“I prefer radio to TV because the pictures are better.”

Alistair Cooke

Sometimes photography’s not enough to tell a story, so that’s why I love to make audio recordings too, another way of creating pictures in the mind…

4:30am to 6:30am, Sunday 2nd May 2021: My contribution to International Dawn Chorus Day recorded from our front garden in Newcastle upon Tyne. Thank you to all the birds in attendance, not least the vocal blackbird who got the intricate cacophony underway as soon as I’d set up my equipment and vacated the area.

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Saturday 27th March 2021: I’m one of those people who thinks they’re not very good at drawing. I’m also aware that may not be true but, thankfully, I derive the same kind of catharsis from making audio recordings, so that’s what I do instead.

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Wednesday 27th January 2021: Lockdown 3.0 is nowhere near as quiet as Lockdown 1.0, particularly in our back yard. Listen out for our chickens peacefully pecking away at their food and a myriad of other feathered friends flitting about the neighbourhood, all set against the background hum of city life.

Thursday 9th July 2020: This is a recording I’ve wanted to make ever since moving to Newcastle in 2000 and walking through the Ouseburn Valley for the first time. Good quality headphones or speakers recommended…
…the sound of a chirruping bird is swapped for the chirruping bridge as a heavy freight train passes overhead on the 1830s Ouseburn Viaduct, one of the major bridges along the route of the East Coast Mainline.
I intend to make a longer soundscape of this special spot in due course.
The photograph accompanying the recording is one I made 17 years ago in July 2003.

Thursday 16th July 2020: As always, good quality headphones or speakers recommended to fully enjoy this soundscape made where the River Tyne meets the North Sea.
Listen out for the terns and gulls, and the freighter that entering the port midway through.

Friday 13 March 2020: While working in Plymouth, the 149th lifeboat station on my journey and the penultimate before the COVID-19 lockdown, the squeaking and creaking of the lifeboat’s fenders formed a permanent aural backdrop.
Before leaving, I couldn’t resist putting my microphones right next to one of the fenders to make this recording. I held one mic and naval historian Iain Ballantyne held the other!

Saturday 25 April 2020: This morning, I got up early to record the dawn chorus for the first time as part of Ambient Isolation’s lockdown sound project for International Dawn Chorus Day on Sunday 3 May.
I’ve included the finished piece in my Dawn Chorus playlist. It was also published on the Ambient Isolation website where you can find out more details…listen out for my contribution at the 22 minute mark!
Contributors were asked to record from 5-7am on 25 April and then submit “the most interesting minute”.
However, when I examined the final recording, I realised the strongest part of this morning’s dawn chorus coincidentally lasted for exactly one hour, so that’s what I’ve prepared for you here.
If you’re feeling cooped up, I hope it helps to soothe the head and the heart by bringing a little bit of nature into your room.
The full length recording will take you on quite a sonic journey, an hour long story with a beginning, middle and end. It starts off very quietly and gradually becomes stronger before tailing off towards the end when you’ll hear the first cars passing on the main road nearby.

4:18am Saturday 25 April 2020: This morning, I got up early to record the dawn chorus as part of Ambient Isolation’s lockdown sound project for International Dawn Chorus Day on 3 May.
The stipulated time was to record from 5-7 am but I decided to start earlier so that I could make this one minute recording at 4:18am.
Well, I’m a big fan of Kate Tempest’s album ‘Let Them Eat Chaos’, a concept album about seven strangers living in South London.
The events told within the tracks all take place at the very specific time of 4:18am.
She explains:
“At that time in the morning, people are open with their vulnerabilities because they are not in the previous day or the coming day. The day doesn’t belong to anyone yet.”
I love that sentiment, so I wanted to experience — and record — that very specific time of day, both as a nod to Kate’s album and to the witching hour famous in folklore.

Thursday 23 April 2020, a readymade symphony: This is how Clap for Carers sounded round our way this evening. The recording starts with a chirruping bird, then the beat of a distant pan, a lone clapper soon becomes hundreds, dogs bark, car horns sound, instruments clatter and parp, all emblazoned with fireworks in the middle distance…glorious!

Step aboard the mighty Tynemouth RNLI Severn class lifeboat with the mechanic while he fires her up to work on the two 1600hp MTU engines — high quality headphones or speakers recommended!