20 October 2014
The sounds of natural Devon are being collected for a new installation at RAMM: Ebb and Flow: Seasonal sounds through the Devon Year. Collectively the sounds are familiar, relaxing and even soporific, but once you stop and listen, individual sounds draw your attention and even compete for it. Though so familiar, few will be able to identify the component parts and fewer will know the extraordinary stories that the sounds can tell.
On the coast
In the lapping waves of a coastal rockpool, limpets can be heard grazing and pistol shrimps heard stunning their prey. Less than an inch long, the pistol shrimp has asymmetrical claws. When prey is close, the outsized claw snaps shut with such force that it forms a vacuum and it is the shock waves from the filling vacuum that causes the pistol crack and stuns the prey. Relative to its size, this is one of the loudest sounds emitted by an animal.
In the county
In a spring heath land dawn chorus the haunting amphibian-like sounds of a nightjar rings out. Its nocturnal life, silent flight, eerie sounds and gapping mouth have given nightjars an almost supernatural reputation and some still call them goatsuckers, from to ancient folk tale. They arrive from sub-Saharan Africa from late April to breed in the UK, returning to Africa in August and September. The male’s churring song is sometimes punctuated by the click of its dislocating wing, this wing clapping being part of its mating display.
These are just a few of the sounds of Devon that will be heard at RAMM starting next spring. Recorded by BAFTA award-winning audio recordist Chris Watson, the sounds from four distinct Devon locations will follow the changing seasons. Whether listening to nature’s symphony or picking out the individual sounds, Chris Watson’s recordings will be a joy to hear and a pleasure to listen to.
Fresh approaches to museum collections
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.
RSPB’s intimate knowledge of Devon wildlife helped identify the best possible recording sites.