A while ago Sustainable Warminster commissioned recordings of the different bats found around Smallbrook Meadows in the heart of Warminster. The result was a folder full of ultrasonic sounds of eight species of bats all recorded in Warminster. Over the past few months various musicians have been writing pieces inspired by the bats’ calls. For this to work the noises that the bats make when hunting or navigating have needed to be made audible to human hearing as the ultrasonic recordings are so high that we are unable to hear them at all. This has involved slowing the recordings down and altering the frequency. When you do this the bats suddenly sound like birds chirping or even the spooky sound that we associate with whales underwater. Here are some examples – all recorded by Gareth Harris at Warminster Town Lake and the adjoining Smallbrook Meadows.:
Here are some of the recordings that have been produced so far:
Tom Hiscocks – Barbastelles
Local musician Tom just let his imagination wander and produced this dreamy track supported by our local Barbastelle bats throughout.
MARC OLYOTT – St Mary’s bay
During lockdown Marc was with his partner down in Devon on the coast. He was already working on some ideas for the project and was inspired by a walk to St Mary’s Bay. The area is a Strategic Highway for Greater Horseshoe Bats – I guess the mood just took him!
Ralf DorRell – the last Pipistrelle
This moody piece has a strong story to tell…. Not a happy one. At a time when many species of animal are near extinction Ralf has painted a sound picture of a lonely, lost and last Pipistrelle.
Ralf is a local composer, music teacher and Bass player. The piece uses some techniques from contemporary classical composing. If you want to find out about the compositional technique then have a look at Ralf’s Blog here https://www.ralfdorrell.com/blog.
Ralf’s other passion is Jazz. You can find out more about him here https://www.ralfdorrell.com/
Simon Taylor – the song of the serotine
The full title of this piece is “The Song of the Serotine in Dream Land”. In April 1849 Christina Rossetti wrote a poem called Dream Land. This beautiful poem is about a woman escaping reality and achieving a sense of peace. The words seem to have some resonance with the alternative reality that bats must inhabit. The poem has been set to music, Serotine Bats start and finish the piece and a Serotine “chirp” provides some percussion throughout. The drums were added virtually by Al Simmons and the “oohs” were provided by Sarah Walters.
Steve Dettmar – Long-Eared bats
Local musician Steve has accompanied the cries of Long-eared bats with two locally made acoustic instruments – the Kantele and the Stick Dulcimer.
The Kantele is a Finish string instrument similar to a zither.
In the Finish national epic, the Kalevala, Väinämöinen the wizard builds the first kantele from the jaw bone of a pike and charms all the people and the animals of the forest. Steve’s Kantele is made of wood by a local craftsman
Marc Olyott – Dub Bat
Will the creative talents of Mr O ever run dry?…I hope not. Here’s an interesting experiment !
Simon Taylor – Come Down by the Lakes
In the heart of Warminster is the Town Park complete with Lakes and Nature Reserve. This piece of poetry celebrates the diverse range of wildlife (including Bats) to be found everyday in the park. The poem wanders through an average day and is accompanied by sounds recorded in the park. It’s not all about Bats but there are some of our Myotis Bats at the end.
The project continues
…. the aim is to produce at least one track for each of the eight species of Bats that we have recorded. Other musicians have been working with different Bats and hopefully we will soon be able to bring you some other tracks. Who knows, we may even release a CD! If the mood strikes you and you feel like composing something yourself…get in touch!
I will leave you with a cheeky little number that Marc threw in for fun. It’s called The Bat Shuffle, I’m not even sure which Bats we are listening too!
BBC Radio Wiltshire Interview
This project is part of the Smallbrook Meadows Bat Project funded by the Tesco Bags for Life community fund