Leverhulme research fellowship - Centre for Environmental and Marine Sciences (University of Hull)

Craig Vear


Throughout the 2007-8 academic year (october-october) I am working alongside the Centre for Environmental and Marine Sciences (CEMS) at the University of Hull (Scarborough), as artist in residence funded by a Leverhulme research Fellowship.

The purpose of this research fellowship is two-fold: to explore new technology and field recordings as the sound source for composition; and to interpret the research areas/communities of the CEMS through music and acoustic ecology.

Throughout the residency I will be collating my research on this page. You are invited to listen in to this unfolding study, but I would advise you wear decent headphones when listening to the audio files.

Contact vear_@_ev2.co.uk


June 6th

Concert of New Music created during the Leverhulme fellowship.

Location: PS3 Time TBC

  1. -In The Shadows (2008), Craig Vear. For mixed ensemble of tapes, computers and traditional instruments. Dur: 20’

  2. -Esk (2008), Craig Vear. Surround tape piece. Dur: 10’

  3. -The Sinking of the Titanic (1969-), Gavin Bryars, arr. Craig Vear. Dur: 26’

July 19th - 21st

Sound Installation - Scarborough Seafest 2008. Live hydrophone soundfield stream from Scarborough Harbour


LINK: Fellowship Report

LINK: In The Shadows (score)

LINK: Methodology & evaluation - Short Essay

Tidal Pool 1. 1-11-2007 link_to_map

Recording from high ledge pool - Filey Brigg. Of interest is the species-habitat-environment layering of sound. In the distance you can hear the waves crashing on the brigg and the energy transferring through the rock into the pool, similarly with the wind acting upon the nearby rocks. But the most intriguing sounds are in the foreground. The RIGHT mic was placed in the middle of a rock formation, and LEFT in the open rock pool. Typical species: shrimp, Goby, unknown ‘grazers’.

Tidal Pool 2. 1-11-2007 link_to_map

Recording from low ledge pool - Filey Brigg. LEFT and RIGHT hydrophones were placed within 1 metre of each other but amongst different assemblages of algal species. In 1 metre of water they were positioned parallel to the surf zone - which makes an interesting stereo image of the breaking waves. The crackle sound we can hear is a constellation of different species feeding/ communicating/ living amongst this huge pool. Towards the end of this recording it starts to rain.

Cayton Bay. 18-10-2007 link_to_map

Blue skies, on-shore wind, massive breakers. I wanted to capture the energy of the surf yet avoid the ‘white noise’ air mic routine - but I didn’t have my hydrophones. So I secured my small binaural mics in a couple of condoms with gaffa tape and buried them in the wet sand. You can hear the massive amount of wave energy transferred through the sand and, surprisingly, it is also possible to hear small bits of grit and stone in close proximity to the mics moving due to the transfer of wave energy through the beech. This was my first recording of the fellowship.

Bumble Wood. 8-11-2007 link_to_map

Dead tree in gale. Amongst this dense woodland dead and fallen trees were propped up against their living neighbors. As the gale built in strength the trees became distorted and bent, causing the dead wood to break and creak under the pressures. I attached the mics directly onto one dead tree - this enabled me to record the noise of the tree as the sound passed along its trunk into the body of the mics; meanwhile recording the rest of the woodland.

Bumble Wood. 8-11-2007 link_to_map

Tree jazz. Air mic recording from within the middle of an older part of the wood. Many fallen trees, deep undergrowth, very little light emitting through the canopy. If we listen to the myriad of little sounds as one continuous line this recording takes on a much more musical feel.

Spurn Head. 23-11-2007 link_to_map

A strong wintery gale from the North was creating massive waves. As the tide flowed it looked as if a giant brown, mechanical Archimedes screw was clawing it way up the beech devouring everything in its path. The hydrophones were placed in the grit and pebble beech awaiting the sea. Curiously, this recording was taken at the same time two sailors lost their lives at Whitby, and 200 were saved in Antarctica - two places I have strong personal links with.

Scarborough Harbour 1. 30-11-2007 link_to_map

Two small fishing boats maneuvering within the harbour at low water.

Large file - 13.8MB

Sonogram c 2’-3’. The broadband noise is not from the engine but from the cavitation created by the propeller spinning. LINK

Complex pool. 14-12-2007 link_to_map

Recording from low ledge inter-tidal pool - Filey Brigg. LEFT hydrophone was placed under an over-hanging ledge, RIGHT was placed among seaweed and algae. Due to recent high winds and heavy sea these pools had been scoured by rocks stripping them almost bare of flora. Within this record are several curious sounds: engine of distant fishing boat (1 mile off shore); low thuds in LEFT caused by the defensive movements of a Goby directed at the hydrophone; and a strange whimpering in RIGHT, source unknown.

Hermit Crabs. 7-02-2008 link_to_map

Close hydrophone recording of two Hermit crabs fighting for a shell. Sand composition, 2 inch of water. The winter storms have obliterated most of the organic life in the intertidal pools on the Yorkshire coast. Most of the day was spent comparing the acoustic ecology of Coralina only to find very little activity. With the tide moving in I came across a colony of small Hermit crabs (1-2 cm) in a stream. A medium sized crab was extracting a larger crab, presumably for its shell. Towards the end of the recording the battle moved towards (and included) the left hydrophone - perhaps they were attracted by the electromagnetic field generated by the phantom power? The big crab kept his shell.

    This recording is a great example of the multiple ways in which we can listen to these recordings.

  1. -One possible level of interpretation is musical: as studies in rhythm, pitch, dynamics, texture and morphology of sound. (Even the digital artifacts of clicks and quantized hiss become part of the composition).

  2. -We can listen to these recordings as documents describing how a species uses sound with their environment - how the acoustic properties of their world impacts on them. Also, how they use sound to communicate - even as a circumstance of an activity such as feeding or fighting (many of the smaller crabs left the immediate area during the battle). We can listen to the foreground activity of our species, the midground activity of its habitat and the background presence of its environment.

  3. -On one level these recordings can be seen to be political vehicles - to hear anthropogenic noise pollution. Also the process of recycling sound aims to draw attention to the wider environmental issues.

  4. -Or, we can engage with them as pieces of sound theatre - one of the interesting aspects of sound is its ability to evoke memory and imagination.


The second half of my fellowship will concentrate on three major projects:

  1. 1)hydrophone installation at Scarborough Harbour;

  2. 2)acoustic categorization of organisms living on Coralina (collaboration with Dr. Sue Hull)

  3. 3)ESK - a sound poem tracking the River Esk from source to sea. It will be recorded in reverse order starting at the very end of the outer harbour wall in Whitby link_to_map, taking backwards steps through winter and spring towards the source of the Esk upstream of Westerdale (where a series of becks known as the Esklets merge to form the river link_to_map). As far as possible this poem will be told from the river’s perspective, initially using hydrophones and then air mics.

  4.     When the acquisition process has finished the poem will be composed in reverse order. We will travel back in time from Dale to coast, spring to winter, moorland ecology to busy harbour; beck to river to sea through 6 SSSI’s.

PART ONE - Coates Marina to North Sea (feb 2008)

PART TWO - Runswarp to Coates Marina (feb 2008)

PART THREE - Sleights to Runswarp (March 2008)

PART FOUR - Grosmont to Sleights (March 2008)

PART FIVE - Glaisdale to Grosmont (April 2008)

PART SIX - Danby to Glaisdale (May 2008)

PART SEVEN - Westerdale to Danby (June/July 2008)

PART EIGHT - Esklets (source) to Westerdale (August 2008)

ESK (complete) - stereo reduction