chalk dissolve: sebastiane hegarty
chalk: time, sense and landscape
A symposium exploring worlds beyond and beneath the visible.

Dedicated to the memory of John M. Hull

Winchester Discovery Centre | 17. 10. 2015


John Levack Drever
Nick Thorpe
Sebastiane Hegarty
Michael Welland
Paul Whitty
Karen Fielder
Ian Rawes
Sally Ann McIntyre
Guy Sherwin

Chair: Marius Kwint



09:00      Coffee
09:30      Welcome and introduction: Sebastaine Hegarty


Notes on Blindness
2014. Film. Colour. Sound. 12:09
Directed by Peter Middleton & James Spinney
Producer Jo-Jo Allison / Archer’s Mark Production Company.

Notes on Blindness
In the summer of 1983, just days before the birth of his first son, writer and theologian John Hull went blind. In order to make sense of the upheaval in his life, he began keeping a diary on audiocassette. With exclusive access to these original recordings, Notes On Blindness encompasses dreams, memory and imaginative life, excavating the interior world of blindness.


Keynote: Hearing in Particular – John’s Gift to Sound Art
John Levack Drever
Professor of Acoustic Ecology and Sound Art, Goldsmiths, University of London.

A reflection on Prof. John M. Hull’s vital legacy to the sound art community, what he teaches us; reminds us; inspires us.
So often we habitually treat hearing acuity and hearing needs as a given. As sound producers and designers we have an audience comprised of idealized listeners in mind, despite our own impaired hearing. Even when prioritizing inclusive design, the auditory model that our acoustics standards are predicated is based on acute hearers between 18 and 25 years old. Our core phenomenology-based theories, be that Schaeffer, Idhe, or Augoyard & Torgue pronounce much on sound and listening, but tend to overlook our actual everyday hearing particularities. John, talking intimately from first hand, problematizes and recalibrates our whole conception and approach to hearing, priming us to hear hearing anew.


Prehistoric chalk in Britain: artworks and earthworks.
Nick Thorpe
Head of Archaeology, University of Winchester.

Dorset Cursus plot by Martin Green2
Chalk was a crucial medium used by the Neolithic farmers of Britain, thousands of years ago, for both practical and artistic purposes.  Traditionally, when we think about Neolithic chalk art, we think about figurines, or carvings in the chalk walls of flint mines.  We can, however, also think about the first British monuments as a form of land art on an enormous scale, hundreds of metres across, taking thousands of hours to create.  The visual impact of these chalk monuments may have been just as shocking as modern art, permanently scarring the land.  Moreover, they were not just to be seen, but to be used as a performance space for feasting, gifting, meeting and dancing.


rain choir: voices, dissolves and the occasional shower
Sebastiane Hegarty

Sebastiane Hegarty: rain choir

The first to be dissolved is a landscape in the rain.
Gaston Bachelard, Water and Dreams

rain choir was a site-specific sound installation created for the crypt of Winchester Cathedral and composed of field-recordings taken from the guttering system of the building. Added to these percussive voices are recordings of CO2 escaping from fragments of Cathedral limestone dissolving in acid. This presentation will introduce the choir and the voices that compose it. This will be followed by a performance of a new variation, using the original voices and others coloured by the architecture of the Cathedral crypt.

11:40      Response and Questions: Marius Kwint

12:00       Lunch [not provided]



13:00      Introduction to the afternoon programme: Marius Kwint


“Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…”
Michael Welland

Michael Welland: Sand, A journey through science and the imagination
As the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry remind us, the landscapes of the desert notoriously play havoc with all human senses. Rare sounds become amplified, aromas, other than some kind of unfathomable minerality, are entirely absent, and the range of what seems visible becomes exaggerated. Our sense of scale is comprehensively challenged – a single sand grain and a sea of dunes vie for our attention (and seem equally fascinating). The great chronicler of the deserts of the American southwest, Edward Abbey, wrote: “There is something about the desert that human sensibility cannot assimilate.” Our response to what is seen, and unseen, is very much subjective and cultural, the perception of landscape, time, and scale being quite different for the insider and the outsider. And then there are the stories that the landscape tells the geologist…


Exhausted by Place or Places are not easily exhausted.
Paul Whitty
Professor of Composition and Director of The Sonic Arts Research Unit at Oxford Brookes University.

Emma listening to the tall grass crop

Make an effort to exhaust the subject, even if that seems grotesque, or pointless, or stupid. You still haven’t looked at anything, you’ve merely picked out what you’ve long ago picked out.
Georges Perec, Species of Spaces, 1974

This paper explores a variety of attempts and failures to exhaust place and features documentation of several large fields near the boundary between Netherexe and Brampford Speke in Devon. It will feature recordings of trees, grass, soil, fences, riverbeds and sheets of glass.


Spectral Buildings: Coleshill House and Architectural Absence
Karen Fielder
The School of Architecture, University of Portsmouth

At the National Trust’s rural estate at Coleshill in Oxfordshire there is an empty terrace where a 17th-century country house stood for more than 350 years. The house was demolished in 1953 following a devastating fire. This talk will explore what happens when the materiality of architecture is destroyed, but a lingering sense of its absence remains. It suggests that the spectral building prompts new forms of sensory engagement with the place it has left behind.

14:40      Coffee


Listening to London: difference and information in the sound environment
Ian Rawes

bridge lift: Ian Rawes
Many differences in the sound environment across time and place in the city are expected to be non-random and hence informative. This presentation describes some ways in which sound can help reveal patterns, from simple sampling methods to statistical analysis and historical research.


Huia Transcriptions: listening into the sounds and silences of Colonial-era bird extinctions.
Sally Ann McIntyre


Within the texts of colonial-era New Zealand, intriguing descriptions exist of the sounds of birds that are just beyond memory, that no-one now living has ever heard. A ground dwelling owl, whose dismal shrieks could be heard just before rain, and which was attracted to accordions, went extinct in 1914; and all that is left of the cheifly bird of the Maori, the Huia, is a series of thinly transcribed folk notations of their warning calls by bushmen, and one recording of a human voice demonstrating the sonic lure which would call these birds from the forest. Dugal McKinnon writes of the relation between ecological silencing and recording: “It can be said that recording reveals, but an inescapable aspect of this revealing is to expose the limits of recording technology: the recording (or phonograph), like the photograph, points as much to what it cannot do as to what it can do. Sounds can be captured and returned but their sources and makers cannot be.” . In listening, if we start to see these illegible landscapes, it is only with the clarity that an imperfect copy provides. And the glimpse is just for a moment, before the noise drowns it out.


16mm. Colour. Sound. 30”
Guy Sherwin

Guy Sherwin: Connemara drawing
Connemara is a thirty-minute film I made on a trip to Ireland. It is a meditation on time and landscape. Qualities of time are evoked through the imagery, the duration and cycling of shots and in their connection to sounds in the landscape.  The film was made in 1980 and shown a few times during the eighties. In 2011 EYE Institute Amsterdam took the film into their archive and restored it with great care – thanks to the patience of Guy Edmonds. With this new print I am able to show the film for the first time since the 1980s.

16:30      Response and Questions: Marius Kwint

17:30       End