What follows is an account of the first year of making and realising scores, the continuing portfolio of which is called borders. These pieces are designed to frame the listening experiences of liminal sound environments; where the edges of different sound environments meet, and transitioning sound environments. This is the research idea for my PhD, and these pieces contribute to this. The scores themselves are presented as text instructions for the listener/performer (and for these realisations, myself) to interpret and carry out. Although the text scores should be strictly adhered to, there is plenty of room for individual and varied interpretations (also, any instructions in parentheses are optional). These scores can be realised in any location that the listener chooses, as long as they (the locations and the listener) adhere to the score. I should note that the individual scores are also the title for the scores; the text is the score, on a blank page, clear, and provides no (or at the most very little) influence for the reader/potential listener – they only bring themselves to the piece. The pieces are as much about individuality and the self as they are about sound environments.
As these pieces explore the nature of the in-between, they also explore outsiderness. To demonstrate this, the scores are to be realised alone, to accentuate the nature of outsiderness and to focus on the self. This is also, and perhaps more importantly, an aesthetic choice – I enjoy solitude, and I wanted to express this idea in these pieces. Soundwalking (and to a broader extent, all music) is often (but not always) experienced in a participatory and social manner; soundwalking is often carried out in groups. borders, when realised, are based around the idea of soundwalking, and I wanted to make pieces that gave the opportunity for individual, solitary experience; a reflection of my own enjoyment of walking, listening to music, and some lifestyle choices in general. It must be expressed that this is not an anti-social idea, but rather a balanced view on and an opportunity for solitude.
The scores of the ten pieces in this collection are as follows, written in the order of when they were completed:
1) stand in an open doorway / face the frame / listen to both sides simultaneously
2) walk alone / along the edge of town / listen to the sounds inside and outside the town simultaneously
3) walk alone / from the centre of town / to / the edge of town / and beyond / listen to the transitional stages of different sound environments
4) in an urban park / listen to the sounds inside and outside the park simultaneously / at / the edges / the centre
5) walk alone / from beyond the edge of town / to / the centre of town / listen to the transitional stages of different sound environments
7) at home / (create) a situation where the sounds inside and outside merge / listen to the resulting sound environment
8) listen alone / from sunset / through twilight / until dusk / (during different seasons)
9) listen alone / from sunrise / through twilight / until dawn / (during different seasons)
10) (walk) alone / in a place that you used to know / focus on the memories that this place evokes / listen to your memories and the surrounding environment simultaneously
The acts of writing and realising these scores where sometimes simultaneous, so I will therefore include both of these aspects when talking about certain pieces, and my experiences with these pieces.
There are two scores that I have deemed the 'centre pieces' of this initial part of the portfolio. They demonstrate an expansive and structured soundworld that help define the project as it progresses. Because of this, the experiences of these pieces will be the main focus. These two are: walk alone / along the edge of town / listen to the sounds inside and outside the town simultaneously, and, walk alone / from the centre of town / to / the edge of town / and beyond / listen to the transitional stages of different sound environments. Some of my frequented and favourite walks in my home town of Andover, Hampshire, generally cover aspects of these two pieces – this allowed me to formalize and structure the scores over a period of months (the initial stages of the ideas of these scores had formed before starting the research project).
Before I continue with the write-up of these pieces, I should describe a little about Andover, as the town has had a big influence on the construction of some of these pieces, and of the main ideas behind them. Andover is a relatively small town, with a growing population of around 41,000. It is a normal, relatively insignificant market town (the market side of which has diminished in the modern-era), which boasts about the fact that the 1960s rock group The Troggs came from here – arguably its biggest contribution to popular culture. It has a small, but picturesque, and typically emptying high street, where at its centre, the town hall (the Guildhall) stands dominant. The extended town has three small lakes, all roughly the same size, and plenty of green areas that weave in-between the housing estates, of which are rapidly growing into the Hampshire countryside (which the town is generously surrounded by). To the north-west and the north-east of the town lie two industrial estates, Portway and Walworth industrial estates respectively. The town is dubbed as a 'commuter town', a London-satellite town with easy (yet relatively expensive) rail access to the capital. I will explain my experiences with the nature of Andover more fully when I describe the realisations of pieces.
stand in an open doorway / face the frame / listen to both sides simultaneously
The first piece written for the project was conceived whilst sitting in my brother's bedroom (my old bedroom, in fact). Whilst he was playing on his games console, the television from downstairs, along with other sounds, bled into his room. I started to listen to more detailed sounds from both environments; the hum from his console, the creaking of the computer chair I was sat on, and downstairs, mum occasionally getting up from the sofa and going into the kitchen – the general clanging of kitchen equipment and cutlery.
Doorways are obvious liminal images, they separate two environments – no room is ever exactly the same. How do I come up with a piece for listening in what is a essentially a very thin liminal space? When the idea for the score hit me, it made so much sense – simple, clear, direct.
The final word of the score, simultaneously, has a more imaginative quality to the piece as opposed to a direct instruction. It is not necessarily about listening to different sound environments simultaneously, but rather about the challenge of carrying out this act – the battle of holding different sound environments within one's listening experience; the to-and-fro of these environments gives the piece an unsettled nature, one that is neither here-nor-there, sustaining a permanent liminal state throughout the piece – a liminal zone between the two sound environments stated in the last sentence of the score. This became the central idea for the scores that follow, and for the project itself.
Although this piece was not the first idea I had been thinking about, it was the first piece that I completed as a score. Its idea, and soundworld, was locked in and of itself, and the structure and form of the score paved the way for the writing for future scores, ideas for pieces that had been forming for a couple of months. While looking back at these pieces as I am writing this, I find it interesting that, as most of the pieces are 'walking' pieces, this first completed score is a static piece, a 'standing' piece. The piece itself literally and figuratively means to have one foot either side of the door – to experience both worlds, to hold in your head two ideas, to see (or in this case, to listen to) both sides. This idea echoes throughout other pieces in this collection, but this score demonstrates it at its most compact and contained. The score was completed in the winter of 2018, all other pieces where completed in 2019.
walk alone / along the edge of town / listen to the sounds inside and outside the town simultaneously
Forming the score
The idea for this piece had been formulating for a couple of years before starting this research project. The idea is the impetus for the project as a whole, along with another piece that I will talk about later. Following the three-sentence structure of the first piece mentioned above, the words came easily, keeping it simple and direct. along the edge of town gives the piece a flexibility for the realisations to take place, as well as a potential variety of listening experiences. I knew that I wanted to make these scores realisable and adaptable for varied locations, so using the word 'town' seemed apt. I decided that 'town' could include hamlet/village, small/large town, city/metropolis, and so on – to encompass a variety of urban/living areas. This, therefore, not only makes the scores realisable to anyone living in different areas, but also lends itself to a variety of different experiences – the sound environment at the centre of a city will obviously be different to the sound environment at the centre of a village, for example. However, I knew that I would be realising this piece in Andover, as I already knew of certain places which reflected the nature of the piece.
I imagined the piece as literally walking on a liminal line, a line between two places, and trying to sustain a balance between both sides. I also came up with an image in my mind that the sound environments would be clear, for example, urban sounds in the left ear, and rural in the right, although of course this is not the case, and therefore the importance of merging sounds became the idea here. The main location that I had in mind when writing the score was Ladies Walk in Andover, a two mile walk on the south-east side of the town. The path itself is under a long canopy of trees, and on top of a hill that boasts beautiful views of the town itself. I have fond memories of socialising with friends, especially in my mid-to-late teens, sharing the wonderful views of a town that we all wanted to get away from. I know this sounds saccharine, but it does bring me to my next point.
From growing up as a child, through my teens, and now into my adulthood, I have always felt like a bit of an outsider (whether or not I could be defined as one, is not up for me to decide). After the arduous half-decade of secondary school finally ended, me and my friends spent the summer (and much of our lives thus far) enjoying the company of each other with very little influence from other people, or, what it felt like at the time, society as a whole. I can't speak for my friends here, but I'm speaking from what it certainly felt like for me. Looking down now, as an adult, on the town from Ladies Walk, as my friends and I occasionally did after secondary education finally ended, the feeling, and image, reflects those feelings of outsiderness. I am literally on the edge; on the edge of a town, on the edge of a population of people, and therefore physically on the edge of society. I feel I am in my zone, my natural state. And behind me, the rest of the world – fields, a woodland in the distance, the dreaded and noisy A303 (a continuous sound source that provides a backdrop for a lot of realisations/recordings).
These are the feelings, images and ideas of outsiderness that helped define the score, and the project itself. It is a state of being that is important to me, and I feel is a part of my identity, and I want to reflect and demonstrate that in my work. Not to say that it is the main theme of the project, but it is an important part of it, and this piece, the score and the realisations (particularly in Ladies Walk) I feel are the best representations of the theme of outsiderness – yet just on the edge, in a close orbit to society.
Experiences and Realisations
The first challenge in realising this piece was to find suitable places to walk. As mentioned before, Ladies Walk was the obvious choice – bordering the town and the countryside. Perhaps less so with cities, Andover's edge seems to stop dead just before the countryside starts, from my own knowledge of the town, and from looking at satellite images. Certain edges, and I'm sure much like other similar towns, boast several paths that run along the edge, linking the town to the countryside, and linking different sections of the town (a straight-forward move from housing estate to industrial area, for example). These kinds of paths are suitable spaces where this piece can be realised.
One short path, a ten-minute walk on the north-west side of the town, is a typical sharp edge that immediately borders the industrial estate with farmland. When realising the piece here, I found that it was challenging to balance the sounds from both environments, being that the hum and noise of factories and warehouses overpowered the sounds from the farmland and fields. These sounds are consistent and oppressive; people working, radios blaring out pop music and radio chatter, cars driving in and out of the warehouse car parks, drones from piping and large air-conditioning units. Occasionally, a pheasant would call out from the fields opposite, and one time, a tractor growls on the field, close to the path, masking nearly all other sounds. On the path itself - the wind through the leaves that occasionally let themselves known when the light breezes get slightly stronger, and the odd squeaking of branches and tree trunks up against the seven-foot wire fence that frames the industrial estate. In terms of prominence, the sounds from the countryside here are less consistent than the industrial estate. However, it is consistent in that there is not much change, unlike the warehouses and factories as they pass by. Towards the end, the south side of the walk, the A303 becomes louder and more frightening, even though the surrounding images are that of tall grass, bushes, and an old barn peering over the fence. The drones from this fast and noisy road provides a constant keynote to the entire walk, which barely creeps up until towards the end of the walk when it sharply explodes into the foreground.
Along this walk, I bumped into a few solitary figures. A dog walker, a teenager on his phone, and a jogger, who expressed his thanks as I moved out of the way for him to pass by – a friendly sound. Does this path, or this type of edgeland path, attract solitary people more than groups, and if so, why is that? These three people I passed during a single realisation had different motives, which I imagined – the dog walker seemed sullen, perhaps worrying about things in her life, home life, money troubles. Perhaps the teenager was going to meet friends at Charlton Lakes at the north side of the town, where the path ends. The jogger can focus his route away from people, surrounding himself with edgeland trees and space, instead of the busy town centre or the popular lakes. Are these types of edgeland path actually utilised for solitude, to be by one's self, to get away from people? Is solitude, when associated with outsiderness, really pushed to the edges, to the edgelands, where it feels more acceptable? To visit the edgeland path and to take time out and away from the crowds, from responsibilities, to take a break, yet to return to the rest of life within a short distance. A space to collect oneself, before the act of facing one's problems with a clearer mind, now able to problem solve with more ease than before; to finally meet friends after the anticipation, the solitude of which can make all the more exciting/anxious, especially for a teen; to rest after pushing your body and sustain a fitness. To visit the edge, not to run away from, but to keep things at arm's length. To take time out, through a liminal state, in a liminal space, on the edge of the everyday, before returning to it proper.
In contrast to the population of the short north-west walk, Ladies Walk attracts a larger amount of people; dog walkers (usually, but not exclusively couples), families, and groups of children/teenagers, cannabis smokers, again usually in groups, and of course solitary walkers, commuting from work/home, walking a dog, or generally enjoying the outdoors. The path is a popular walk in Andover. At roughly halfway there is a Victorian iron bridge, creatively named the Iron Bridge, that hangs relatively high over Micheldever Road, a country road that leads south-west out of the town, towards (but does not join with) the A303. Local stories talk of the ghost of Ladies Walk, the 'white lady', of a woman who met a tragic end in the Victorian era off the Iron Bridge. There is no concrete story or conclusive evidence of this, however it is a local story that dabbles occasionally around the area, particularly within the social groups of children, especially speaking from my experience as a child. This deterred me from exploring the walk when I was younger (even though I lived just a few metres away from the south-west entrance), but towards the end of secondary school, when I had a small circle of friends, we occasionally ventured up there.
From the south-west entrance, from Old Winton Road (where I lived for the first fifteen years of my life), the view of Andover starts to form. From here, surrounded, in distance, by the town and the A303, is the distant noise of traffic. The town traffic, 'the sound of the town', is much fainter than that of the A road. I like the idea that I can hear the town as a whole from this point (and from the path itself), yet even on a busy day, say midday on a Saturday, the town is still relatively quiet. Walking into Ladies Walk proper, the sound environment changes subtly. Bird song is the most prominent change; a lively place for robins, blackbirds, crows, tits, pigeons, and many others; they look down on the town from the trees on the hill, from a kind of high sanctuary.
The sounds of the town, and the A303, are at just a distance as to not disturb the relative tranquillity of the place. Because of this, Ladies Walk seems to exist in its own bubble of sound – a bubble of quietude, in-between two noisy soundworlds. The trees that surround the path are large and plentiful, and they give consistent rustling and 'white noise' from their leaves in the slightest of breezes. The white noise from the trees play with the white noise from the A303 in the distance. The A road gives a steady, unbroken, wavering drone, and the trees vary in pitch – in stronger winds, the biggest trees almost seem to match the noise, in pitch and ferocity, to that of the droning traffic. Walking east along the path, with Andover on the left, small fields begin to emerge between the path and the edge of town, the housing estates. On clear days, birds utilise this space and their songs broaden out from the path and the trees towards the town. From these fields, and from the path, there is a clearer view of Andover in its near-entirety, with the town's clear landmarks in view – St Mary's Church, with its distinctive, straight and bulky tower, topped with four prongs. The curved roof of the Asda superstore to the left, the triangular roofs of Winton Secondary School (which I attended) to the right. This view brackets and contains the vast majority of my own life, and certainly the lives of many other local residents. I can't quite see my house from up here though.
I like the idea that I can see, within my peripheral vision, the location of where I was brought up, my lifetime of memories, and the present moment simultaneously. Although the sound of the town is relatively faint, I can still focus on it as a whole. From this view, the town is still. There are no signs of movement; traffic and pedestrians are hidden from view by the buildings that shape the town (housing estates, industrial, shopping centres), yet a faint, deep drone radiates from it; evidence that the town is alive, not from what I can see, but from what I can hear. The composition of the sounds of people and everyday life.
I have contributed many sounds that make up the composition of the town throughout my life, and although I don't drive, so can not contribute to traffic, I wonder what my loudest sound was. But at the moment of looking out onto the town, from the hill, from Ladies Walk, I am detached, on the edge of my memories, and the physical nature of the present. Realising this piece here, I find myself reflecting on memories and the present moment, my outsiderness and my liminality – knowing that this moment will not last, and that I will have to return to the composition of the sounds of everyday.
Walking past people on this path is a collection of a variety of social minutia compared to the short, ten-minute walk explained earlier. Smiling at people in return as they smile or voice their greetings, dog walkers mainly, but there are those without dogs too. Obviously, when the weather is sunny, people are more numerous than when it is cold or wet, however there are those that do not care. Dogs are always excited, the rattling of their chain leads, the shuffling of their paws on the bark-covered path. The birds are consistently bright throughout; in the cold months, the robins dominate.
During one realisation, and towards end of the walk where the path ends next to the A3093, another noisy road that links up with the A303 via Walworth industrial estate, an interesting moment happened that I feel is a perfect physical representation of this liminal space, and of the piece itself. Against this soundscape of crescendoing noise, the traffic and town sounds are now somewhere in-between background and foreground, a single skylark warbles its piercing song in a field just the other side of the trees, away from the town, on my right side. This noisy area of impending urban drones, an unrelenting soundscape that stays consistent all day long, is clashing with a single, solitary sound that is associated with deep English countryside. The skylark sounds happy enough to climb in the air just on the edge of town; it knows its song will pierce through. This was not a background sound, it was very much balanced with the adjacent soundscape – it could not have been more than twenty metres away from where I stood. The rural and urban together, in a single soundscape that should be one or the other, but isn't, and instead demonstrates the edgeland rule of transition, yet displaying sounds from the two extremes. The images do not support or reflect this soundworld – the dark path, shadowed by tall trees, with the relatively distant buildings of the industrial estate, seen through foliage of varying densities. Instead, I hear the machinic drones of the everyday, with the sounds of sunlit fields and blue skies simultaneously.
walk alone / from the centre of town / to / the edge of town / and beyond / listen to the transitional stages of different sound environments
Forming the score
As I began to formulate the idea for this piece, I started walking from my flat, just outside the centre of Andover, to a small hill fort (Bury Hill) just outside the south-west of the town. I also took field recordings of several of the walks, at different waypoints along the route – holding the recorder in the direction of the destination each time. The walk took about thirty minutes, however due a relatively unfocussed route, and recordings that I found to be inconsistent, I found that I was not coming up with any conclusive ideas for a score or a full piece.
For a clearer contrast between sound environments, I decided to walk from the centre of town, beginning at the Guildhall, and taking a different route to a different destination. Following a route through the south of the town, the idea 'from centre to edge' started to form. This demonstrates a larger, and clearer depiction of moving through different sound environments, such as the town centre (inside the shopping mall, on the high street, people walking and talking), through to housing estates (cars and traffic, first signs of birds), onto the edge of town (trees, birds, distant sounds of 'town noise').
In an initial version of the score, and beyond was inserted in parentheses, instructing that it was optional to the listener if they chose to end their walk on the edge of town, or continue outside the town and into the rural. The parentheses where deleted shortly after, and the walk into the rural gave more of a contrast from the previous environments. This gave more scope for the whole of the piece, and frames the environment on the edge of town more clearly. Also, I had just finished the 'edge of town' piece, which focussed on this environment, and I did not want to 'double up' on potential listening experiences. Where the preceding piece stays in the environment on the edge of town, this one deliberately moves through it. The differentiation between the two pieces were now becoming clear, and both shaped their soundworlds differently; one moved through one liminal sound environment, the other moved through multiple.
The idea for this piece is perhaps more opaque than the others, yet still depends on the imaginary tint of some of the other pieces. Liminality here is presented as transition, the main transition being the movement, and the ultimate change from an urban to a rural setting. However, there is more potentiality in variation of transitioning sound environments - there are 'mini transitions'; moving from inside the shopping mall to outside onto the high street, from the high street onto the ring road surrounding the centre, from the ring road onto the housing estates, from the housing estates onto the edge of town, and so on. It is a piece about movement, a flow; where one environment passes and another envelopes. The score is an instruction to challenge the focus on these transitioning places; how possible is it to really grab and keep hold of a transition before it disappears? The score does not instruct to stop, focus and listen to transitioning places, but neither does it say not to. When realising this score, I stopped minimally, focussing more on the movement of the piece, especially when recording, and therefore demonstrating the time aspect of the transitions; when does a transition begin, and when does it end?
It must be noted, however, that I do not see these pieces as works about time, but rather about place, perhaps like sculpture (there are some exceptions, though). Time does of course come into all experience (you could argue that sculpture is as much a time-art as it is a space-art), but the relationship between time and space in art is not the focus of this project. This may be a slight digression, but I feel it is necessary to explain where I place these compositions, and the compositional approach – in place and space, rather than in time.
This piece is about detachment, related to being an outsider, as a sole figure moves alone through a lively and changing world. The focus here comes back to the self, to the experience of passing through environments, and through in-between, transitioning environments. Like the preceding piece, this one displays a permanent liminality – the preceding one demonstrates an environment 'stuck' in a liminal state, where this piece sees liminal sound environments from a broader scope, allowing for focuses on broader, more varied experiences of the liminal – a piece in continuous change. A different experience of liminality to the preceding piece.
Experiences and Realisations
Sounds that typically (and obviously) define a town centre are the sounds of people. The activity of people; talking, laughing, shouting, footsteps, entering shops, opening and closing doors, adults, children, teenagers. Although Andover is much less busy than surrounding towns and cities, such as Salisbury, Basingstoke and Winchester, there is a hint of this defining feature at the centre. When beginning a realisation of this piece, I immediately sensed and noticed a detachment from the disparate and sparse crowd. The piece itself already contributes to feelings of outsiderness - listening to the environment that these people in the barren shopping mall largely contribute to. I am observing, from a psychological distance, as opposed to being a part of it.
During the first proper realisation, I head south, out the mall, which contains pop music faintly playing from the speakers, down and through the high street, eventually crossing a main road. Here, the sound of people is replaced by loud, foreground traffic, chaotic and constant. These main roads and ring roads are certainly the busiest focal point of the activity of the townspeople. Moving off the main road and onto Old Winton Road, a straight road of housing with a consistent shallow climb up to the south border of the town, the sound environment changes sharply, with a much quieter world of housemartins and distant traffic (the birds here become quite prominent in the spring/summer months), punctuated with occasional blasts of a vehicle driving all the way from top to bottom, from south towards the centre. To find the transition into this sound environment is challenging, as the change is relatively sudden, and seems to happen before I realise. Only in hindsight do I notice that mood, noise, and the soundworld itself has changed.
Reaching the top of the road, on the hill that the road slopes down, the south entrance of Ladies Walk, the birds take over. A variety of small birds, pigeons cooing, and the wind in the trees, with a small, fenced-off edgeland wooded area to my right, once past the last terraced house on the road. The distant sounds of town traffic fade behind me as I keep climbing the hill, on an old dirt road that carries on from Old Winton Road, under and surrounded by trees, towards an underpass, of which the busy A303 lies on top. The sounds from my footsteps change from the hard, dull tarmac of the road to the wet, thin layer of mud and grit. Under the tunnel, sparsely decorated with crude, druggy graffiti, the footsteps and traffic from the road above reverb around the walls, albeit with a dull greyness.
Out from under the tunnel, carrying on the straight line from Old Winton Road, the dirt track turns into a bridleway, with grooves in the earth that you have to avoid when walking on as to not fall and potentially cause an injury. The bridleway is framed be large, unkempt plantation, and a small wooded copse passes on my left (which I will return to later when describing another realisation of the same walk), and surrounded by fields and farmland. As the traffic sound from the A303 fades and becomes more distant, the sound environment becomes consistently quiet, and quintessential countryside becomes the final soundworld here. A different variety of birds this time, including the occasional pheasant and skylark, and wind through the small trees and plantations bordering the path, and through the crops from the either sides of the bushes. Twenty minutes ago, I was in the heart of the town, with echoing chatter from people in the mall, and noisy traffic from the central ring road, now replaced by a typical tranquillity associated with fields and no people. The faint sound of chickens and some kind of droning air-conditioning sound from a battery farm on my right, and just past that, the casual “tinging” of a golf club striking a ball on a golf course, with faint, unobtrusive chatter. It is here that I decide to end the walk, as I feel that the sound environment stays consistent, and is a suitable contrast to the noisier, constantly changing soundworld of the first half of the walk.
As expected, the walk as a whole seems to take the form of a long diminuendo, more dramatic in the first half, and consistently calmer in the second. In this half-an-hour, a scope of changing micro-environments are now enveloped in a broader transition that morphs from loud to quiet, from noisy to calm, from something that is in-flux to something more still. There is a strange balancing act from the shape of this walk; from passing across the A303, this realisation seems to have something like an extended outro. Perhaps, when thinking about the balance and the shape of a piece, I should have ended the realisation long before reaching the golf course, but when listening back to the recording of the walk, and thinking about this first proper realisation, I decided that it was a positive balance in which the focus of the consistency of the sound environment in the latter half complements the more dramatically-changing environment of the first half. In this instance then, the timing and duration of the piece can be just as important as place and space, and the variation in time and duration of a realisation can give new dimensions to the piece as much as the variation of locations and spaces.
During a different realisation of the same walk, there was an interesting difference that contrasted with the discoveries made during the first realisation. The reason for doing this second version of the same walk was to see what, if anything significant, would be different and to demonstrate to myself that the same piece will be different every time, even in the same place.
To paraphrase from John Peel when describing The Fall, everything was the same, and everything was different. Listening back to the recording of the first version several times, it's the small things that become almost like hooks, when repeated. The cadence from the pop song sounding from the mall's speaker system, the odd bit of chatter in the high street, the terrifying bin lorry on Old Winton Road, and so on. Obviously, this time, these small sounds that make up the whole were different – different music in the mall, different words being said by different people on the high street, and no sign of the bin lorry. But generally speaking, the sound environments themselves were similar – the reverb in the mall, the birds coming to the foreground on Old Winton Road, the distant sound of traffic at the entrance to Ladies Walk. But what was an important change this time was what happened after coming out of the underpass that the A303 flies over, and onto the bridleway.
The small wooded copse on the left that I mentioned earlier is known locally as 'the plantations', or 'the plannies', and in this wood are hills and mounds that have been dug out for mountain biking, and especially dirt biking. For this second realisation, the dirt bikes were making their presence known. A unique sound for this walk; the growl of the adult bikes, and the higher-pitched buzz of the juvenile bikes, circled round the edge of the small field in-between the A303 and the plannies. This is not a sound that one would encounter in its consistency in the centre of town or on the central ring road, or out in the countryside, but here it is on the fringes, just on the edge of town, where this kind of leisure activity can flourish. This is the place, next to the white-noise of the A road, where they can rev and speed at their hearts' content, with a few spectators/potential bikers standing and watching. Apparently, according to my parents, this kind of activity has taken place here for decades, very accessible from Old Winton Road, outside of town and away from people, yet not so that they would have to travel far into the countryside. I'd expect, because of the longevity of this activity at this location, they have some sort of permission to do this, and from myself watching from a fence, they seem to take it seriously and sensibly. Walking past this small field, I can hear the growls and buzzes reverberate through the small woodland. Heading continuously towards my end point, the golf course, the distance from the bikes breaks up their growls slightly, and like angry bees they cut through the tranquillity and clash with distant skylarks.
The presence of the bikes changes this 'long outro' of the walk dramatically, not necessarily being obtrusive to the calm of the open fields and the bridleway, but rather giving more vibrancy to the same space in the relatively unchanging sound environment, as experienced in the first realisation. A distinctive and unique sound that comes from just on the edge of town, extending the townspeople to the edges of the countryside, a 'liminal leakage'. This experience complicated the smooth diminuendo of the first realisation, and I realised that the piece, the score and the realisations, have potentially more variety and dimensions than I first thought. The sound environment of the countryside is a stark contrast to the sound environment of the town and the town centre, in terms of consistent sounds, noise and dynamics, but the edge of town is where unpredictability can flourish, where tranquillity has yet to take over, especially when urban and rural meet.
The following realisation takes place on a different route, from the centre of town and out towards and beyond the north-west of the town. Moving out of the mall via the north side, instead of the south side and onto the high street, the sound environment changes dramatically; people seem to disappear suddenly. The church bell rings from St Mary's briefly, followed by traffic which becomes more frequent as I approach a main road, which passes over a small bridge. Taking a path northward, parallel to the road, the birds are heard earlier than the walk to the south – the path itself is overhung by trees. Andover is a relatively green town; from Ladies Walk, one can see the scattered trees across the town that poke their heads above the housing. I wouldn't define it as a grey town, though there are grey areas of course - the industrial estates. The rural interweaves and intertwines with the urban, and bird life thrives here - the town has a healthy population of house and hedge sparrows, both of which are in decline. It is as much a town for the birds as it is for the people.
About fifty percent, at least, of this walk is carried out on paths that are covered by trees. Moving along the path by the side of the folly roundabout pub, and stepping over the railway footbridge that gives off a dull ringing sound, I come to a small area, known locally as the Daisy Dells, in which my friends and I occasionally met up and hung out, when we were younger, when we felt we had nothing else to do - pushed to the edgelands. It is an area of unkempt grassland and bushes, that backs up on a small hill bordered by the high metal fence that protects you from wandering onto the railway line; I stopped to have a brief listen to my memories of this place. I remember having no job, no money, no idea what I wanted to do or what I should do with my future, but enjoying the present (of the past) with the friends that I have kept, talking music, films, pseudo-philosophical thoughts, infrequently interrupted by a loud train that would briefly stop all conversation – and presently interrupting my memorizing. The sound of an Andover edgeland, one built on memories of non-events of the past, and interrupted by the present.
I carry on along the path that will eventually lead me on to Harrow Road, and long, straight Roman road on which stands a school that takes the road's name. This is the school that my parents attended in the 1970s. I wonder about the memories they have of this road in particular, as I am now moving through their memories via the physicality of the present. Behind me, I can hear the distant traffic of the main roads around the town centre, the white-noise of traffic – I wonder if my parents heard this sound back in the 70s, whether consciously or unconsciously, and to what degree? From moving through a place from my past, I now move through a place from someone else's. A past in which I didn't exist, before my time, and before any knowing that I may ever exist. The flatness and straightness of the road lends an air of calm, even in this strong wind.
This line keeps relatively straight now until the end of the walk, moving on a flat plane from east to west, taking up about half the distance of the entire walk. Although the present Harrow Way eventually ends, the road's past carries on, cutting a line through the very centre of Portway industrial estate. Turning into a sort of edgeland path, overhung again by old trees, plenty of pigeons, robins, blackbirds and other small birds own this path. Either side are the warehouses that make up the bulk of the industrial estate, and as I pass through, differently pitched air-cons, lorries, and other general warehouse noises merge with the birds and the sound of wind through the trees. It feels like these remnants of the old Roman road have been amicably hidden here as the warehouses were built around it throughout the years. Almost like a stubborn homeowner who has spent their whole life in their beloved home, and who won't move to make way for a newly-built motorway that needs to pass though their house, so they build around it. This path has seemingly not been deterred by the inevitable surrounding industrial estate, yet it is now obscured by the greyness on both sides that contrasts with its own greens and browns. An old piece of Andover that has been un-changed throughout the years, weaving (or rather, cutting) its green through the greyness of this edgeland estate.
A distinctive air-con drone signals the sharp edge of the industrial estate, and the path carries on, cutting again through the middle of two farmland fields. To my left, a few sheep and lambs in small, yet spacious pens, and to my right, a field of crops. However, in the left-distance comes the familiar white-noise of another part of the A303. The sound of the town is framed by the A303; if Andover made no sound, the A303 will still be there, roaring consistently. From my bedroom at night, I'm sure I can hear it through my draughty window, and when I lived at home with my parents, closer to the road, I knew I could. It is an unstoppable drone, something that is always there, and something that will rear its ugly head as soon as you think you're moving into a kind of tranquillity.
For the end of this walk, just out beyond the outskirts of Andover, an Apache helicopter flies low overhead; the broken chugging of the rotor blades cutting the air and turning into a deep, bass growl. It is a disquieting end to the walk, and again complicates the previous idea of moving from a loud environment to a quiet one, from urban to rural. Andover is surrounded by small army bases and airfields, and apaches, gazelles and chinooks occasionally disturb the modest quietude of the town's soundscape, especially during the nights. Bullied by these sounds and the A303, the town struggles to compete in terms of volume and dynamics; its interweaving greens of the trees, greys of the warehouses, and browns of the housing, are no match for noisy external sources that occasionally blanket out the town's sound altogether.
I write this after a walk and field recording session at Ladies Walk, where one can clearly see the merging of housing and scattered trees, which seem to be in a random balance when looking out over the town in its entirety. Depending on the direction of the wind, you can either hear the faint soundscape of the town, or the distant roar of the A303. The town has a fragile sounding life, yet one that allows the sounds of nature in, via the wind in the trees and the plentiful birds, a to-and-fro of relatively delicate sound environments, one that is occasionally put down by external, imposing sources. I wonder if somewhere like London has the same battle; a battle between its own sound environment and the sounds from the rest of the world – a battle fought on the edges. I imagine it does, in one way or another, but not like Andover.