Thursday, 4 August 2022

Brodgar poetry/sound project : 2. Listening Wall


The Listening Wall at the Loons.

           Sonja recording bird song.

We had a wonderful few hours at the Listening Wall at the Loons.  An extraordinary experience.  You have to stand on the 'sweet spot' in the middle of the parabola and amazingly the sounds are magnified.  The wall was inspired by the World War II concrete walls dubbed  'listening ears', or acoustic mirrors used along the south coast of England to give early warning of approaching enemy aircraft before they were visible. Radar made them obsolete. 

                                                                    The sweet spot.

Here below is Sonja also recording night sounds at Brodgar.  What we called her Caspar David Friedrich pose.

Brodgar poetry/sound: 1. research visit


Ring of Brodgar, Orkney.

An inspiring week at the iconic Ring of Brodgar, researching for our poetry/sound project, absorbing the atmosphere, listening to birdsong and other sounds: water, wind and boy was it windy! 
 Sonja (Heyer) took hundreds of recordings (water and inevitably wind) and we decided the route our poetry/sound walk would take - starting at the Ring but then down a side path across the RSPB reserve with the wildflower meadow either side full of the sound of bees down to the loch of Stenness and then back to the Ring - about 25 mins. Of course, if participants want to pause between poems/sounds they can, there's even a bench at the loch, or perhaps some will continue alongside the loch then return by the circular route via the Comet Stone back to the Ring - about an hour's walk.

 The wonderful, enthusiastic and helpful Sarah Money of the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) kindly agreed to meet us at the Reserve to chat to us about their work, in particular, their success in attracting the curlew back to the area - they now have 10 pairs since 2001. This doesn't sound much but is a lot for the land area, the narrow isthmus between two lochs.  The curlew is on the Red List, as an endangered species, as is the lapwing which the Brodgar site also attracts. A delicate balance of wetland and grassland is needed plus cattle to keep the grass in check - liasion with local farmers has been paramount.  Sarah  was thrilled that the rare Great Yellow Bumblee Bee is present in the wild flower meadow and the seeds are later a source of food for many birds in the autumn and winter months. It isn't only birds they protect but all nature.

View of Ward Hill and Culags across the Loch of Stenness.

Wind in the Reeds

I also interviewed the wonderful Sandra Miller of HES (Historic Environment Scotland) who was hugely entertaining about all the theories as to why the Neolithic Ring was built (No one knows) and why Neolithic people came here (No one knows), what was its spiritual or cultural significance (No one knows), were ceremonies, if any, held here (No one knows). OK, you get the picture, but she spoke as someone with an archaeological perspective. She was extremely moving about the Ring's power and why it still draws so many people today. 

                                                           Me and Sonja Heyer 
                                                at Loch Stenness, Brodgar Reserve.

Next post: more on night sound recordings at Brodgar, and the Listening Wall at the Loons.

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