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Friday, August 24, 2012

peter toll - 'movement (holkham)'


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movement (holkham) peter toll

On the North Norfolk coast sits the village & estate of Holkham. A large Hall & park to the South and to the North a Nature Reserve, owned by the Earl of Leicester who still resides with his family at Holkham Hall. The reserve is managed by Natural England covering around 4,000 hectares, consisting of a whole range of habitats, from green pastures, marshes, pinewoods, sand dunes, and the beach.

It’s a very popular location for dog walkers, Bird watchers, horse riding and holidaymakers heading for the beach.
For this album I tried to record the natural, wildlife setting of some of these habitats with as little interference from humankind as possible. I wanted the listener to feel that he/she is floating in time & space. Pausing at each different location, quietly listening to the wildlife and energy of each position, before gently moving on to the next.

It was an interesting and at times magical experience making these recordings. I hope this album conveys some of that magic and atmosphere of this beautiful place, to you the listener.

Recorded at different times during the winter months over a period of two years.

movement (holkam) # 1

a) Fallow Deer At Holkham Hall (00:00 -14:02) recorded October 2010 between 22:00-4:00am

A cold winter night, inside the hall grounds at Holkham. It’s a new moon, so there is very little natural light. Owls are calling and a group of female Fallow deer approach under the chestnut trees. Every hour or so the doe call to each other (Sometimes calling continuously for around ten minuets.). Eating sweet chestnuts, which are falling from the trees above, one of the doe approaches my pair of DPA microphones, gives them a good sniff before retreating for a short while.

With the rutting season just beginning, it’s time for the buck to make an appearance, making his deep calls (very close to me at one point!) and shaking a few trees.

A few coughs and a sneeze from a doe and back to the owls & cries from waterfowl on the lake nearby, before heading a mile or so north. In the direction of the sea, where the marsh meets the woods.

b) Edge Of Marsh & Woods: dead of night (14:02 - 21:33) recorded September 2011.

Another cold, still night, cries from a Muntjac deer and Tawny owls are out hunting. The wood & marsh becomes a hive of activity at night time for Shrews & other small mammals. All kinds of splashes and vocal sounds on the edge of the marshes, from these small creatures. The distant sound of waves crashing increases as the tide comes in. Then louder sounds from a Muntjac deer, walking through the reeds and water, pausing to chew on a branch of a tree.

A call from a Tawny Owl almost seems like a wake up call for the Ducks, Cows, distant Robin and the Geese to air there voices and signal the beginning of dawn.

c) Geese At Dawn (21:33-28:25) recorded December 2011.

Every winter, thousands of Pink Footed and Brent Geese come to stay in this area. Amongst the sound of Pink Footed Geese calling and the ruffling of there feathers, there’s the tick, tick of a Robin in a near by hedgerow as the sun starts to rise. Geese are very easily startled, if one fly’s off they all follow. Suddenly there off, thousands of them taking to the sky, calling.
As they fly in to the distance, other bird sounds take their place, before heading back to listen to dawn at the woods edge.

d) Edge Of Marsh & Woods: dawn (28:25-33:37) recorded September 2011.

As the sun rises, the sounds of Owl, mammals and Deer heard earlier in this position have been replaced with calls from Pheasants, Wren, other birds and Cows. A few distant Squirrel calls from a pine tree and it’s a good time to enter the woods and make them the next location.

movement (holkam) # 2

e) Pinewoods (00:-09:37) recorded January 2012 10:30am.

The Pinewoods at Holkham contain three types of pine tree, Corsican, Scots and Maritime. It’s usually a quite, still area, but on this overcast day there’s a fairly strong South East wind blowing. The sounds of a Squirrel climbing up a tree, is taken over by hundreds of pine trees blowing in the wind, creating an amazing sense of space, which I tried to capture on this recording.
The wind calms a little and a beam of light pierces through the clouds, bathing the trees around me in warm sunlight. Maybe because of a change in temperature or pressure, a new sound begins amongst the wind, pigeon and squirrels. Popping & cracking sounds, as Scots pine begin to discharge there winged seeds. Gently showering down, catching the sunlight as they fall, landing all around me.
A truly magical moment!

A small flock of Herring Gulls fly high, calling overhead and lead me towards the woods edge and the vast open space that is the dunes, beach and sea ahead.

f) Beach & Sea (09:37-17:15) recorded January 2012 11:00am

A bird (possibly a Firecrest) calls on the very edge of the wood, next to the dunes. Straight ahead lies the beach, which at this moment in time is deserted. The roar from the north sea brings me ever closer to the sea; finally listening under the waves.


my thanks to: Glyn Ingram and Holkham Hall Estate. Jez riley French, Chris Watson and Piers Warren for all the
knowledge I gained on the Wildeye location field recording courses.

special thanks: Jez, for giving me the opportunity & vision for making this album happen.
Katya & my son Ewan, for being so patient with me leaving the house at all hours!

Peter Toll is a composer, musician and wildlife sound recordist. Fascinated with the sounds & rhythms of the natural world, a long interest in sound recording and a great lover of nature, he releases wildlife field recordings in there own right, as well as incorporating them into his music.
Peter has composed music for film, TV, installations, theatre and the dance scene. Other artists have also used his field recordings, in their own films, documentaries and installations.
For over ten years he was a member of the audiovisual group Addictive TV, composing and performing all over the world, including the roof of the National Theatre London, Centre Georges Pompidou Paris and an installation & performance at The Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai China.
website: facebook: field recordings & music: email:

review from 'the field reporter' blog:

Review by Cheryl Tipp
Listening to a publication for the first time always comes with a sense of anticipation. How will it sound? What form will it take? Will it match my preconceived ideas or will it surprise? Will I like it? Right from the start I knew that Peter Toll’s ‘Movement (Holkham)’ would not disappoint. This lovely release from Jez riley French’s Engraved Glass label comprises two compositions which have been built from a series of field recordings made in the Norfolk village of Holkham, England. These recordings, made during the winter months of two consecutive years, introduce some of the habitats that make up the Holkham Estate which include grazing marshes, a country hall, pinewoods and even a beach. Toll writes:
“For this album I tried to record the natural, wildlife setting of some of these habitats with as little interference from humankind as possible. I wanted the listener to feel that he/she is floating in time & space. Pausing at each different location, quietly listening to the wildlife and energy of each position, before gently moving on to the next”
This short paragraph perfectly sums up the spirit of ‘Movement (Holkham)’. Feeling more like a relaxed ramble than a whistlestop tour, the listener is not rushed through each habitat; enough time is given to immerse oneself in the soundscape, pay attention to the variety of sounds found within it, enjoy the act of listening and then move forward to the next segment. The pace is relaxed and the whole journey is a seamless transition from one habitat to the next.
‘Movement (Holkham)#1’ is the longer of the two compositions and includes some really brilliant field recordings. Beginning with a cold autumn night in the grounds of Holkham Hall, the crisp air is filled with hooting Tawny Owls alongside the movements and calls of Fallow Deer. The detail here is fantastic, with delicate rustlings through the leaf litter sitting effortlessly next to the deep resonating calls of Fallow bucks. Quiet descends as we then move into that undefined space: Edgelands. Somewhere between a marsh and a wood we are able to eavesdrop on the comings and goings of the nocturnal inhabitants of this area. Distant Muntjac, squeaking shrews, a calling Tawny Owl and vocalising geese all contribute. ‘Geese at Dawn’, the third section of this piece, summons images of an awakening landscape. The brash calls of Pink-footed Geese gradually swell into an overwhelming cacophony as the flock takes to the sky. Finally, as night becomes day, the sonic landscape shifts. Calling tits, a crowing pheasant, mooing cattle and a strident Wren come together to create this final scene.
The second movement, ‘Movement (Holkham)#2’ comprises just two recordings, both of which covey a sense of expansiveness. A strong, gusting wind through lofty pine trees is accompanied by gentle creaks and crisp flecks of sound as the trees begin to lose their seeds. Then we are enveloped by the sounds of the North Sea crashing onto the Norfolk coast, both above and beneath the surface.
Aside from admiring the technical quality and compositional structure of this publication, I feel a real fondness for ‘Movement (Holkham)’, probably because it represents the sounds of home. I’m not from Norfolk, nor do I reside there, but these recordings speak of the natural England which I and many others cherish.

review from 'a closer listen' blog:

When listening to pure, unadulterated field recordings, the conscious mind is aware that it is hearing history rather than composition.  The fallow deer steps and honking mating calls of “movement (holkham) #1″ are no studio creation; they unfold in real time, on a cold winter night in October 2010.  And yet the unconscious mind sketches musical narratives: this is the buildup, and the crescendo will follow.  When it does, in the fifth section of the extended opening montage, the unconscious mind then exclaims, “Yes!  This rocks!”  But in this case the “rock” is the cumulative presence of thousands of geese.  While listening to this piece, one muses about the distance that lies between sounds; in person, a couple sounds at a time may be adequate, but in a recording, the greater density draws the greater attention.  In person, a paucity of sound may mean safety, while overload means danger; but in a recording, an overload means excitement.  A snuffing single buck has nothing on the sound of a rising flock.  Tawny owls, ducks, robins and the previously mentioned geese welcome the dawn with a cacophony of pleasant agitation, and at 26:31, whoosh.
Peter Toll is well aware of natural human expectation, and thankfully caters to such expectation by sequencing his latest collection of field recordings from thin and distinct to thick and multi-faceted.  While it may have been difficult to resist the urge to catalog his recordings in chronological order, the layering by loudness works to the recording’s advantage.  A love for the nature reserve (owned by the Earl of Leicester!) shines through in Toll’s keen attention to individual sounds, his detailed liner notes and the tenacity of his recording sessions.  Toll’s repeated, extended visits to Holkham were necessary in order to capture the varied sounds of its disparate habitats.
While the first piece travels from the hall grounds to the marsh and woods, it also contains a subtle foreshadowing: the cries of cattle, the scuttling of squirrels, the sound of distant waves.  The second piece melds the whistling of pine winds to the shuffling of the shore; the challenge is to identify the moment in which the sources shift.  Toll was especially fortunate to catch the launching of seedlings, which has rarely been captured by microphone.  ”movement (holkham) #2″ is the fieldwork mirror of a band’s crowd-pleasing set closer, active from start to finish, bursting at the seams with untethered sound.  In a (very) alternate universe, one might imagine concert attendees yelling “Trees!” or “Seas!” as the artist emerged from the curtains for an encore.
Yes, it’s rock: wild, untamed, and closer than we might imagine.  These are the sort of sounds that led our ancestors to imitation, and eventually to music.  For those in tune with the natural world, there’s no substitute for the real thing.  (Richard Allen)

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