Orley Common in Devon is an area of ancient and undisturbed grassland. This apparently unspectacular limestone hillside is remote, ownerless and precious.
During the summer months yellowhammers sing from the blackthorns bordering the margins and goldfinches make low-level passes over the seed heads searching for their favourite mix of thistles and teasels. While I’m there on recording visits my untrained eye is caught by the density and variety of flora. I can see orchids, primrose and violets before my knowledge fades amongst the complex patterns of grasses.
Pausing quietly along the common’s network of narrow tracks I listen before edging microphones into the sward. Reels, whirls and sawtooth clicks become apparent as the songs of an unseen empire emerge, an afternoon chorus of audio and ultrasonic signals from the grasshoppers and crickets camouflaged and lost to sight around my feet.
Read ‘Ears to the Ground’ – an introduction to Chris Watson’s work and his Kings Place residency.
This sound installation can be heard from 20 June until 18 September 2020 ahead of all Nature Unwrapped concerts taking place in Hall One. Access to the installation requires a concert ticket for the relevant main event in Hall One.