loud but magnificent

Posted 15 June, 2009 by robert jarvis
Categories: .

13 loud but magnificent

Spent a lovely morning at Filkins Mill, near Lechlade.  There they have a beautiful working Dobcross Loom in the small workshop area.  It was a real priviledge to see (and listen) to this machine in action with its wonderful rhythms and sounds as there are so few working examples left to be be appreciated in this way.

Although the loom sounded magnificent as it weaved it was also not, by any means, a quiet listening experience and after ten minutes or so I felt that my ears could do with a rest.  I wondered what it must have been like to work all day on such a machine, or even be in larger factory full of such machinery.

I remember speaking with mill workers from Northern Ireland’s Mossley Mill when I worked on a project with them some years ago, and one of them saying that their work conditiions were so loud you couldn’t hear yourself think, let alone have conversation with the person next to you.



Posted 8 June, 2009 by robert jarvis
Categories: .

12 chinnorTrain

I spoke with a recent contributer to the Sounds of Oxfordshire BBC page who lived in Didcot.  For her, an important element of her sonic landscape was the sound of trains.  Didcot is a major junction for trains in Oxfordshire and so the regularity of trains coming and leaving serves as an acoustic reminder of the time of day.

As well as the every day sound of diesel trains, Oxfordshire also has quite a few stations that still keep a connection with their steam heritage, and on certain days (especially throughout the summer) the chug and whistle of specially driven steam trains can be heard through the countryside, this time connecting with times past.


Posted 28 May, 2009 by robert jarvis
Categories: .

11 hydraulics

In my opinion, the City of Oxford has done well in helping to preserve its acoustic quality, meaning that it is actually possible to hear the sound of the different spaces, framed by the City’s architecture, as they reverberate with their own shape.

This is mainly due to the removal of traffic from the town centre – at least until the evenings when cars are allowed to drive through the City centre.  When this happens there is an almost immediate masking of the quiet reflected sound that gives the City’s acoustic such clarity.

Of course, their are other contributors as well, such as airplanes flying overhead, and at times the buses themselves; however, the difference that the reintroduction of traffic makes to the clarity of the centre’s soundscape is very noticeable, if not profound.  What does it mean, for example, when one can’t hear the sound of his or her own footsteps: when that acoustic connection with Earth is lost?


Posted 11 May, 2009 by robert jarvis
Categories: .

10 rush

Shifford Lock is one of the deepest locks on the River Thames.  As such, the sound of the water rushing through the final gate as it opens to level the water again after a boat has passed through is impressive.

Most of the deeper locks compensate for the extra water pressure by having more than one release point for the water to escape through.  Not so for this lock which has only one point for the water through which to rush.

After the soft hollow sounding metallic clanks of the well-oiled lock gear (effectively a rack and pinion system manually wound by the lock-keeper opening the valve and  allowing the water to return to the chamber) the water bursts through at a high but decreasing pressure creating a spectacular initial sound that gradually softens as the water levels out.

may morning

Posted 2 May, 2009 by robert jarvis
Categories: .


Interestingly, one of Oxford’s defining moments in its yearly calendar is a ‘sound occasion’.  On the first of May each year at 6.00am crowds of people congregate close to Magdalen Brige to hear the College Choir sing from the top of the Magdalen College Great Tower.

I have found that prople describe this occasion in reverence, describing how the awaiting crowd hushes in anticipation of the faint sounds of the Hymnus Eurcharisticus being sung from high above.  My experience, unfortunately, is a little different as the majority of the crowd appear to be students still excited from their all-night partying, and it is, in fact, their own sound that becomes the predominant sonic memory.

When the majority of the crowds have dissembled, perhaps to go into the City to experience some of the other May morning celebrations, it is not unknown for some of the students to also contribute to another sonic event.  Unlike the choir’s dawn chorus, this sound is held in disdain by most of those I have spoken with – it’s the sound of students jumping off Magdalen bridge and into the River Cherwell – beginning with a group “5-4-3-2-1” countdown before the jump, the splash and final group cheer.


Posted 28 April, 2009 by robert jarvis
Categories: .


On Sunday I went to see Oxford United Football Club’s last match of the season at their home ground of the Kazzam Stadium.

The stadium itself is three-sided , with the open side pointing west.  This, of course, only helps the sound of the matches carry outside the ground, across the fields, and over to the nearby housing estate.  Predictably, I have come across quite a few people now who live fairly close to the ground and have mentioned hearing the cheer for the fans when a goal is scored.

Although, on this occasion, Oxford United did not win the game, the fans themselves certainly didn’t disappoint with their synchronised roars as they encouraged their team with a series of chants, roars and songs.


Posted 23 April, 2009 by robert jarvis
Categories: .


Today is the official launch of the Sounds of Oxfordshire project.   I began the day with a BBC Radio interview at 8am in Banbury talking about the project and encouraging listeners to let me know which of their County sounds were of interest.  Similarly, at the end of the day, I had a interview on the local BBC news where I was able to talk a little about the project.

Today was also the launch of the BBC website where people can also submit suggestions for suitable sounds for the project.  I look forward to following these up and learning more about the sound of the County over the next six months as I piece all this together, collecting the sounds, engaging with the general public and creating my sound piece for broadcast in October.