Friday, January 06, 2006

Dartmoor soundscape

Another online soundscape project has tried to capture the sounds of Dartmoor. For example, you can hear the River Dart at Newbridge, jackdaws at Haytor Quarry and coniferous trees in the wind at Beardown Hill. There are a few less bucolic sounds too, like a plane flying over Yarner Wood, but generally the aural impression is quite traditional and idealised: local fairs, church bells, hounds hunting over the moors…

Postscript February 2015

Looking back at this very short post I see that all it's audiolinks are now dead and the sounds of Dartmoor can no longer be heard.  What you can still read on line is a retrospective assessment of 'Sounding Dartmoor' by its leader John Levack Drever.  The project encompassed directed soundwalks, field recording, that website which has now disappeated, a multi-channel sound installation in a local gallery and a CD.  Interestingly, 'during the Sounding Dartmoor study period (2000-2002) the prevailing Dartmoor soundscape encountered a number of impinging issues: the MOD noise survey, the foot and mouth outbreak and the imminent fox hunting ban.'  The MOD survey was quantitative and didn't question local inhabitants, providing a contrast with Drever's highly paticipatory approach.  The foot and mouth outbreak brought a deathly silence to local farms.  The sounds of fox hunting were about to pass into history.

While I am at it I will also append here a useful definition of soundscape that Drever quotes in his essay.  It is from the introduction to Emily Thompson's book The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America, 1900- 1933 (2002):
'Like a landscape, a soundscape is simultaneously a physical environment and a way of perceiving that environment; it is both a world and a culture constructed to make sense of that world... A soundscape’s cultural aspects incorporate scientific and aesthetic ways of listening, a listener’s relationship to their environment, and the social circumstances that dictate who gets to hear what. A soundscape, like a landscape, ultimately has more to do with civilization than with nature, and as such, it is constantly under construction and always undergoing change.'

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