I just got back from a much-needed break. We stayed with my wife’s parents on the east coast, which has a pretty special location overlooking farmland and a beautiful tidal creek.
The week started with a family gathering of over 30 aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins and we all enjoyed a weekend of camping, swimming, kayaking, mud-bathing, night-hiking & campfires.
One of the most memorable moments though was actually in the days afterwards, when we were able to swim in the creek. The water was just the right temperature and just salty enough, the sun shone and the fish chased us – but my favourite thing was… the acoustic.
Something special happens when you get down into the water – the reeds act as a natural sonic barrier and most of the other noises of the world drop away. You’re left with a lovely soft ambience of nothing but wind, water and birds.
And the best bit of all is swimming on your back with your ears under the surface, when all you can hear is the sound of your own movements through the water.
Co-incidentally I watched this excellent TED talk on “Five ways to listen better” while I was there, and Julian’s suggestion to both seek out silence listen to the “mix” of the sounds around us meshed perfectly with the sonic experience of swimming in the creek.
It reminds me of sound engineers who go out to record different “silent” ambiences to use in film, TV and radio drama. Of course it’s not really silence at all, just very quiet recordings intended to capture the particular atmosphere of a place or time. I once did something similar, recording the live sound of rain and birds into the mix of a strange little electronic tune I wrote with some friends.
I love this idea of locking ambient sound into a song or recording to capture a time and place, or just listening carefully to the environmental sound around me.
I’m also tempted to design a studio using acoustic treatment made only from bundles of reeds !