Sounds wonderful

June 16, 2019

From an insect whose courtship song suffuses the heathland soundscape, to a bird which has inspired more classical and romantic writing than any other, June looks like being a song-filled month.

Dusk on Farnham Heath, 1 June
photo: Peter Sheppard Skaerved

Despite it being the month in which bird song is beginning to thin out, June began, and will end, with public events dedicated to two of nature’s compulsive sound-makers, whose presence in a landscape commands attention, albeit in very different ways.

In his blog, Peter Sheppard Skaerved reports on a project he and I started talking about more than two years ago. We had wanted to collaborate together and with others across the arts and science to bring a close focus onto a single subject. We eventually chose the field cricket and its new home (having been translocated there to save the species from extinction in Britain) at Farnham Heath, Surrey.

(L to R) Mihailo Trandafilovski, Peter Sheppard Skaerved and Laurence Rose presenting words and music dedicated to the field cricket. photo: Emma Burt

With Peter’s fellow violinist/composer Mihailo Trandafilovski, RSPB warden Mike Coates and Back from the Brink colleague and visual artist Emma Burt, the day began with a writing workshop on the heath, continued with an evening of words and music inspired by crickets, and finished with a dusk walk to listen to the crickets themselves, accompanied by that other voice of the crepuscular heath, the nightjar. For the full story, programme and recordings, read Peter’s report here.

Boldshaves Woods in April, when I started writing a new essay on nightingales

At the end of the month (Saturday 29 June), fellow author Julian Hoffman and I are in conversation at the wonderful Wealden Literary Festival. We have both been writing about nightingales: a chapter in Julian’s forthcoming book Irreplaceable tells the story of Lodge Hill, the UK’s most important, but perennially threatened, site for this seriously declining species. I have been writing a collection of essays for my next book, including one devoted to what Mark Cocker has described as the single most anthologised bird in world poetry. My nightingale essay was started in April, after joining Sam Lee for his Singing With Nightingales project in the Weald of Kent. A few days later I was at nearby Boldshaves, where the festival will be held, listening to nightingales there. I will finish the essay after sharing my field notes, hoping to stimulate conversation with festival audiences, including during a listening walk in the woods on the Sunday morning.

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