Musician and producer Joe Acheson has taken up the National Trust’s first ever sound residency on the Lizard in Cornwall this week where he is recording sounds along this coastal jewel and tapping into Marconi’s time there to create a new piece of music.
As part of the summer-long ‘sounds of our shores’ project, Joe is based at the Wireless Station on the Lizard where Guglielmo Marconi continued his radio transmission experiments. While based on the Lizard, Marconi received an ‘S’ signal in Morse Code from the Isle of Wight, which was the first ever ‘over-the-horizon’ wireless communication, and it was here he also made the first ever trans-Atlantic radio transmission.
Launched in June, more than 500 sounds have been uploaded on to the ‘sounds of our shores’ sound map including a sea snail feeding in a rock pool and gentle waves on sand and shingle . Visitors to the coast are being encouraged to record and upload their sounds from the whole of the 10,800 miles of UK coastline before the closing date on 21 September.
All of the sounds will be added to the British Library Sound Archive. Sounds of our shores is a collaboration between the National Trust, British Library and National Trust for Scotland.
Joe Acheson is a composer and producer, most widely known for the music he releases under the name Hidden Orchestra. The music is influenced by electronic and dance music but produced using real acoustic instruments and drums, without synthesisers and combined with classical orchestration techniques.
Joe said of the residency: “In a lot of my work I focus on natural sounds, which I chop, rearrange and loop throughout tracks. I’m looking forward to using these same techniques with this project. I’ll be recording in the day and at night along the Lizard, capturing sounds which are interesting or unusual and can be amplified by a close microphone or simply something with an inherent pitch or rhythm that can be used in a musical way.
“While I’m staying in Marconi’s historic wireless hut I’ll be making recordings of things that were not intended to have aesthetic qualities, such as whirring cogs, ticking clocks and tapping Morse codes.
“I’m also excited about the possibility of scanning the airwaves above Marconi’s wireless station with the help of local radio enthusiasts who use the hut today. I want to see if I can find any useful noise using techniques pioneered in the same hut over a hundred years before.”
The recordings will be brought together to create a piece of music which will reflect and resonate with the history and the soundscape of the Lizard. The collection, tentatively named ‘Marconi and the Lizard’ is planned for release in December.
This year the National Trust is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its Neptune Coastline Campaign. Launched in 1965 tens of thousands of people have supported the campaign and the Trust now manages 775 miles of coastline across England, Wales and Northern Ireland – including some land on the Great Orme in north Wales, which was acquired in April 2015 . For every mile of coast that the National Trust owns it costs £3000 a year to look after the footpath and much more for the work the conservation charity does to protect wildlife habitats and ensure safe access to beaches.
Since 1987 the National Trust has been caring for the Lizard in Cornwall, which is the most southerly point of the UK and home to a rugged coastline with many sheltered coves and snug little beaches. Cornish choughs live on the Lizard and the unique geology of the peninsula has created a haven for some extremely rare wildflowers. It is also renowned for its early breeding frogs and the National Trust’s Kynance and Poldhu Coves which are popular with surfers all year round.
Catherine Lee, National Trust Community and Volunteering Officer on the Lizard, said: “The Sounds of our Shores project is the perfect opportunity to ‘take stock’ of our favourite sounds and to have fun recording them. Sounds change, and although they may not feel important at the time, they are part of our history, our culture and our natural environment. Sounds influence us, just like music moves us.
“One of my favourite sounds of the coast is the distinctive, rich and uplifting call of the Cornish chough. It’s a sound that has become part of the fabric of The Lizard and of Cornwall, I think most Cornish people can identify with it, but it is a sound that Cornwall almost lost.
“Other sounds like the sound of the old foghorn at the Lizard Lighthouse will not return and had it not been recorded it would be lost.
“Marconi’s works here on the Lizard has shaped the world of communication and sound technology as we know it. To have a musician like Joe in our midst interpreting and celebrating Marconi’s ground breaking experiments is going to be superb. I can’t wait to hear the end result.”
The National Trust is encouraging all visitors to the coast this summer to get involved in the sounds of our shores campaign by recording and adding your coastal sounds to the coastal sounds map via www.bl.uk/sounds-of-our-shores. All sounds can be shared on social media using the hashtag #shoresounds.