Paschale spent a couple of days with Ed Jobling – sound experimenter and long time Forkbeard Fantasist – taking field recordings on the edge of the Taw / Torridge Estuary.
When you spend time focusing explicitly on listening, a curious thing occurs. You quickly acquire a heightened sense of the depth of sound: from the sound of the clothes rubbing against you as you walk to the hum of traffic in the distance. We are of course hard wired to tune in to a certain band width of sounds. After all, not so very long ago, most of us spent considerable time listening out for prey and for predators, or for the more inscrutable signals of the weather.
I am a proud owner of a Zoom sound recorder, with which I very happy, although I have to admit that it looked pretty measly compared to Ed’s equipment, complete with fluffy cat. When I stood next to him, I felt pretty professional. Although not altogether inconspicuous.
We started on the Skern, an area of mud flats and salt marsh nestled between the ancient village of Appledore and the tussocky arm of Northam Burrows. It was a sunny spring day, one with a slight nip in the air and the regular kind of sea breeze that whips about these parts.
We soon discovered that there are a whole variety of footsteps available for the hungry ear, whether that be provided by the brick grits which scatter the Appledore edge of the Skern (remnants of the boat yards which were active here), the mud of the Skern itself, the large pebbles deposited on the seashore and if you’re getting nerdy, the different grades of sand and silt as the estuary becomes sea.
We investigated the area where the estuary meets the sea. In this quite confused confluence of waters, there are large depressions in the sand, left by the tide as it goes out. As it comes back in, the water finds these hollows, swirling, bubbling and fizzing as it does so. Curiouser and curiouser.
The whipping wind brought snatches of conversation, a wandering giggle or a dog’s bark across the sand for us to capture. And we were happy with the recorded results, which seem a little ghostly.
The Burrows were also alive with the more expected joys of spring including the stains of multiple skylarks singing and soaring in the air and the young lambs bleating for their mothers with the panic of the milk hungry. And Appledore was replete with fishing vessels and children laden with ice cream.
Now it’s Ed’s job to turn these morsels into feasts for the ears. These will become publicly available, both online and in conjunction with a series of events later in the summer.