Each day, the Earth turns on its axis bringing the sunrise to every part of the globe in an endless sequence. The daily miracle of nature’s response to that event, we call the dawn chorus and it has a unique sound in every part of our world. International Dawn Chorus Day (1 May 2016) is an annual celebration of that astounding natural event. In Rotherhithe, we play a very special part – with the help of Soundcamp – in that celebration by coordinating and initiating the broadcast of Reveil, a relay of sounds from live open microphones provided by streamers around the world. Starting on the morning of Saturday 30 April just before daybreak here near the Greenwich Meridian, the Reveil broadcast tracks the sunrise west from microphone to microphone, following the wave of sound that loops the earth every 24 hours.
“…Each unique space can now make itself accessible to the whole world by being embodied in a simple audio stream…”
Grant Smith – who is part of Soundcamp, the organisation who brings together the sound streams, broadcasters, artists, photographers, coders and programmers, scientists and listeners that makes this happen – met up with me at Stave Hill Ecological Park and explained their inspiration for the work. “We are really interested in how sound and place come together,” says Grant. “In our dense urban environment, it’s really important to attend to the sounds around us especially those of nature. But so often we are deaf to our surroundings or they are blotted out by the visual or by competing sounds. Soundcamp gives us all a chance to listen to our world awakening again and to see how each place has a different sound. Dawn is such an ephemeral phenomena and yet its sounds are around us every day of our lives.”
Camping for the dawn
Reveil has been broadcast from Stave Hill since 2014, each time involving a soundcamp, a group camping out on the meadow overnight so they can wake early on Sunday morning and encounter the dawn chorus at its very best. Alongside the experience of the soundscape, Soundcamp offer a free programme of workshops, walks, performances and discussions. This year they are helping Stave Hill celebrate 30 years since its foundation in 1986 – more in a future post – and have created an exciting programme for everyone to enjoy. For example, on Saturday night, Dr Iain Bolton from the London Bat Group will lead a bat walk whilst on Saturday afternoon you can learn about creating your own streambox using a Raspberry Pi. Geoff Sample will be leading a dawn chorus walk and helping people learn to analyse bird song and recognise the species you hear whilst out in Stave Hill; Geoff has a long and distinguished career in ornithology and sound recording.
Democracy in sound
“We are all about creating a democratic soundscape,” explains Grant. “As the costs of hardware tumble and software and coding becomes much more widely available, so many more communities across the world can join in. Each unique space can now make itself accessible to the whole world by being embodied in a simple audio stream. Indeed we use the Locus Sonus soundmap to work with open microphones in remote parts of the world. For example, Tokyo University has a project called the Cyber Forest Programme that provides streaming sound from a series of remote microphones located in forests in Japan. Or in the Pacific, we listen from mobile platforms off Hawaii with hydrophones to the sound of humpback whales singing during their breeding season. It’s all small scale and low-cost so anyone can get involved.”
“…The camp starts at 10:00 on Saturday 30 April and concludes at 18:00 on Sunday 1 May…”
If you want to join in with the SoundCamp at Stave Hill, then do go to their website for further information. The camp starts at 10:00 on Saturday 30 April and concludes at 18:00 on Sunday 1 May. You will need to register free of charge for the camp and to be sure of a place on workshops and the daybreak walk on Sunday morning; other events are drop-in. There will be delicious, reasonably-priced food by Leon Lewis at lunch on Saturday and Sunday and an evening meal on Saturday evening. If you want to experiment with creating your own open microphone, or even add your stream to the broadcast, then take a look at the streaming guidelines online and get in touch with Grant. If you fancy listening into the Reveil broadcast during the day, you will not hear any words or music but only the sounds coming live from somewhere else across the planet. You have several choices to listen into part or all of Reveil. You can listen to the whole show in a browser online at Wave Farm or on Resonance Extra, or in part on local FM stations.. If you want to listen to individual streams after the broadcast, you will find them on the website together with more information about each of them.
Booking on Eventbrite: Soundcamp 2016 in London
Listen Live: wavefarm.org/listen
More photos by Ky Lewis kylewis.co.uk
More wildlife from Stave Hill and around Rotherhithe rotherhithewildlife.blogspot.co.uk