EXETER SOUND WALKS
Exeter Sound Walks is a collection of 25 short walks made over one year in Exeter. The walks shape a particular listening experience, focusing on some of the sounds that can be found in my suburban neighbourhood.
Each individual Sound Walk map is a graphic score illustrated in pencil with text descriptions, and fits on a sheet of A4.
The Walks chart the city edge around Exwick, cross the river Exe to the University, and run South to the Quayside and Double Locks.
Exeter Sound Walks was inspired by the disruption of the first UK COVID-19 lockdown in spring 2020.
As a violinist and composer I mostly perform and practise indoors. During lockdown I went outside my Exwick home and listened. Like many of us, I was amazed by the clarity of environmental sound when suddenly there was no traffic on the road. My ears and heart thrilled at the music of early spring.
When the lockdown eased, and the traffic noise returned, I grieved for the loss of quiet. I decided to hold the space for listening.
Sound Walks were conceived as a creative project for the Exeter Family Orchestra which met online during lockdowns. On our separate daily permitted walks, orchestra members listened and then composed maps or descriptions of the sounds for each other to share.
I composed two Sound Walks each month from June 2020 to May 2021, and one in May 2022 commissioned by Cygnet Theatre. Each walk, except one, has a different route, and they all join up. They are musical compositions: the choices I make shape a listening experience for the Sound Walk performer and offer an invitation to attend.
No two people hear the same and we have differing sound sensitivity. One Sound Walk was made with someone who hears only in one ear, one with a sound-sensitive group of autistic people. Another I made for a deaf neighbour who walks her dog daily in silence.
Rather than highlight sonic beauty spots, I spend equal time with sounds that we turn away from or filter out. I ask what is the music? How is it made? What happens if we move or is revealed when we wait? Are there patterns? As quiet as I try to be, I hear my breathing, footsteps, clothing. I hear myself as part of an endless realtime composition.
Listening can reveal our relationships with each other, and with all of nature. Bernie Krause heard invisible changes by listening over time to rainforest biophony. I tune in to my own locale and remember or dream of lost sounds, and imagine future musics.
I share the Sound Walk maps online, while resisting the dead-eared, indoor engagement that the sight-dominated medium cultivates. Sound moves through time and walking moves through space. I invite you to perform a Sound Walk and listen with your own ears.
Thanks to Helen Kean, Steph Knight, Cain Hegarty, Linda White, Jane & Dave May Morrison, Barnaby Baines, Alden, Lowena & Kirsty Tabor, James & Harry Banyard, Rachael Stocks, Steve Milton, Robin Harford, Paul Mouland, Emily Traynor, Alexandra Scarlatt, Wendy Smith, the Aubergines Exeter Community Family Orchestra, Jai, Cygnet Theatre, Stuart Crewes and all who I have listened with for your support, encouragement, response and insights.