After a brief introduction to the project as a whole by Professor Martin Willis, Dr Jamie Castell spoke about some startling sounds and their unexpected consequences in the poetry of William Wordsworth, concentrating initially on some neglected acorns in what is now considered to be his masterpiece, The Prelude, and then on a more multi-layered soundscape from an earlier poem, An Evening Walk.
Jamie’s contribution focussed on the complex interactions between different sonic phenomena, the entanglement of human and nonhuman sound producers and listeners, and the central role played by Wordsworth’s wide-ranging poetic technique in recording and engaging with the sound of nature.
In his paper, Dr Wilko Hardenberg went beyond the classic, mostly visual narrative of conservation history to explore the place sound had in calls for the need to preserve the natural world and how the aural brought to the forefront what later would have been called ecosystemic aspects.
Wilko focussed in particular on the history of German conservation in the early 20th century and on how discussions about specific soundscapes, at the time called the “voice of the landscape”, influenced its development. He addressed furthermore how human noises were mostly perceived as a disturbance that had no place in preserved areas. He stressed in this regard how there was a permanent tension between different ideas of silence: the “desolate” silence produced by the destruction of nature and the “noble” silence of nature that humans disturb with their noise.
There were a number of rich questions which inspired dynamic conversation between presenters and the audience, as well as between representatives of an impressively wide range of disciplines.