Listening to River Mud
It is an unseasonably warm summer’s day for Scotland. It’s sufficiently hot that on arriving at the river confluence, a glorious opening up of the land at the edge of the forest of Mar, I wade into the cool and refreshing water. I head towards the opposite bank, to a spot where the winter snow melt has swelled the river, carving into the grassy bank, creating an area where the mud is exposed. This mud is part of the river, but also part of the grassy habitat that supports the Scots pines. It is a liminal space that gathers, calms, and re-purposes the rushing water, so that it can be absorbed by the pine trees.
I push my hydrophones into the mud expecting silence, assuming the mud will have no internal movement, and that its solid mass will mask all other sound. I am wrong.
A multiplicity of sounds collide in this muddy world. The rushing, bubbling river is noisy, dancing around, over and in between the many rocks and stones of the riverbed. The water current is so strong that stones move with a light tick tapping as they jostle around together. Dull thudding pops rise up above the sound of the water and the stones. Perhaps these sounds are air pockets bursting, reforming, and bursting again. The grass and tree roots, in amongst this mud, must also be affecting the sound. I can’t distinguish them, but they are physically present, and their presence will be affecting the multiplicity of this sound event. Of the many other vibrant materials and bodies affecting this sound world, one more comes to mind: I am standing in this water, it is rushing about my shins and as it moves around me, I affect its flow, its vibration, and in turn, its sounding. My body is part of this sound event – I am a physical, active participant in this field recording. The muffled chatter between my listening companion, Robert, and I is also distantly audible – our communication part of this listening experience.
7th June 2018
Derry Lodge – River confluence of Derry Burn & Luibeg Burn
Forest of Mar, Braemar, Cairngorm National Park