Most of us love going to the beach, and proclaim that we love its sounds ~ wind, sea, surf. But how closely do we actually listen? Sound artist Jared Sagar takes a sonic microscope to the sounds of Holme, where woodlands and a nature reserve snuggle up to the sea, offering up a vast cornucopia of sonic possibilities. His single-track soundscape zeroes in and zooms out, capturing minute fragments of sound as well as unifying drones that can be heard from all three locations.
Thanks to light manipulation, Sagar is able to isolate certain sounds while reducing the interference of others, creating a fictional soundscape that is more comprehensive than a simple reflection. These are the sounds that one might hear on a trip to the coast, but not in these amounts, and not with this much variety. Real-time coastal explorations include long passages of slowly-evolving seascape, minute variations in birdsong, indiscernible shifts of wind. While walking, one may decide, “I like this sound or that”, without veering far from human-made paths. (To test this theory, simply trace the footprints in the sand, typically near the wrack line parallel to the shore.) But what of the whistle through a hollowed log? Or the soft retreat of passive water from the lip of a dune? Or the popping bubbles of sea foam?
Holme is a quiet recording, which camouflages its occasional sonic retreats. The sounds are layered atop each other in a manner that suggests sediment: sand on stones on solid slabs. Dig a bit deeper, and one will encounter the textures of the shore. Two-thirds in, one hears what sounds like a steam engine, but is likely something else: a natural phenomenon that bends the ear. Of all the surprises of the shore, this is the day’s unidentified gem: a rustle worth the walk to encounter. Sagar’s love letter impresses on the listener what locals knew all along: there’s no place like Holme. (Richard Allen)