Four Walks Around A Year: Winter
Sebastiane Hegarty’s year-long project “Four Walks Around A Year” draws to a close with the final winter instalment, which takes its place alongside the previously released spring, summer, and autumn episodes. Each documents in audio form a season in the life of Hampshire’s Winnall Moors, including both human and non-human activities. At the beginning of “Winter” we hear an archival recording, seemingly made not long after the Second World War, in which elders recount memories of ice hockey matches on the frozen moors. Sounds of cracking ice, crunching snow, and quiet, clear birdsong follow, interspersed in the general manner of the series with the voices and noises of humans at work and at play.
Immediately apparent is just how quiet these winter field recordings are, especially compared to the other three episodes in the series. Every noise is isolated against the blackest and most silent of backgrounds. Hegarty interweaves anthropological material with sounds chosen for their particular acoustic properties, mixing radio documentary with phonography. This approach underscores the ways in which everything animates and is animated by the social, in a sense becoming social itself, yet without this in any way exhausting the extent of its meaning. One gets a sense of how important the moors are to people, and how important people are to the moors. The drone of a Chinook helicopter is as much a part of this world as the melting ice, the burning branches, and the voices of humans as they dip for pond life or repair fences. At the same time, however, the crackles, clumps, trickles and caws are granted their own space to sound, set at a remove from human narratives; even the voices are often mixed low enough to become unintelligible linguistically, though not tonally.
This framing of multiple social and acoustic elements in different constellations of sound is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the whole project, and one of the things that makes repeated listens so rewarding. Winnall Moors becomes a space criss-crossed with countless actual, remembered, and imagined paths, marked by tracks and traces both human and non-human. The format of several seasonally-located recordings of the same place makes this kind of constellation-building possible: a picture builds up over the year. As with some of Hegarty’s other works, such as the dissolving of chalk in vinegar heard on “Eight Studies of Hearing Loss”, the gradual sedimentation of geological time becomes quietly audible.