Radio Lento provides a weekly aural escape to anyone who loves to listen or is seeking stress relief. Can also be used to help focus whilst reading, relaxing and being mindful.
95 Suffolk Wood (part 10) - a voyage from dawn to day - spacious and subtle - best with headphones
Day has arrived, and there's no mystery about it. Gone the voids. Gone the echoes. Gone the skewed sense of time, magnified, with distance overlapping. 5am, and it's here and there and all about. The present. The world, re-appeared.
Light has come, yet the wood remains still. It's filled with the anodyne reverberations of the distant A12, reflecting off all the hard surfaces of the trees, revealing in sound the huge interior space that is the wood. Don't be beguiled though! These are the grey blue watery minutes, the slack, before the journey really begins. Stand behind the prow, and lean into this, a quiet voyage, from dawn, to day.
Slowly, the creatures come. In the leaf litter, they nibble shoots, chase over fallen branches and twisted vines. Gambol around the microphones, as morning children do. They race through the night's re-arrangement of leaves, then stop to bathe in the newness of the wood, re-appeared. Some tiny mammal squeaks, from somewhere near. High in the branches above, the rooks caw, and observe. Maybe they see the cow that lows, in the field beyond.
And what about the day? Dressed in the cotton soft coos of wood pigeons, embroidered by the sparkling songs of wrens, buttoned with the bright pips of the littler birds, the day is getting ready. Ready to rise up, and in the blue light, blink. Blink, and lift its shoulders wide, and stretch out its neck, for a touch of the morning sun.
We made this recording back in August 2017, leaving our microphones to record overnight and alone, in a rural wood, off-the-beaten track. This section is from 5am to 6am. Listen to the other episodes from through the night.
94 The trees that wait for the chalk stream to flow (natural source of white noise)
Out of the 240 chalk streams globally, 160 are (or were) in England.
For a moment, I thought I heard a splosh and the whip of a fishing rod. But how? Ankle deep in dusty soft leaf litter, several yards down in the waterless bed of a dried up chalk stream, I craned my ears. There it was again. More of a splish, this time, or was it a wish just uttered, by the trees. They swayed in a gust of late summer wind, and I swayed with them.
There was someone there. An old man. He was sitting bolt upright on the bank just beside me, with crystal clear water lapping at his leather boots. He was smoking a pipe, and holding a fishing rod. And he was swinging it in, right past my nose, the most beautiful fish I'd ever seen. A dark silvery torpedo shaped body with proud fin, hoisted and shimmering, in the setting sun.
A fish! I exclaimed. Aye the old man muttered, from behind his puff of Parson's Pleasure. Just a grayling. It was so beautiful. Where did it come from I said? The wind gusted again in the overhanging trees, and they swayed. Swayed with what this time I knew was a kindly form of long-suffering impatience. Grayling used to live right there, where you are standing now. And many others like them. Mind you, there was a lot more life about when I was around, in those clear flowing waters.
Before he and the fish vanished, I saw its iridescent soul rise up, into one of the trees. And I realised there, it will have to stay, leaf like, waiting with its kin, until the chalk stream returns.
We recorded the natural white noise created by these trees a few months ago in the countryside near Newport in Essex. It was a peaceful place, with a tractor tilling a field in the far distance. The trees grew along the banks of what we later found in bygone days used to be a chalk stream. We think of it as a barometer of human impact, and turn to listen to the wisdom of trees.
Chalk streams are rare and fascinating. Find out more.
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93 Rain garden after dark (sleep safe)
Rain. Rain falling in the night. Falling in the night when there's nobody about to hear it. Falling onto a little ramshackle garden made up of upturned pots, a patch of leaf scattered concrete, and a square of grass surrounded by sleeping shrubs and plants.
A little walled garden, basking under the falling water, still, under grey black suburban sky. Sometimes gusted, by a nosy, billowing wind. Does the rain know where it's going to fall?
An old tarpaulin hangs beside the raspberry canes. Beneath, a small piece of shelter. A small piece of peace, tapped by the tiny, scattering drops. Does this rain make a sound, when there's nobody around to hear it?
We hardly know anything of our garden at night. A few weeks ago we left the Lento microphones there, to find out. Under a waxed hat they recorded the passing hours of the night. City slumber, silk softness, and a band of tranquil, spacious rain. In the morning, it was the raindrops caught on the nasturtium leaves, that told the story of the night.
92 Up in the April hills of mid Wales
Up in the April hills of Wales, beside an empty road.
Behind the brambles, down a dell, a stream, over bare stone rolls.
What sing you mistle thrush?
The inbetween of holly trees, is lit by morning sun.
In the field beyond the birches, a thirsty sheep dog runs.
Green beach, open sky, scattered lines of sheep shells. Run run, you thirsty dog, the world's your oyster.
What sing you mistle thrush?
First car of the day, chases emptiness away.
Then another in its wake, lest it dare to stay.
Their bow waves press the brambles in. Their tyres peel gently by.
Their wind sends the dry straw up. It spins. Floats. Then settles down, upon the asphalt, in jumble writing.
Sing, sing, you mistle thrush. Sing your mottled, scuttled, song.
This is part of an overnight recording we made in early spring 2018, up in the hills above Kerry, mid Wales. We first thought it featured a spring blackbird, but now know it is a mistle thrush. Chif chaf, wrens, a juddering pheasant, great tits, rooks and wood pigeons can also be heard.
91 When woods go weird
Three years ago we made another overnight recording at the edge of a rural wood. It turned out to be one of those night's when almost nothing stirred, just the faintest susurrations of wind in trees and the occasional crick of a dark bush cricket, hidden amongst the thick brambles that grew around the taught wire fence where we tied the microphones. Nothing happening, for hour upon hour. It seemed it wouldn't make even one episode.
But then, just before the gothic bell clanked the half hour before 5am, something in the air changed. The wood, came alive. The change began with a tawny owl, far off to the left, that began to call. It was soon joined by another, replying in an unusually tremulous way. Their strange mid-distance hoots over time were joined by others. Some close, some farther away. Each owl, materialising in its own silent void of the forest, filled the space with what, at times, can almost be said to be an owl chorus.
It is often said that everything connects, and so it seems. Whether roused from slumber or in some way spoken to, a cow lows back to the owls from the field beyond the wood. There is a timing to it. It isn't rational, of course, but the interaction is there, all the same, to be heard. Passing geese join too, calling down from their lofty processions, and the ducks laugh back at them, from their murky millpond. It is, in all respects, a weird time, a weird scene, from this wood several miles from the A12 in rural Suffolk.
Distant bells clank the hour. The parish clock strikes 5. The dark robe of night is slipping away. The dawn is nigh. Awake you wood pigeons. Fly by you large bird. Buzz you giant insect, sounding like two airborne elastic bands. Hoot, and hoot again, you strange owls. Welcome! The August dawn.
90 Wind on water, night curlews, rain later (sleep safe)
Deep and spaciously detailed night quiet, at the edge of the tidal river Crouch in rural Essex. Wind on water. Rain on water. Night birds over water. Water upon water. A real piece of time, captured from one rainy inclement night in August by a pair of weatherproofed microphones tied to a seawall railing in Burnham-on-Crouch.
Over time, and as the weather front rolls in, the delicate shifting movements of the water fill, and become richer and more pronounced. Unperturbed, curlew, redshank and distant geese patrol the black, empty night air. Their calls carry far, in long natural intervals, across the wide open space. It's the waiting, between the calls, that refreshes the mind.
Three step listener guide:
1. Ear/headphones enable you to hear the detail and panorama of the captured sound.
2. On a phone or tablet try setting volume in the middle but if you hear nothing nudge volume up, bit by bit, until you feel immersed in the light rippling washes of waves. Not loud, they should feel delicate to start with, because the soundscape is real.
3. Unlike music or speech audio, playing back the detail and space of a naturally recorded soundscape is greatly enhanced, in addition to headphones, when your surroundings are conducive too. It's the listening equivalent of dimming the lights, closing the curtains and settling down to watch an atmospheric film. These are not sound effects, they are all 100% original and natural recordings from real places.
I love listening to these beauties while writing, planning, thinking. I have listened to rainstorms on headphones in noisy cafes, wind through the trees and high tides to focus on my work. I was using a timer - just another 30 mins of writing before lunch .. but have ditched this in favour of Radio Lento - just 1 more rainstorm and then lunch! The sounds are in turn soothing, inspiring, comforting, interesting and as a city dweller, transport me outdoors when I am stuck inside. Lovely episode notes too - do read them!
Beautiful & useful
As a writer & artist who works outside in non-pandemic times, I’ve been missing badly the soundscapes of the places I usually write from. Radio Lento’s recordings have become part of my daily indoors & town-bound listening. I love their sleep-safe recordings especially. Also a fan of how they describe each ep in their programme notes - little place poems, every one.
Brilliant! Just gorgeous to relax with
I’ve been searching for years for something of this quality. These recordings transport you and are so beautiful to relax with. None of the god awful spa music you so often get with so many ‘nature recordings’. Listening to the countryside with the cows mooing in the background is one of many lovely experiences.