British sound artist and Home Normal boss Ian Hawgood is back with a new album called 朝 which follows 2020’s Peace Fragment (Slowcraft Records). He explains: “During the first lockdown here in the UK, I found myself awake around 4am most days. I often go to my studio or go for a walk to record bird song at these times to relax and on two occasions I actually recorded these early morning sessions.
Both recordings were done using steel tongue drums with my studio windows open. I mic’ed up the drum in front of the window with a pair of DPA 4060 lavalier microphones hanging from the window close to one of the bird feeding areas in our garden. The sparrows in the nest opposite always come to join me on my window sill when I play the drum or guitar, and the freckles and clicks of sound you can hear in ‘Fractural’ are them landing on or near the microphones.
The additional textures in ‘Textural’ were done using hyrdrophones in the shallow waters while the tide was out at a local beach. The drum elements were edited using looping pedals to create more drone-like tones compared to ‘Fractural’.”
He continues: “Just a few weeks ago we found a sparrow hawk had nearly decimated our sparrow nest sadly, and after the year we’ve had this felt really hard to take. Apart from being beautiful birds to greet each morning, they are part of the Home Normal logo as they are able to live in most places and make their ‘home’ all around the world more or less. As culturally prominent birds I always felt they represented that element of feeling ‘home’ no matter where you may be. The symbolism of having sparrows killed in front of us was powerful but also upsetting after the tough year we’ve all had and what I felt this represented beyond the cycle of life.
For three weeks after the attack the weather had been awful and there were no birds at all which changed the dynamic of our mornings. Then just two days ago the sun came out. I went into the garden and played guitar for a bit as things dried outside that morning. After almost an hour a lone sparrow came and sat no further than two metres away from me and sang quietly. We were both there for almost two hours before he flew off.
The next day I did the same thing, and after just twenty minutes seven of the original eleven sparrows came to the feeding station and hopped around as I watched and gently played guitar. It was an amazing experience. Today (New Years Eve) the whole remaining family returned to the nest in full and two came to my window sill this afternoon.
This whole event inspired me to uncover those recordings with those stoic little birds.’朝’ (Morning) now represents so much as these birds were ever-present during the various lockdowns here and really helped these days to be quite peaceful at home. Their return to the nest feels like an act of will and continuation, but also renewal which hopefully 2021 can eventually be.
So here we are on New Years Day: a new beginning. With love and respect to each and every one of you for the year and beyond, for all that we have been through and for all the hope we retain.”