken footage. We listened-in, connecting to these places with our ears, and thought about how we might use our voices in the piece.
It was bone-chilling weather but interesting to hear the landscape I’d visited in the summer in its winter state. With the aid of recording equipment we could hear our surroundings amplified in a way that can’t be experienced with the ‘naked-ear’. Up in the scrub there was a surprising amount of bird-life despite it being mid-winter.
Musical ideas that surfaced on the windy hillside were the sounds of susurration (whispering or rustling), drones, and vocal rounds using sounds or words evocative of the landscape.
I’ve started to put together the visual material for the piece, using video footage I’ve taken in various local locations over the last few months. These early, draft ‘segments’ – which I’m posting on Vimeo (see below) – are subject to further iteration but serve as some initial building blocks. They will be paired with audio (field recordings) and then hopefully added to / worked on by vocalists. We’ll come up with ideas for how to use our voices in combination with this material until we have a full piece to perform. Maybe we’ll go on some small soundwalks in the locations where the audio-visual material was collected to get a feel for these habitats, and to generate ideas for how we might respond vocally within the composition.
The emerging structure of the piece is one where the listener / viewer experiences the range of habitats currently dominating the landscape (e.g. tussocky moor, heather moor managed for grouse, rough grazing land) before venturing into ‘wilder’ habitats more likely to predominate if nature was left to its own devices.
In CM’s blog ‘How did the moors of the Central Pennines come into existence’ (11th Sept 2018) she describes how the plants and animals that might have been present in the landscape 10,000 years ago had largely been replaced by others 5000 years later, and again, 5000 years after that. That is to say, the environment is in a continual state of transition, dependent mainly on natural fluxes in climatic conditions, and human activity and its associated impacts.
This throws up a question for this project – ‘If you are considering re-wilding, what exactly are you intending to re-wild to?’ This is an important consideration since it will guide how the soundscape evolves through the piece. What sounds appear, and when, will be dependent on what parameters have been set for re-wilding and what ‘state’ is being aimed for.
The open moorland on the tops of the hills in the Calderdale area were formed by a combination of environmental, biological and human factors, over the past 10,000 years. Humans have been present throughout this time and brought about extensive deforestation of the landscape, especially from about 4500 to 2000 years ago (Bronze Age and Iron Age).