Burwell (Local Materials)

Field recordings, April/May 2009: Dawn-Rain-Bells-Wind-Night

For a couple of years we lived in Burwell, a large village in Cambridgeshire, England. Our house was right next to the church, separated only by a ruined wall made from clunch, a local material previously used widely as a building material. The wall was restored lovingly by a local craftsman, shortly after we moved in. It was then I started to think about clunch, and about local materials more generally and how much they infiltrate and continue to build a presence in our day-to-day experience of both landscape and vernacular architecture—the places we come to know. During the day the builder continued his work,and the clunch wall gradually ceased to be a ruin and reasserted its presence as an important, beautiful part of the ‘ordinary’ landscape. He was a young chap, on his first restoration job, and he worked meticulously and with care as he came to terms with materials that were both old and, for him, new. Meanwhile, I spent some time recording local sounds — the dawn chorus, the crows that gathered in the towering chestnuts in the churchyard, the wind in the trees, the rain, churchbells, and the small, mysterious sounds of nocturnal animals.

Local Materials (there’s my stop) is a related essay about words, sounds, listening and clunch, and introduces several of my pieces for voice, text, and sound.