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.
Light rain beside the lane near Sandy
It's all woods and rolling fields in rural Bedfordshire. Good for long walks under wide skies. A chance to get away from it all. On a wet February day, after splashing along muddy lanes and mud sliding footpaths, after passing a pair of Anderson shelters either side of an empty and waterlogged field, we saw a tumbledown wall cloaked in moss. Behind the wall, tucked down in a shallow dell, so quiet it hardly reached us, the melodious sound of a running winterbourne. Watery places always seem to cast a magic spell. So we climbed through the spiky trees peppered with lichen and left the microphones to record. It felt like a long forgotten spot, set back from people and the Iron Age track. When they were sure we had gone, tiny birds returned to flit about, distant cows lowed as the rain gently sifted down through the bare branches. A silvery sounding place, cool, and clean of clutter. In a few months the leaves will come, the fields will dry, and the landscape will sound of spring.
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Sound-scenes of Norman's Pond as dusk turns to night - sleep safe
Dusk. The gates of the Lee Valley Park are shut. The people are gone. The miles of footpaths are empty, save for crossing ducks. Beside Norman's Pond, hidden in the scrub, the dark bush crickets have begun. Gulls cry out. On tepid summer water, swans are swimming, slow under the gathering shadows, drippling the mirror-still surface for food. Their calls bounce and echo across the empty lake. Melding with the sound of passing trains. With the tidal flow of the A10, London's artery into rural Hertfordshire.
Nightfall. The waterbirds are asleep. The shadows have gone. The lake is inky black. But hooting the commencement of real dark, of the real night, hear, the first owls. Through the scrub, the crickets have sharpened their messages. And at the very edge of the water, something very small scratches at something. Delicately, with the patience of an invisible thing. Dead of night. Emerging like a squeaky toy jumping through carpets of leaves, a creature on the run, or on the hop. It comes, and goes, right past the microphones dissolving into wherever. Owls hoot in the high treetops opposite, and some waterbirds have woken up again, now the air has cooled. It's shifted. Now there's a wind. The A10 sounds to the right of the horizon, and the undulating hum of the power station beyond the bird hide can easily be heard. A floating sine wave, the subtle underflow of our civilisation. Occasionally things splash into the water, and call out over the lake. Dry hanging leaves rustle in sympathy with the passing breezes.
This is peace in the Lee Valley. Edgeland peace. A peace formed out of calm rather than absence. Tranquillity, not from being away from human things, but beside them when they are at ease.
After the dawn chorus in the Forest of Dean
There is a time when thin light broadens into day, when the sun is properly up and warm and every diurnal creature is settling into its daily rhythm. A time when the delicate trickles of the night stream can no longer be heard as the ambient sound within the forest has grown into a mellifluous hum, made up of birdsong, gentle wind, and of buzzing bees. It's the time before most people are awake, where all natural things are up and weaving themselves back into their world, threading their strands of aural colour through each and every tree, each and every tangled vine. An early corner of the day most often unheard. This episode, discovered in our archive due to ongoing lockdown restrictions, is the forest in late May 2019, just before 6am. Other parts of this same all-night recording can be heard in episodes 17, 30 and 38. We made this recording by leaving a pair of rain-proofed microphones hooked up to a field recorder on a long-life battery, hidden up against the trunk of an ancient oak tree, in a remote clearing inaccessible to people.
The balm of warm woodland in late summer
Locked-down and nowhere to go. With pounded pavements all pounded, and back gardens beleaguered under pallid skies so dull sodden with wet, it's hard to remember the feeling of travelling out of London to walk free through a forest in barmy summer heat. It feels important to think of it now though. More than ever. Really think of it. Reawaken it. The experience of a late summer walk through the Bayford Pinetum in Hertfordshire. A day when the air was so warm to the skin that it disappeared, leaving one freer to move. And of all the other sensations. Of twisting along endless paths under trees. Of quietly and rhythmically stepping over dry leaves, between ruts in the ground, over fallen branches. Of an ankle caught by a bramble and a hand out to steady against a tree trunk. And an ear brushed by a leaf and a fleeing insect. And walking so unlike in a city, with head swung side to side to better smell the light perfumes. And to let the ears sponge up the atmosphere, the susurrating trees, the birdsong. The way birdsong echoes. The way their calls reveal the long spaces beyond what can be seen. The way muntjac deer bark like lost dogs. The way robins seem to sound sweeter the later in the year they sing. And remembering all of these experiences through a recording we made on that day. This is a different spatial audio recording to the one that we used for episode 31. We made it as a fall-back, using a parallel set of mics positioned about 200 yards from the main pair. They picked up a completely different perspective of the Pinetum, with so many layers to hear. The trains gliding through the railway cutting sound wonderfully spatial reflected down from the tree canopy. There are more active birds compared from this angle too and a startlingly lovely buzzard.
Garden birds under a silent sky
Every year, on or near the 4th of April, we leave the microphones out in the back garden to record the dawn chorus. It's a simple ritual, partly to mark the beginning of a new season, and partly to compare how the dawn chorus sounds now compared to last year. Despite us living in Hackney in the North East of London, where the buildings and roads don't change much, the soundscape from year to year does. It's always different. We've been making these recordings for 12 years and, not surprisingly, last year saw the most dramatic change. London was in its first lockdown. The schools were closed, the roads mostly empty, reduced to a fraction of the normal traffic. And the skies had fallen silent. No more planes chasing the tail of another, minute by minute. As the day dawned and the sky lightened, the gardens behind the terraced houses woke to high circling seagulls and silky soft birdsong. Unimaginable, impossible in any other year. Gone the rumble and whining of jet engines, gone the rattling bumps of cars on speed bumps. Gone the heavy grey noise, the aural fog that coagulates the air. Instead see-sawing great t**s, echoing, crisp and pure. The jovial cooing of wood pigeons. The cawing of rooks. Some screeching green parrots on a mission to get somewhere else fast, and little delicate chittering birds commuting from roof to roof. And like an operatic performer, like a musical instrument perched in a tree, the most totemic of garden birds began to sing its song. Melodious. Perfectly clear. Wonderfully inventive. Inflecting notes of cheer and even glee, as it embarks upon its journey into spring. A blackbird.
Singing beck below Black Hill (sleep safe)
High on a Derbyshire moor below the summit of Black Hill, between Disley and Whaley Bridge, there's an ancient trackway. It runs almost level across boggy ground with views over rough pastures and gritstone walls to a lone standing stone. After about half a mile the track descends sharply into a tree-lined dell. Nestled in amongst a wood, there's a small farmhouse mostly hidden from view. It was, more than a lifetime ago, in 1898 the home of Carl Fuchs, a distinguished cellist, who played in the Halle Orchestra and the Brodsky quartet. At the point where the gorse bushes are, where the path narrows and sinks below the gritstone walls, and the deep ruts get deeper, the traveller hears water. A babbling beck, waiting to cast its spell. A sonorous moorside stream that has to be forded, on tip toe, over exposed rocks. In his memoir, Carl Fuchs when working in the stream, once told travellers that the water was safe to drink. Clear, and from the mountain. Being within a natural cutting, overgrown with straggly trees, its sound is amplified. Shaped by the action of water over rocks, and conducted by gravity, the beck rills the air, as it has for centuries. The deep rocky pool into which the water tumbles, sings watery notes. Colourful, resonant, vibrant. We pushed through the undergrowth and left the microphones to record overnight, downstream of the pool. Time passes. Tiny flurries of rain fall onto the sheltering leaves. The beck flows mellifluously, down and away into the wide open valley to the right. The vastness is sometimes revealed by a passing plane, or a car on a distant road. The birds are asleep. Nocturnal things hold their silence. The beck casts its spell.
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