Listening to Silent Spring

Silent Spring book covers

Digital audio, 40 mins
Published 17 October 2018

On 27 September 1962, Rachel Carson published the book that kick-started the environmental movement. “Silent Spring” documented the impact of DDT and other pesticides on the food chain and biodiversity, and on human health. It led to many pesticides being banned. It was the drastic impact on bird life that gave Carson the title for the book.

Still today there are many threats to biodiversity from pesticide use, changing land use as we pave over areas that used to be green, and climate change. So on the 50th anniversary of the publication of “Silent Spring” in 2012, I spent a couple of hours walking around St Loyes and listening. I was not just listening for birds, but for everything, including all those sounds we usually tune out.

Six years later, my notes became the script for a piece of sound art. Its duration is the same time as my walk from my home to Ludwell Valley Park – 40 minutes. The actual sounds I heard are replaced by the narrator’s – my – voice. Some, like the omnipresent traffic or the lawnmower, lasted a long time. But my narration of each sound takes at most only a couple of seconds. Hence the work is mostly silence, which provides space for you the listener to become aware of and pay attention to your own ambient soundtrack.

You can listen via Youtube to “Listening to Silent Spring” below, and you are welcome to download it as an .mp3 file (23 Mb) to use as you walk around St Loyes. And if you would like to take your own awareness walk, and would like some guidance, I have created a leaflet for you to download (pdf).