“I prefer radio to TV because the pictures are better.”~ Alistair Cooke
This page features a selection of recordings from my SoundCloud.
If you’d like to discuss them further, click here to find more about our community space and newsletter.
As always, good quality headphones are recommended for the best sonic experience (I use the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x headphone when creating my soundscapes).
Cumbrian Coalmine Protest: The Power of Conversation
Saturday 10th December 2022: What’s it really like to be at an environmental protest? The divisions may not be as strong as the media and government would have us believe!
I travelled with Extinction Rebellion North East to join Friends of the Earth and other campaigners to protest about the proposed Cumbrian coalmine just outside Whitehaven, and made these recordings as thee conversations unfolded.
CLIPS FROM THE SOUNDSCAPE
Slipway Sounds: High Tide at Barrow Lifeboat Station
Wednesday 13th April 2022: My final station on Mission 21 of The Lifeboat Station Project was Barrow in Cumbria on the north west coast of England.
All-weather lifeboat stations like this one are incredible places. I love standing at the top of the vast metal slipways. Such peace and tranquility, at odds with the lifesaving emergencies they’re built for.
Read more in this blog post on the project’s dedicated website.
Dawn Chorus Day 2022
Sunday 1st May 2022, 5:10am to 6:30am: My contribution to this year’s Dawn Chorus Day recorded from our front garden in Newcastle upon Tyne. Thank you to all the birds in attendance, not least the crow who opened this year’s 80 minute avian symphony.
As an aside, this is the first time I’ve recorded in the rain. I love how the weather slowly clears as the morning progresses…raindrops at the beginning, none at the end.
Dawn Chorus Day 2021
Sunday 2nd May 2021, 4:30am to 6:30am: My contribution to International Dawn Chorus Day 2021 recorded from our front garden in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Thank you to all the birds in attendance, not least the vocal blackbird who got the intricate cacophony underway as soon as I’d set up my equipment and vacated the area.
Stiffkey Marshes, North Norfolk
29th April 2021: Once we’d installed the giant Lucy Lavers poster in Stiffkey, North Norfolk, we made our way to the neighbouring coastal path and marshes to make a soundscape.
We were hoping for a strong evening chorus. However, we soon realised the birds will have been acutely aware that the spring tide would mean the marsh would be barren of any safe roosting spots. As is the way here, the landscape would soon be a seascape.
The natural sounds were still beautiful, of course, with waders and gulls making themselves known. A stiff Arctic wind blew constantly from the north and the sea rumbled ominously some 2 miles in the distance. The large roaring waves formed a frothing white stripe on the horizon, like an army rolling towards us with great purpose and intent.
A third of the way through the recording, listen out for the women passing by for a wild swim in the freezing creek. Their banter stopped when they saw the microphones and they apologetically shuffled by wearing silent grins instead. Towards the end, you can hear their whoops of joy and laughter weaving into the chattering of the birds. A proper night out all round.
Sonic Sketch: Round Are Way [sic]
Saturday 27th March 2021: I’m one of those people who thinks they’re not very good at drawing. I’m also aware that may not be true but, thankfully, I derive the same kind of catharsis from making audio recordings, so that’s what I do instead.
Garden Bird Cacophony
Tuesday 2nd February 2021: Our garden appears to be quite untidy compared to our neighbours’ but it’s very much by design. My wife has planned it with wildlife in mind rather than traditional human aesthetics and, goodness me, it attracts a lot of birds at this time of year!
They’ve been arriving seemingly in their hundreds today, so much so that a courier delivering a parcel was spellbound by the sights and sounds of so many species flitting about this morning.
Anyway, the weather’s atrocious and I’ve got a lot on but, nevertheless, I couldn’t resist quickly grabbing my shotgun microphone to make this quick mono recording of the cacophony for posterity. If only we’d done the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch today rather than at the weekend. Hey ho…at least the birds are in abundance!
Lockdown 3.0: Yard Life
Wednesday 27th January 2021: Lockdown 3.0 is nowhere near as quiet as Lockdown 1.0, particularly in our back yard. Listen out for our chickens peacefully pecking away at their food and a myriad of other feathered friends flitting about the neighbourhood, all set against the background hum of city life.
Freight Train Passing Overhead
Thursday 9th July 2020: This is a recording I’ve wanted to make ever since moving to Newcastle in 2000 and walking through the Ouseburn Valley for the first time.
The sound of a chirruping bird is swapped for the chirruping bridge as a heavy freight train passes overhead on the 1830s Ouseburn Viaduct, one of the major bridges along the route of the East Coast Mainline.
The photograph accompanying the recording is one I made on 5×4 inch film in July 2003.
The Mouth of the River Tyne
Thursday 16th July 2020: As always, good quality headphones or speakers recommended to fully enjoy this soundscape made where the River Tyne meets the North Sea.
Listen out for the terns and gulls, and the freighter that entering the port midway through.
Sonic Portrait of a Lifeboat Fender
Friday 13th March 2020: While working in Plymouth, the 149th lifeboat station on my journey and the penultimate before the COVID-19 lockdown, the squeaking and creaking of the lifeboat’s fenders formed a permanent aural backdrop.
Before leaving, I couldn’t resist putting my microphones right next to one of the fenders to make this recording. I held one mic and naval historian Iain Ballantyne held the other!
Dawn Chorus Day 2020
Saturday 25th April 2020: This morning, I got up early to record the dawn chorus for the first time as part of Ambient Isolation’s lockdown sound project for International Dawn Chorus Day on Sunday 3rd May.
I’ve included the finished piece in my Dawn Chorus playlist. It was also published on the Ambient Isolation website where you can find out more details…listen out for my contribution at the 22 minute mark!
Contributors were asked to record from 5-7am on 25 April and then submit “the most interesting minute”.
However, when I examined the final recording, I realised the strongest part of this morning’s dawn chorus coincidentally lasted for exactly one hour, so that’s what I’ve prepared for you here.
If you’re feeling cooped up, I hope it helps to soothe the head and the heart by bringing a little bit of nature into your room.
The full length recording will take you on quite a sonic journey, an hour long story with a beginning, middle and end. It starts off very quietly and gradually becomes stronger before tailing off towards the end when you’ll hear the first cars passing on the main road nearby.
Saturday 25th April 2020, 4:18am: This morning, I got up early to record the dawn chorus as part of Ambient Isolation’s lockdown sound project for International Dawn Chorus Day on 3rd May.
The stipulated time was to record from 5-7 am but I decided to start earlier so that I could make this one minute recording at 4:18am.
Well, I’m a big fan of Kae Tempest’s album ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’, a concept album about seven strangers living in South London.
The events told within the tracks all take place at the very specific time of 4:18am.
“At that time in the morning, people are open with their vulnerabilities because they are not in the previous day or the coming day. The day doesn’t belong to anyone yet.“
I love that sentiment, so I wanted to experience — and record — that very specific time of day as a nod to Kae’s incredible album.
Clap for Carers: A Readymade Symphony
Thursday 23rd April 2020: This is how Clap for Carers sounded round our way this evening.
The recording starts with a chirruping bird, then the beat of a distant pan, a lone clapper soon becomes hundreds, dogs bark, car horns sound, instruments clatter and parp, all emblazoned with fireworks in the middle distance…glorious!
Step Aboard the Tynemouth Lifeboat
Wednesday 7th February 2018: Step aboard the mighty Tynemouth RNLI Severn class lifeboat with the mechanic while he fires her up to work on the two 1600hp MTU engines — high quality headphones or speakers recommended!