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  • phildunn641


Updated: May 4, 2021

This morning I got up at 04:10, dressed in very warm clothes that I had looked out last night, made a flask of instant coffee and set out for Coldfall Wood to stream the sounds of dawn. This was part of Reveil 8, a project that picks up and broadcasts streams from open mics and sound performances around the planet as day break progressively from the Greenwich meridian at 05:00.

I've spent time over the last few weeks, since my MA programme leader first mentioned it to me, preparing for the stream. This has meant buying some kit. Firstly a Zoom H1n sound recorder that I could use as an external mic for my mobile phone. The first time I used the recorder outside, I realised how sensitive the mic was, so I had to get one of those fluffy wind shields. There was also the issue of connecting the mic to my phone which required an OTG (on the go) cable which I was never sure was going to work, but did.

I conducted a few tests, first in my home and then in the woods. Unfortunately, for the test from the woods, my listener friend could not connect to the stream for some reason, but my wife was there with a second mobile phone and she was able to connect and we could hear the stream clearly, even if the birds were a bit quiet at the time.

Back to today, I left home at after 04:35 with just a very faint lightness appearing in the sky to the east. There was a waning moon low in the sky to the south so that was going to be no good for light when I got to the woods. I had thought about how I would manage and feel setting up in the dark, but kept putting it out of my mind - it would be okay, I knew the woods well (though I'd never been in them in the dark). But walking to the woods this morning, I felt uncertain... it really looked quite dark in there and I had no fixed reference point for where I was going to situate myself and my mic. It was fine, I found a spot which I thought was close to where I had tested from before and set things up - a tripod at full extend with the mic attached and cable running from it to my mobile phone which was secured by an elastic band and a pencil to one of the the tripod horizontal supports. I started the stream at 04:50 - 3 minutes ahead of schedule and waited for sunrise.

I checked in with the stream a few times from another mobile phone I had with me and it sounded fine. Who knows if anyone else heard it - I'd promoted it amongst friends, family and my MA course colleagues and tutors, but it was bloody early. I'm not sure it matters to me. I did what I'd set out to do and I was in the woods for beautiful sunrise and a joyful dawn chorus. Just standing alone in the twilight and listening either through headphones to what I was streaming, or directly and hearing who knows what species of birds chattering among the trees was enough.

I had not managed to find a way to reliably record the stream live so I made a parallel recording on the other mobile phone I had with me near the start of the stream - just at the beginning of civil twilight - and another using the Zoom H1n just after I'd finished streaming which I'd say is full daylight. I did comment "who knows what species of birds", above but I do know there are at least blackbirds, robins, crows, wood pigeons and woodpeckers to be heard in the recordings.

How does this contribute to my practice? I've picked up some new technical skills, solved some problems, braved the woods in the dark, made contact with new people and greeted the dawn on May day - which I'm sure an artist must have to do once in their life.

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