Soundscapes: Listening to the Becks

We are part of a team that developed a pilot project for an installation based on the sound of the natural world. surrounding the St. Nicholas Fields Nature Reserve in York. Thanks to Make it York / DC Labs funding this pilot project.

The aim of the project is to develop an installation for the UNESCO York Guild of Media Arts Mediale. This will run in late 2018.

The project highlights the connection between the natural world, our city, and use of technology.



There is not one York; there are many, overlaid onto each other. Brexit-like events have created differing barriers in our cities.  This project brings groups together around local watercourses and their soundscapes. This will develop shared stories and ideas of the local area.  Meanwhile, we would bring to the light the other ‘elephant’ of diminishing biodiversity, making it visible and audible in a unusual way.



St. Nicholas Fields

St. Nick's Environment Centre is at the heart of the nature reserve. This is where is bases it's environmental and green initiatives. Working with community groups at the centre to record sounds, and create some poetry from our observations.


Examples of flora and fauna recorded St. Nick's Environment Centre




To produce our poetry and visuals, we worked with the various groups analyse the soundscapes, both through audio and visual methods. This allowed for Anneliese, David, Catherine to experiment with what we heard, how it related and where it belonged in the environment.


Waveform outputs using Audacity  highlighting frequency.


Examples of the poetry created during our three workshops during the summer. Further recordings during our workshops can be found on Soundcloud.


I am the Beck

Swish, swashing

Bosh, floshing

Plop, plip

Fingering over boulders

Grinding pebbles

Gliding into darkens

  … ofnever-ending tunnels

I am the feeder of rivers

I am the beck

Rolling through the wood

I am the beck

My water the earth’s blood

I am the beck

I lie still

Watching what is going on

In the world around me

Large clouds are fluffing above me

And the rains starts creating

A pitter patter of soothing music

A group of people have come to look at me

They stare and chatter

Their faces reflect back

They respect me.

I am the beck

Splashing, spluttering

Gurgling over stone drops

Smoothing, polishing pebbles

Always moving on and on


Crystal clear

Clattering over boulders

Melting into swift eddies.

Sometimes I spin


Spiraling down

A whirlpool

But then I am catapulted forward

Making my way

Sliding, sloping, sloshing onwards.

I am not sure

Where I’m bound.

Rumours are rife

And perhaps I’m heading for

A big river

And the sea.

I can’t imagine endless waves

Or salty seas.

I am content with the clear trickling

Transforming torrent

And raindrops

Speckling my back.

I am the beck

I rush from side to side

I help the life in me

Big and small

I’m here to help

I am the beck

I am wet

Splish Splash Splosh

Gush Swirl Slosh

Rumbling along

Hear my song

Raising my voice

You don’t have a choice

Other than to listen

As my surface glistens

Singing and dancing

Playing and prancing

I am the beck

I am wet

I am the beck

Forgotten and neglected

I am the beck

I am too often underground,

Under the banality of buses and the crudenessof cars,

Under the gagging mesh of grasses, the tangledroots of trees.

I am unassuming, you think.

Until these days of rain come and I slowlyrise.

These are my days. In joy I swell.

Over the paths and platforms,

Lapping at the fences.

You have seen me before and it haunts yourmemory.

The time I desecrated your doorway,

The time I recolonised your road.

Do not blame me now for my uncaring,

But rejoice at my resilience.

For I am still here.

I am the beck

Flume for fish

Feeding further waters

Tunnel transporting under the trees

Held by woven roots

I am the beck

I move and flow with a constant purpose of myown

I splash and am still

I grow and then I vanish

I turn and then stay steady

I feed and start to swell

I am the beck

Written by members of the St Nicks Ecotherapy ‘Connect to Nature with Creative Writing’ Group. In a workshop led by Anneliese Emmans Dean, with Catherine Heinemeyer and Dave Chesmore. 5 July 2017




As part of our proposal we are analysing the types of sounds heard during our recording sessions to identify patterns and relationships of the places and spaces. Our prototype for this is a basic model developed using Kumu, which is being updated from our soundscapes of the natural world.

Spectrogram analysis 'art'!



The Team

Anneliese Emmans Dean

Poetry - theBigBuzz

Catherine Heinemeyer

Storytelling - York St. John University

David Chesmore

Sound recording - University of York

Richard James MacCowan

Design & Relationship Modelling - Biomimicry UK


For more information on the project, please contact us.



“The earth has music for those who listen” - William Shakespeare

Using Format