Mapping the Sounds of the Tweed Rivers

Listeners all over the world can now tune in to the sound of a Border burn, music and voices, through a new Tweed Rivers soundmap created by the Working the Tweed artists.

Location recordings that can be heard on the sound map include electrofishing on the Teviot, interviews with anglers David Mitchell and Ronnie Glass and river experts including Paxton Netting, Tweed Forum and the Tweed Foundation. The soundmap also includes  Borders music from Kirsty Law, Rachael Hales and the Small Hall Band, and environmental recordings made on burns and rivers, including some from World Listening Day 2013.

The project is part of Working the Tweed, and features recordings made by some of the project artists, including Jules Horne, James Wyness and Claire Pencak. The Tweed Sound Map has come from an international collaboration with Berlin-based Udo Noll from global soundmap radio aporee. Tweed Sound Map

Jules said: ‘radio aporee has field recordings from every corner of the world. You can zoom in on a Google map and hear sounds from that place – it’s very atmospheric and interesting. We wanted to give a flavour of the distinctive sounds and voices of the Tweed catchment, to highlight a sense of connection through the river.’Tweed Sound Map

Udo Noll said: ‘The Tweed soundmap is a great example of international exchange and collaboration, and I especially like how sound and recording is used here. Listening to the Tweed map gives you a strong idea of the relation between landscapes, nature and the people living there.’

The idea for project and theme-based maps on radio aporee came from sound artist John Grznich at the MoKS Centre for Art as Social Practice in Estonia, who linked up with Borders artists when taking part in the Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival in Hawick.

The hope is that the Tweed sound map will continue to be added to over time so that it can build up into an archive of voices and river sounds.

To access the sound map, go to www.tweedsoundmap.co.uk

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Cogsmill Burn – Slitrig – Teviot – Tweed: World Listening Day Reflections

I set off on the bicycle to find the junction of Cogsmill Burn and the Slitrig Water, which later joins the Teviot at the point where the heron fishes in Hawick.

Cogsmill Burn is my closest water way and runs a couple of fields away from the back of the house.

It passes Cogsmill Hall – the pink hall which will soon be pink no longer – and under a bridge – and somewhere between that point and before the pig farm it runs into the Slitrig.

From the road, the junction is concealed. Instinct suggested it was somewhere behind the big gated entrance to Stobs Estate.

The sound of flowing water is audible and a broken down wall offered a glimpse of it, so leaving the bike, it was a scramble down the bank to a shady river – which one, though? I thought the Slitrig, as it seemed unlikely the Cogsmill Burn would have widened quite so much in such a short distance, so upstream seemed the most likely direction to find the meeting place. The riverbanks were lush. I noted hawthorn, beech, ash , rhododendron, hogweed, campion, wild garlic, raspberry and dock.

Slitrig Water Photo Claire Pencak

It was difficult to move through, and the easiest way to make any distance was by taking to the river. I imagined this might have been how the first people moved up the tributary.

After a good ten minutes or so of slow river walking, there it was, the meeting place of the Cogsmill Burn and the faster flowing, more chattering Slitrig Water.

meeting cogsmill and slitrig

Listening is a continuous, subtle adjusting and shifting of your weight as your feet negotiate stony riverbeds.

River Listening

It is a state of opening up and out through all the senses.  A present tense state of being in complete attention. We might talk about listening with the soles of your feet, the sternum, the back of your neck.

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It occurred to me that it wasn’t the water that I was listening to but the flow, the passing of the water that sounded the stones and branches and plants that it moved over, under and by.

I thought I was hearing voices on a distant radio somewhere but this turned out to be the conversation of a specific combination of river, stone and branch in one specific place very close by.

flowing conversation in the Slitrig

The ‘over there’ and ‘out of sight’ of passing cars travelled to me as sound even though the road was up the bank and the other side of the wall.  I could hear the cars through the wall even though I couldn’t see the cars through the wall.

Dipping a long, slim branch into a faster part of the water and allowing it to be taken by the river whilst still holding the other end, it was easy to sense the rate and energy of the flow which seemed to want to take it with you. This was easier to experience through the medium of the branch than by placing my hand into the river. The energy of the flow could be more sensitively felt when channelled through the branch into the hand and arm and finally the spine, and I thought I could perhaps begin to understand what it must be like to know the river with a rod and line and knew that this was river listening too.

Later in the day I passed the junction of the Slitrig with the Teviot on its way to join the Tweed at Kelso.

slitrig meets teviot

 

The heron was riverside listening too.

Heron on Slitrig

 

World Listening Day – a selection of links

A selection of work celebrating Riverbank Listening, our  contribution to World Listening Day 2013 :-

Bridget Khursheed: Huntlyburn meets the Tweed

Jules Horne: Teviot meets Tweed: Junction Pool at Kelso

Kate Foster: listening upriver, downriver

Claire Pençak: junction of the Cogsmill Burn and the Slitrig

Felicity Bristow: Laret Burn – The Embankment – Kirk back

Joy Parker: meeting of theYarrow and the Ettrick

Fin McDermid: Leader joining the Tweed, with anonymous bird and low A68

Chris Whitehead: where the small Murk Esk joins the River Esk at Whitby

James Wyness: junction of the Jed Water and the Teviot

Chris Hurst: where a burn meets the Tweed with participant coughs, a Border Biscuit barking and a taciturn frog in the burn

Teviot meets Tweed

The nearest river junction to my home is in Kelso. It’s Civic Week.

We live up on a hill. Listening over the past couple of nights, we’ve heard fireworks in the sky. Celebrations down in the valley.
Today, on World Listening Day, the people and parties are gone. We’re hearing a hangover.

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Kelso’s characteristic sound is its cobbles. Growing up, I lay awake in my grandparents’ house in Horsemarket, listening to cars rattling across the cobbles, the drunk race-day men pouring from the pubs, grandad’s unearthly snore, like a slow echoey giant walking the timbers overhead. It wasn’t a place to sleep easy.

By the Junction Pool, where the rivers Teviot and Tweed meet, Kelso is obliterated by a constant rush of white noise. The pool itself is quiet, the water slow-moving. The white noise comes from a cauld, used by the salmon and trout to travel upstream. A small waterfall, in essence. It’s like a soundbed that cushions and blunts everything else.

Junction Pool, Kelso

Layers pierce through. On the far bank, a couple laughing. Overhead – birds. I don’t know birds. Gulls? Something crow-like? Squawks and tussles in the air. Mike is with me and we listen. He names them. Black headed gull. Jackdaw. Something lighter, more delicate – swallow. Very far off – grey wagtail, I’m told. I wasn’t tuned in. I missed it.

Mike hears a birdmap when we go out walking. Each individual, its life, its territory, its name. My own birdmap was always a crude cartoon. Pheasant, cuckoo, and dislocated twittering. But lately, I’ve been learning birdsong ID near my home. The soundscape is pulling into focus. Yellowhammer. Martin. Curlew. Blackbird. Now I can’t get them out of my head. They’re everywhere, vivid. Beaks, lungs, feathers. It strikes me that listening is changed by naming.

Junction Pool, Kelso

Far in the distance, there’s a man shouting through a tannoy. The shows are in full swing, way across the other side of the town. His voice carries over the field, the river. Rags of amplified sound. His lips, a microphone, a cable, amp, speaker, all the way across Kelso to our ears.
Other sounds, close by: the click of a shutter, a blop of rising fish, Doppler flies. Our clothes, hair rustle. A generator drone.

We’ve lived here 12 years. It’s the first time we’ve stood on the bank at Junction Pool.

See video here.

Junction Pool, moon

listening upriver, downriver

Last Thursday’s mission was to walk to my nearest tributary junction, and join World Listening Day by paying attention to sounds. I had an equidistant choice of going upriver and downriver. I walked upstream late morning, and downstream in the early evening.

Going along the riverside road became part of the listening. There were signs of heat – grasshoppers, flies buzzing, swallows chattering.

LDcowdraw

field drawing © Kate Foster

 

Cattle are noisy eaters I learn –  a bullock catches my ears, grazing and wading in the burn (appreciating the coolness I assume).

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photo © Kate Foster

 

My attention brings quiet, as the herd pauses to look at me.

Through the gate to the next holding, I am wished Good Listening by the neighbour who farms there. She tells me of a band of thirsty scouts, concerned for them in this heat as they walk down this reiver’s valley to the Borders Abbey Way.

LDscoutsdraw

field drawing © Kate Foster

 

I meet the Scouts and we look at the map of their walk. I suggest which houses they can get water from. A mix of adolescent voices drift away: tired, broken and half-broken tones.

Now close to the burn, a skin-slap against a horsefly, the dog slumping in the river.  I stop in tree-shade and listen to water flowing: noticing that a fish-ripple is soundless but that a crow caw has two-beats.  I learn that few of the things I look at yield sound, and I see little of what I hear.

The particular chink of a gate; the stridulation of a cricket; a ewe moving through a wire fence (metallic string tone), cool wind in my ears – all can be heard.

The open thistle, bone dry grass, distant forming clouds – all quiet.

LDmapdraw

field drawing © Kate Foster

 

At the farm-bridge at the river intersection, I remember falling off, into the river, last summer. With children’s laughs ringing alongside my shock as the plank broke.

I realise my intersection map should have been of sounds not sight, but the allocated hour is up.

The evening mission starts with a swim in the loch and from there to the road-bridge, where the burn meets the river. The moon is visible – is it always silent?
Shoes giving a rubbery flap on dry grass. There is a nettle wall between the road and my chosen point. I manage through to see, on the opposite bank, a woman watering her garden in a bikini. She might take my watchful presence amiss.  My mistake: to consider visual rather than aural access. Hidden in bracken, I start to listen and things rapidly become more abstract.

LDriver2draw

field drawing © Kate Foster

 

I find I can’t listen well with my eyes open

LDeyesopen

field drawing © Kate Foster

 

I draw birdsong from above, mistakenly using pink (not exactly a flutey hue)

LDdrawmove

field drawing © Kate Foster

 

Drawing sounds becomes a movement. I compromise with half-closed eyes, but the midges have found me.

Click here for a thought-provoking TED talk by Bernie Krause on ‘The Voice of the Natural World’ that inspires me to keep listening.

Riverbank Listening – a World Listening Day Project

Do you want to join international artists and environmentalists in a global listening project?

Are you interested in contributing to a creative celebration of the River Tweed and its tributaries or of your own nearest river system?

If so, we welcome you to participate in Riverbank Listening on Thursday 18th July. This is a World Listening Day  project in which people from all over the world are invited to spend some time during the day listening to their environment, be it urban, rural or wilderness.

The four artists of  Working the Tweed, Kate Foster (visual artist), Jules Horne (writer), Claire Pençak (choreographer) and James Wyness (composer) will contribute to World Listening Day 2013 by making a meaningful connection between a celebration of environmental listening, and our own overall aim which is to celebrate the River Tweed catchment in the Scottish Borders. We wish therefore to extend an invitation to everyone to join us in a day of Riverbank Listening.

The aim is to visit your nearest junction of two streams, a spot where a tributary joins a larger tributary, or a main river such as the Tweed itself. In the Borders for example the Tweed catchment has more tributary streams than any river in Europe and as such most Borderers will find a junction of two streams within easy walking distance of their homes. Others will be pleasantly surprised to find how close they live to a junction of two streams.

The second part of the project involves documenting or logging your listening experience using your choice of medium: drawing, photography, writing, sound mapping, recording. This needn’t necessarily or exclusively involve technology – the aim is simply to register the event in your own way and to enjoy documenting our listening experiences.

We would welcome you to send us a link or links, by email, to any documentation that you have of your riverbank listening experience. We’ll be happy to list all links on our Working the Tweed website.

Email: fieldlugs@wyness.org