Silverdale Sea

Finalist in the competition Europe - A Sound Panorama 2011


Programme notes

Silverdale is a small village on Morecambe Bay, a vast expanse of tidal flats through which many rivers drain to the Irish Sea. Just to the south of Silverdale village is a limestone cliff area called Jack Scout. Here, in narrow bays and inlets, short rocky beaches occupy the space between the cliffs and the sand.

At high tide the Bay is engulfed. In stormy weather the sea beats against the cliffs but on a calm, sunny, late summer day, the tide creeps in, laps over the rocks, splashes under the overhangs and slaps gently against the cliff side. When the water withdraws, crabs the size of a thumbnail scuttle in and out of pools no larger than teacups. And as the sub-sand water level sinks, each tiny pool drains, chains of droplets fall from small rocks, bubbles form and break, and the sand draws air into itself, producing tiny sounds which can only be heard if you lie on the ground.

But Morecambe Bay is no wilderness, away from civilisation. Local people enjoy the water in powerboats and the air in light aircraft. And the Royal Air Force trains fighter pilots over the vast flat expanse of silt and water.

This piece attempts to capture the large and small sounds of the incoming and outgoing tide. The original recordings were made over a three-hour period from the moment the sea reached the rocks to the time it receded from them. The sounds are presented as equals - whether they are the tiny sounds of streams of droplets, the vast sound of the jet aircraft or the constant but constantly changing sound of the waves. All of a gentle summer high tide is in this piece - though the listener will have to imagine the heat of the August sun beating down on the pale limestone and red quartz intrusions of Jack Scout.

The piece does not try to compress a 3-hour event into six and a half minutes, producing a frantic rush like a time-lapse film. Rather it tries to relax the time, so that the six minutes contain the essence of all the time in that liminal place where the tide pauses between coming in and going out again.


This piece was created from sounds originally recorded for the walking performance 'Jack Scout' by Louise Ann Wilson and Nigel Stewart but not used in that work.