Four walks around a year: Spring. SEBASTIANE HEGARTY
(Gruenrekorder 2013)

Review by Jay-Dea Lopez

It is often said that a place cannot be known until each of its seasons have been observed. The transitions in temperature and light, the migration of wildlife and the changes in human activities each signal the way in which a particular site is in a permanent state of flux. In the past landscape painters have depicted visual changes characterised by each season; classical music such as Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” sought to interpret the temperament of each season. So it would seem field recording is a perfect medium to follow in this tradition, capturing local sounds as they ebb and flow with the seasons. This is precisely the aim of Sebastiane Hegarty’s latest work “Four walks around a year: spring” released through Gruenrekorder.

The Winnall Moors Nature Reserve is the object of study in Hegarty’s four walks series. “Spring” is the first in a series of soundscapes interpreting this reserve which lies close to the city of Winchester in England. Hegarty’s plan is to represent each season through a 25-minute soundscape, the timing corresponding with approximately how long it takes to walk the full circuit of the reserve. Unlike other soundscapes specific to a particular area Hegarty’s “Four walks around a year” is not interested in faithfully detailing the exact location of each sound recorded, rather he attempts to mix the recordings in such a way that the underlying tone or ambience of the site is reproduced for the listener. If the Winnall Moors Nature Reserve is as filled with the tranquil timbre that is presented in this soundscape then Hegarty has fulfilled his objective.

“Spring” merges the sounds of animal life with those of people either working in the park or enjoying the park recreationally. The piece opens with a recording of a dawn chorus and later progresses to the sound of a bird caught in a net. The contrast between the two is quite poignant. Interspersed between the sounds of birdlife we overhear snippets of conversation between workmen as they maintain the infrastructure of the park. Listening to them we are reminded of how constructed this natural place actually is. For a brief moment we are also privy to conversations between adults and children as they engage with the natural elements of the park. By including these vignettes Hegarty captures what feels like a moment of hope for the future.

Just as the reserve can partly be seen as a construct so too is Hegarty’s soundscape. We are especially reminded of this as we overhear Hegarty himself in the recordings. The sounds created by Hegarty as he walks upon a frosted boardwalk remind the listener of his role in sourcing the material that is eventually used in the soundscape; there is something physical or tangible about his presence in these crisp crunching steps that position us there in his boots. As we listen to him we become his companion throughout the walk.

“Four walks around a year: spring” is a good beginning to what promises to be an absorbing series of work by Hegarty. As the sounds endemic to the ensuing seasons are recorded it will be interesting to compare not only the differences between what can be heard but also the way in which Hegarty presents them. We look forward to hearing more from Hegarty in summer.


[Sebastiane Hegarty; photo courtesy of WEC]

Sebastiane Hegarty website
Gruenrekorder website

Jay-Dea Lopez

Sound artist and journalist at Sounds Like Noise.