“Never before heard by humans” / Alice Boyd’s From The Understory single
‘Separation’ deftly mixes plant electrode data with a compelling musical current.
by Jay Richardson | Friday 24th February
Sounds like a book
David George Haskell’s Sounds Wild and Broken (2022) seeks to establish sound as a new vital sign for the environment. It takes on more than it bargained for.
by Grace Field | Tuesday 1st November
Sediment leaks into Førdefjord from faulty silt curtain at Nordic Mining’s Engebø site
Nordic Mining admitted that it had no backup silt curtain and had so far failed to fix the leak in a leaked email on Friday evening. The incident puts further pressure on the company after a major investor sold its stake over environmental concerns.
by Jay Richardson | Tuesday 11th October
Sounds of the Bog and the Apocalypse
A bog’s curious, ordinary, delicately explosive sounds belong in our narratives of climate crisis just as much as landscapes of epic disaster.
by Lara Weaver | Tuesday 20th September
Halfway to Atlantis: Remembering the 2021 London floods
One year on from some of London’s most severe surface flooding, comparative photography can help us trace the cycle of shock, cleanup, and forgetting that surrounds environmental disasters.
by Jay Richardson with photography by Paul Reinhard | Monday 25th July
A field guide to open secrets
Getting to know a place takes time, even with methods like a randomised sound survey. It also takes the courage to throw away your map.
by Jay Richardson | Monday 13th June
Rain turns the world into a drum
Not even laser imaging can tell you as much about your material surroundings as rain can.
by Jay Richardson | Saturday 10th April
Remembering a crisis in sound
Street recordings from the UK’s first coronavirus lockdown tell a tale of quietness, crisis, and the presence of absence.
by Jay Richardson | Sunday 3rd April
Traffic isn’t noise
The way we hear traffic sounds reveals what we think of as worth hearing.
by Jay Richardson | Wednesday 23rd March
Mine tailings / New images reveal massive scale of Førdefjord’s potential hypersedimentation
3D models of the planned underwater waste deposit, transposed over London, cover an area from Farringdon to Waterloo.
by Jay Richardson | Tuesday 7th March
European agency will publish findings on mining waste disposal within months
The EFTA surveillance authority is expected to report on the legality of submarine tailings disposal under EEA law.
by Jay Richardson | Wednesday 15th February
Floodlines: Rain sounds recomposed
Rain makes some of the world’s best-loved sounds. They’re even better coming from a giant plywood recorder.
by Jay Richardson | Thursday 21st July
Brittle and dry: London in the heat wave
At 37 degrees, the airy lawns of an East London park have dried into arid emptiness amidst a potentially lethal heat wave.
by Jay Richardson | Monday 18th July
Protest isn’t noise
When you describe the sounds of protest as “noise” you deny its democratic function—and admit how much it bothers you.
by Jay Richardson | Wednesday 13th July
UK rainfall variability: It never rains but it pours
Rainfall might be stable from year to year, but the story is very different day to day.
by Jay Richardson | Wednesday 29th June 2022
“Asbestos dust everywhere”: Nordic Mining illegally releases carcinogen
The safety violation marks the start of a multi-decade mining project that plans to deposit toxic waste in a protected salmon fjord.
by Jay Richardson and Sally Raudon | Thursday 12th May
Classical music education and the sour taste of “greats”
An attitude of ‘duty’ to undertake classical music education from ‘expertise’ arguably demonstrates paternalism under the guise of community care.
by Georgia Dawson | Monday 4th April
Marsham Street’s parliament of trees
A London Plane tree stands outside the Home Office building on Marsham Street during protests against the government’s new asylum policy.
by Jay Richardson | Monday 25th April
Singing ‘chiffchaff’ by numbers
There’s much more to a chiffchaff than meets the ear.
by Jay Richardson | Wednesday 25th May
Two weeks ago, the Ukranian artist Heinali released the album Kyiv Eternal, built on fragments of his own archival field recordings from Kyiv. He called the tracks “personal, intimate, and fleeting,” and “a farewell to this place in time and space to which none of us will ever be able to return.”
Pitchfork compared the album’s “billowing” timbres to Tim Hecker, and it also perhaps owes some of its softness to the Texan electronics duo Stars of the Lid. Better than both of them, though, Heinali’s field recordings add a narrative texture. After the album’s airy opening, its first track, ‘Tramvai 14,’ subtly deepens and settles with a comforting tram rumble. A subway car arrives at the end of ‘Stantsiia Maidan Nezalezhnosti,’ recorded in the Metro station under Independence Square, to draw the music’s pitch downwards and prepare you for the album’s heavier, more intense middle section. Relentless chord patterns juxtapose what Heinali described to the Guardian as “recordings of a world that has disappeared” with a sense of transcendence—so, Kyiv Eternal.
The city’s own voice still takes the album’s emotional foreground. Its cover art, of a statue in Kyiv protected with sandbags, recalls a potent photographic emblem of the war’s early stages. Arching over the Kyiv soundscape, though, Heinali’s ambient loops take the sonic foreground in almost every track. If his 2020 album Madrigals enchants you into a timeless, frozen present, Kyiv Eternal draws you into a glittering, compelling record of the artist’s personal relationship with home—Heinali describes the album as a “hug,” born from a desire to “keep [Kyiv] from harm.”
In many ways, listening to a place you love is like listening to a lover’s voice. The sound itself, its familiar quirks and contours, and that you can hear it still, all matter just as much as what’s being said. Kyiv Eternal has more emotional force than it has sense of place, but its beauty comes from blending the two. º
Jay Richardson | 17 March 2023
If you didn’t know about the news section on bins in the Independent, stop what you’re doing right now. Its recent highlights include local-versus-central government waste management disputes (centre-periphery relations, anyone?), public displays of contempt, labour and immigration (of course), energy policy, and fire safety—in other words, all of journalism’s noblest themes, except perhaps the aesthetics of bogs. Elsewhere, the cult podcast Trashfuture (not to be confused with Don’t Trash Our Future, a campaign by In Your Area and the dubiously named Clean Up Britain) has discussed bins extensively, and the political candidate known as Count Binface has run against both Boris Johnson and, in his former incarnation as Lord Buckethead, against Theresa May. For serious news coverage of bins, though, the Independent is hard to beat: it also has sections tagged ‘recycling bins’ and ‘rubbish.’
For more academic bin-related content, I recommend Tim Cooper’s chapter, ‘Modernity and the Politics of Waste in Britain,’ in Nature’s End: History and the Environment, edited by Sverker Sörlin and Paul Warde. It’s a brilliantly written and thoroughly contextualised account of British waste politics. Indispensable.
Jay Richardson | 18 December 2022
I might be the only one who didn’t know about this, but the 1991 ‘Summers memo’ story is absolutely wild. Larry Summers, the World Bank’s Chief Economist from ’91 to ’93, signed off on an internal memo arguing that exporting pollution to countries with lower wages would reduce “foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality,” so that “the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.” A 1998 New Yorker profile, published while Summers was Deputy Treasury Secretary, reported that a young economist at his World Bank office had written the memo, that Summers had given it a “cursory review” before signing, and that he disowned its “basic sentiment” as “obviously all wrong.”
Even viewed as a provocation “to stimulate internal debate,” as Summers put it, the memo cut a little close to the bone given the World Bank’s track record with ‘structural adjustment programs,’ which required countries in economic crisis to accept free-market policies in return for financial aid. After the memo was leaked to the press in early 1992, its statement that “under-populated countries in Africa are vastly under-polluted” especially angered readers: the feminist scholar Peggy Antrobus sent a written objection to the 1993 Senate Committee on Summers’ nomination as Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs, stating that his appointment would “raise very serious doubts … about the new [Clinton] Administration’s sensitivity to issues of equity, human rights and environmental sustainability.” Post-1987 Brundtland Report, and especially post-1992 Rio Earth Summit, definitions of ‘sustainability’ took a decidedly economic turn, but despite the political vogue, Summers didn’t get the job. Yet.
Jay Richardson | 17 December 2022
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