Starting on Saturday 28 March, Ebb & Flow: Seasonal sounds through the Devon Year, a new installation at Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM), will be a celebration of the incredible range of habitats and variety of species to be found within a 20mile radius of Exeter.
Award-winning sound recordist Chris Watson combines the sounds of birds, insects, crustaceans, molluscs and the elements to create a compelling tribute to Devon wildlife. Sounds include limpets scraping algae from rocks in rockpools, the rubbing wings of chirping crickets, the sonic boom of pistol shrimps claws and the crack of nightjars’ wings.
“Chris Watson is passionate about his work” says Holly Morgenroth, RAMM’s Curator of Natural History “Using the latest technology, he will immerse our visitors in the sounds of Devon’s coast and countryside.
The quality of the recordings and speakers will allow them to hear these extraordinary sounds at natural volumes and they can be enjoyed on several levels: heard as a reassuring background noise, listened to as a natural symphony or analysed as the individual components are picked out and identified. I have loved working with Chris and I am very grateful to RSPB’s Tony Whitehead for guiding us to such wonderful sites.”
The support of RSPB staff and their intimate knowledge of Devon was crucial to the project. Tony Whitehead speaking for the RSPB in the Southwest said “Chris’ recordings are truly extraordinary but the sounds can be heard by anyone willing and able to get out and about. Many of the sounds are quite specific to the location and time of year. My favourite recording is the cirl bunting. Brought back from the edge of extinction in the UK, it’s only found in South Devon and a small part of Cornwall. It is one of our success stories and a great example of farmers and conservationists working together. For those that want to experience these sounds first hand, there are many local wildlife organisations like the RSPB that can help.”
Ebb and Flow: Seasonal sounds through the Devon Year starts at RAMM on Saturday 28 March and will continue until the end of the year. The combined recordings from eleven sites will change with the seasons, starting with spring.
BAFTA award-winning audio recordist Chris Watson has worked with the BBC on many of their best-known natural history productions including Tweet of the Day, Frozen Planet and The Life of Birds. Chris was a founder member of the influential Sheffield-based experimental music group Cabaret Voltaire in 1971. Since 1981 he has made a career recording the wildlife sounds of animals, habitats and atmospheres from around the world.
Ebb and Flow was made possible by New Expressions 3, a national programme fostering collaboration between contemporary artists and museums to provide fresh approaches to collections and visitor engagement. The programme will allow 20 artists to present specially commissioned work in partnership with 15 museums across England. New Expressions 3 is supported by the National Lottery through Grants for the Arts. Arts Council England provided additional funding through the creative digital component of RAMM’s Major Partner Museum grant.
The recordings would not have been possible without local support:
RSPB at Labrador Bay Nature Reserve, Exminster Marshes and Aylesbeare Common
Teignbridge District Council and Devon Wildlife Trust at Dawlish Warren National Nature Reserve
Teignbridge District Council at Orley Common
Robin Bowman at Moor Barton
Natural England at Yarner Wood National Nature Reserve