24/09/2016

Site 1

Silence Under an Open Sky – the West Common




This is common land, our land, so take a path to the centre and stand. The silence here is huge, reaching to the wide open sky. There is no protection from wind or rain, you are swept up like a kite to chase the clouds. Air is everywhere, invisible and silent until it encounters you, enters your ears. Here's the rising and setting sun, and other stars, the new and full moon, the Milky Way. No sound but breath-taking.
It's a sweeping space looked upon by dwellings on the escarpment to the north, the blunt end of the cathedral to the east, and anticipates the rural edge of the city with farmed fields to the west. Is there a particular scent to this open space?
At ground level you may find the quiet ridge and furrows and the earthen shapes of the Roman potteries, or small important plants. The horses grazing around you are an earthbound presence too. Do you hear the cheer from the crowd and thunder of hooves past the grandstand to the south? In 1773 the first straight mile race was run, silence after the last race in 1965.
Does it seem there is silence because nothing's happening? The sounds are distanced, held aloft by the vast dome of surrounding, enlivening air. Take a breath of it.

Site 2

Silence of a Water Pathway – south path along the Fossdyke Canal





This is a walking venture, there and back - an experiment in consciously sifting your awareness through the soundscape and finding silent space in between various sounds. 
The path you listen along is a secluded corridor between slow moving water on one side with an array of floating vessels moored or chugging by almost at walking pace. On the length of the other side trees and greenery hide a train line and with a rhythm of creative exuberance, plots of land claimed by the folk with boats moored - an assortment of handmade sheds, gleaned belongings, other vehicles, and a few chickens.
The silence as you walk the towpath is in the slap of water on hulls, stink of diesel smoke, shimmering willows with their feet at the waterline, a kingfisher fishing, whistling swan's wings, and especially the chat and laughter of people in a community of their own making. 
Notice sound as it comes to you, unfolding and refolding as you walk along. Train roar may emerge and be gone – emphasising the returning silence.
This is the oldest canal in England still in use, since around 120 AD. It connects the River Trent with the River Witham. 
 

Site 3

A Guarded Silence - Westgate of the Roman Lower City, Lincoln City Hall




Here you may be silenced when you abruptly find yourself in Roman Lindum Colonia. Enclosed in the dumb materials of modern constructions are the impressive gateway entrance to the lower part of the Roman settlement and remnants of the great western wall that surrounded and defended the Upper City – a kind of resort for retired Roman soldiers. However today the back side of Lincoln City Hall squats above the wall, the ancient stones quashed by the incessant chattering of bureaucracy.
Colonising is both a silencing and raucous action. Consider past, present and future here – the past and present have been declared whereas the future is un-revealed. Is there a kind of silence in this story-telling – one that allows un-truths? Or will we speak our truth so others hear our history – re-membering our stories, our soundtrack?
There was a merging of activity at this gate, you might just hear the rattle of cart wheels, the laughter of merchants coming and going, the gossiping of working women lingering outside the city walls while quietly scheming how to do business within. The harsh warning shouts of the Guards at the gates have been silenced, lost on the winds over the rampart. Further silence descended when the city was abandoned by the 5th century and became deserted.

Site 4

Silence of Sentinels – Beaumont Fee & Park Street


This is a hesitant space best experienced from its centre amidst the grove of magnificent Sycamore and London Plane trees standing quietly watchful over the long buried dead and a multitude of buried Spring flower bulbs.
Trees have deep meaning for us humans - when they're planted without consideration for the spaces they create, they are as good as dead to us. The impressive trees here create a tangible space, they uphold an absence of loudness - buffering traffic noise, echoes from the surrounding buildings, pedestrians. By standing still you may become aware of the subtle sounds waiting to be noticed. Listen to the layers of sound, close by and out to the distance – there's silence in there.
You can wander here and go nowhere. Laid down forgotten headstones are heaved up by living tree roots. There's a sense of being inside - a leaf-strewn carpet under a high green canopy, dim shaded light. The trees' whispering leaves and massive dense trunks guard and enclose the space.
What birds do you hear today? At one time this was a spring-fed pool and a favourite place for noisy crows, giving the name to the once nearby St. Mary Crackpool Church.

Site 5

Silence of Light – under High Bridge over the High Street






Go below the noise of the High Street to the watery quiet. Take the stairs between the buildings down to the river, your back to Brayford Pool. Focus on the arched stone tunnel under the building. The River Witham slips through silently throwing dancing light about, and the purest white of gliding swans.

The silence here is suggested by the visual. At particular times of mirror quiet water and bright morning light, a halo appears – a circle of light formed by the joining of the arch and its reflection, a tunnelled space that silence leaks through. Boatmen in quiet concentration navigated heavily-laden coal barges through this bright narrow space and named it the Glory Hole.
The collaboration of our senses allows interplay between us and our world, our perceptions. Hearing and seeing are our 'out there' senses, delivering to us the interior bulk and outward surface of what's not us. With our looking comes expectant listening and with this we enter into relationship with the expression of things - at least that's what we used to do. Most of us today don't bother noticing. A particular event of, say, sun on water rarely speaks to us anymore.
The bridge tunnel viewed from the other end is very different - suggesting, as dark tunnels do, mysterious echoes, amplification and unidentified sounds.
High Bridge was first built in 1160AD and is the oldest bridge of its kind in the UK.

Site 6

Silence Carved in Stone – St Swithin's Garden, Free School Lane & Saltergate






Find this open space of shifting green and stone - trees, grass, walls and paths enclosed by buildings and roadway on three sides. The whole site is somehow a blank soundscape, it doesn't hold the space - busy-ness and noise strays through.
The focus here is to the ground, to the low walls and paths that cross the site. The silence is found in fragmented words - exquisitely hand-carved words, names and dates, silenced when the tombstones were re-purposed as pathways. As we walk we silence them further, eroding them with each rough footstep.
How does this place speak through you? What would it be like to hear these fragmented carved words whispered aloud? Reading was not always done in silence – until the twelfth century it was usual to read aloud, even when alone. Now we read by listening inside ourselves to silent word echoes. There's silence too in the fossilised stories within the stones themselves
There's reverberation of something else here too – this was the site of the central cattle market and known as Sheep Square. There was also wool trading, the thread market, and maltmarket nearby. Bordering the park, on either side of the vestry building doorway (now a cafe) are small stone heads of two jaunty men – can we hear them joining in the gossip at a lively market day auction?

Site 7

Silence of Invisible Footfall - Greestone Steps – Lindum Hill to Minster Yard


Halfway along Lindum Road a set of stone stairs leads to the top of the escarpment with an arched gateway partway along. The journey up is wholly different from the one down. Pause under the arch and notice the auditory transition - hear the marked soundscape change from the busy road up through the medieval gateway into the protection of the upper city. Greestone steps were built to give direct pedestrian access. So many feet over many years have trod up and down, shaping the stones with their passage, as yours are. You can almost taste the mineral grittiness in the sound. Can you hear the panting, wheezing of ascending pedestrians on errands and the scuff and slide of those descending, and all the chatter? Many will be the cathedral cleaners who lived nearby.
From the height and the view gained by passing up through the gateway, distant sounds begin to arrive from the far horizon on the other side of the river cut in contrast to the enclosed sounds of your footfall on the steps.
And as strange unexplained sounds and gruesome sightings have been reported along this passage over many years, the night-time experience could be very different than in the day – the choice is yours!

Site 8

Silence Protected by a Tree – path from Minster Yard to the Bishop's Palace





Find the tunnel through the high stone wall along the escarpment side of the cathedral. After passing through, you come upon the silence held by the large Chestnut tree at the elbow of the path leading to the 12th century Bishop's Palace. Here you have choices – to your immediate left is a grass path, which goes nowhere, at the base of the wall and partway along are two wooden seats to sit on, or you can walk the zig-zag paths down under the tree.
This calm space is like resting with a great sandstone cliff looming at your back while contemplating the far horizon before you, the silence of seclusion. Do you hear the Peregrine Falcons soaring overhead from their nest on the cathedral tower? Roman grapes ripened in vineyards on the cliff-side below you (and a small vineyard has recently been planted in the palace ruins). Are there chipper sounds of small birds, scent of roses, warmth from the captured sun? Drop into listening, have sounds arrive to your 'hearing' sense – these are your present moments.
While some things may be silent, all things have the power of expression. The tree stands big-heartedly protecting the silence and holding you in restful quiet.

Site 9

Silence in a Sound-Filled Space – Lincoln Cathedral at Exchequergate

 
Sit on the bench facing the cathedral immediately before you at the Exchequergate. It's a visually-charged space, however resist it and find the silences here, the experience of being held at ground level within sound, either during the bell-ringing practice or from the massive sound-absorbing and reflecting structure.
Bell-ringing is every Thursday 7:30 to 9pm. Thirteen bells fill the space with sound. Is this acoustic event shaping the space? While sitting can you find the silences as the bell patterns weave through the air above you.
If you visit at other times sound is muted by the proximity of the imposing edifice. This may be sharpened by the Peregrine Falcons high on the towers, their cries carving up the space as the bells do, but with more wit.
In the 1800's bell-ringers were a swearing, smoking, and drinking lot, loudly reserving their right to ring only when they felt like it. Diligent records show that a bell peal of 5,040 changes took three hours to complete, and people used to stand and listen for the duration.
Notice the sounds and the silence out of which they emerge. Experiment with selective hearing - in quiet places listening for silence calls for pleasant effort, in a sound-filled space this may take some time!

21/09/2016

Site 10

The Silence of a Proclaiming Tree – Trees in Lucy Tower, Lincoln Castle

 
The Lucy Tower is the stone Keep in the castle wall at the edge of the escarpment. You can enter the tower if you pay, however you get a clear view of it from within the castle grounds. It's this distancing that is of interest here – distance from the interior soundscape. And the remote silence of this historically turbulent site.
There is a lot of noise silenced here – battles, sieges, conflict, hangings. Even the massive trees you see growing out above the tower walls were recently under threat of being felled. The Keep's circular space encloses a morbid interior, the robust tree rises skyward growing tall nourished on bone and gore. Standing in the castle grounds you will hear nothing of this.
The tower, originally one storey higher, was built on a motte in the late 12th century and named after Lucy of Bolingbroke. Nicolaa de la Haye, one of Britain's few women castle governors, holed up in the castle during the Battle of Lincoln, said to be a pivotal event in British history. Who speaks of it now?
In the early 19th century the space within the tower became a burial ground for numerous hanged convicts. Their silent utilitarian grave markers are harboured under the trees.
Can you hear the sound of this history? The arched entranceway seen from where you stand at this distance appears like a gaping mouth – a silent mouthpiece for the proclaiming tree.

Site 11

Silence in Friendship – Dawber Walled Garden, The Lawn, Union Road



Tucked away to the right side as you enter The Lawn complex you'll find the doors to a secluded landscaped walled garden. Hearing can be more alert here as the warm old brick walls quieten all but close-up sounds, the plants close by listen in.
At the far end of the garden through the circular Moon Gates are two dragon benches closely facing each other. Sit and speak with a friend, perhaps a friend in memory. Listen with full attention to the hidden silences in what is spoken between you. Hear what is being said, not necessarily in the words but in the silence between the words. Listening is a gesture of kindness, being listened to gives pleasure. Enjoy the particular friendly wordless pauses in your communication. Bring your senses to the subtle, quiet experiences, allowing the silences to arrive and linger. None of our senses exist separately – they overlap and cross-pollinate, and this shapes our knowledge of the world and our participation in it.
Oral cultures sense the human voice also interacts with all other voices of the animate world - there is no element within their surroundings that has no expression, resonance or power. Any sound may be a voice having meaning. So bring a picnic and have a friendly chat.

20/09/2016

Site 12

Silence of a Distant View - Look-out platform Liquorice Park at Carline Road



At the upper edge of the park is a wooden viewing platform. Breathe deeply, inhale the view out over the city to the horizon.
This viewscape is part of Liquorice Park, a local community volunteer project to preserve the site for public use and includes allotments, fruit trees, and work by local artists. And yes, liquorice was grown here once.
Notice the vague rumbling, an incessant base noise created by a multitude of actions, and then the variety of distinct sounds that arrive on the air. Sounds rise up, or come from above, or move both ways across the panorama. Many are not identifiable but some are - can you un-name them, let it all just be sound?
This compilation of sound contrasts with the big silence of the view itself. We think there's empty space out there because it's invisible. We take the air for granted but we're intimately, wholly dependent on it and must share it with all others.
However we do hear it - in the murmuring leaves, the sighing grasses, the vital wind, and in the way the sounds in this view are carried to you. We also hear the silent invisible air in our breathing, our voices, and songs.
Experiment - breathe in deeply, listen, and hear tangible air rouse the things around you. We may start to remember what it is to be fully in our world.