Caught by the River

The Sylvan Space

Chris Watson | 11th June 2020

Whatever else is going on in the world at any given time, you can pretty much guarantee that Chris Watson is off somewhere with a microphone, plotting something mind-blowing. The latest product of this, ‘The Sylvan Space’ – a 9-hour dusk-til-dawn field recording from Holystone oak woodland in Northumberland, as captured in binaural sound – can be heard in real-time, from 21.30 tomorrow night to 06:00 Saturday morning.

In the words of the man himself:

As soon as possible I was eager to get back out into Northumberland to soak up the sounds and atmospheres of my favourite locations and Holystone Common has for me that very special sense of spirit and place. 

The location is an ancient sessile oak woodland on a dry south facing slope with stands of mature trees which create ideal sound stages. On the evening of May 31st I fixed a Schoeps microphone surround array under the canopy at my chosen spot and ran a cable 200m up the slope to an open area where I was hoping to avoid the wood ant colonies which patrol the forest floor. Around 2115h during the golden hour of sunset the evensong hung in the still dry air. Robins, cuckoos, blackbirds and a solitary woodcock, croaking frog like around its territory, kept me company as daylight retreated and the night shift emerged.

Without torchlight my night vision held out until midnight after which I listened to the roe deer moving through the leaf litter on the periphery of the sound stage, later they would move into the clearing and browse around the mikes.

The intense stillness was broken by the solo song of redstart around 0330h after which the dawn chorus slowly emerged out of the forest in advance of the sunrise over the eastern horizon.

Microphone location; 

Holystone oak woodland N 55 18.431’ W 002 06.343’

‘The Sylvan Space’ is a continuous 8.5+ hour binaural (aka “headphone surround”) recording from sunset to sunrise, featuring the sounds of Roe deer, bats, woodcocks, cuckoos and redstart, and many other critters. It will be played in real-time from 21.30 through to 06.00 this Friday/Saturday June 12/13 exclusively on the Isolation Room YouTube channel. (To get the most out of the experience, it is suggested that you listen on headphones.)

Isolation Room is a YouTube channel dedicated providing the very best of binaural (aka ‘headphone surround’) recordings during lockdown. Outside of lockdown, Isolation Room works as Loss/Gain to stage real-life surround sound events, presenting new ways of experiencing work by artists such as Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Anna Meredith, London Contemporary Orchestra, Rival Consoles, Claire M Singer, Todd Dockstader, Colin Curry Group and others, interpreted for d&b Audio’s multi-channel Soundscape system.