Had another great session with the ladies at Mytholm Court last Tuesday - I had recording 7 moorland birds (including the very endangered Twite - or Pennine Finch) and played them these recordings, asking them to come up with ways of describing them to the deaf children I am working with. They came up with brilliant analogies: the grouse sounded like trying to start up a car with an old starting lever; the grey heron sounded as if it had fallen out of bed the wrong side....
Then, because this whole area is steeped in the remains of the clothmaking industries, I asked them to describe each bird in terms of what sort of material would it be: the Twite was satin being ripped in little jerks; the heron was a hair shirt, or emery paper; the skylark was fine cotton streaming out fast from an incredibly long roll...
Have a go at thinking up your own analogies and images for the sounds of the moor - mixing up different senses, (eg describing the smell of something by describing what colour it might be; the taste of something by describing what sort of texture the taste might have; etc), is a great way to start. This is called synaesthesia, and can lead to some truly creative writing.
All day Friday, I worked with my pal Bill Bartlett who is a BBC sound recordist - I met him last year when we worked on the telly programme Country Tracks together. I have been interviewing virtually everyone I have met as a result of the Watershed project - to collect their feelings and thoughts about the watershed and the high moors - and have been sending these recordings to Bill. He has edited them and collected masses of 'atmos' and sound effects from the moors, then mixed all these elements together to create a soundtrack for the Saddleworth Museum Watershed exhibition which I am off to set up this afternoon. We're really pleased with the result, but determined to do even better - and to expand the scope of the soundscape we have created - for the Cliffe Castle exhibition which starts in late September.
So, on Friday, Bill and I were out again - up on the moors above my house, to record the sounds of walking, doing up boots, cagoule rustling, sheep commenting on what an idiot I looked striding through and across every type of surface we could find up there! But, on a usually absolutely sodden section of moor - studded with huge rushes and with a thick undercarpet of sphagnum moss - we could not find anywhere that was more than vaguely damp. We couldn't find any standing water, bog or squelchy mud. In the end we had to improvise with a very short puddle on a concrete farm track, and a bit of mud to the side of the concrete. So, I dutifully slopped and sploshed through this while Bill held his extremely expensive microphone as close as possible without it getting coated in slop! Aaaaaah, the things we have to do for ART!!
Char March - I'm a freelance writer and tutor. I am Writer-in-Residence for the Pennine Watershed Project, and this blog takes you through some of the work I've done in that role