In December I visited Stanton Drew standing stones, just south of Bristol. Here are some photos, and a short (very windy – despite a microphone protector!) sound-sketch from Stanton Drew on a cold winters day.
The wind is very present in this open space, and this was why when beginning the Site Singing project, I chose sites which offered a variety of enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces – spaces that could hold, reflect or alter vocal sounds, even if just briefly. But I had the opportunity to visit Stanton Drew by car with my sister and partner, so I gladly went along as I had never actually been there, despite how close they are to Bristol.
Approaching this site through a small village and past some farm land, it emerges as others have – real but some how unbelievable. It still seems incredible that in amongst the familiar and the everyday, such a place can be found. Reaching out and touching the stones, I leaned in and sang very close to several, trying to shield my voice from exposure, shared just between the stone and myself. In such a wide-open and impressive space, this vocalising felt warm and intimate, almost child-like. It didn’t feel it needed to be much, I felt comfortable feeling small here.
This site has a majesty about it. Remnants of candles, flowers, and a small campfire showed traces of some modest form of solstice having been marked here – it was within a few days of the 21st. This site has that Avebury-like feature of a village having sprung up within its margins (is ‘skirts’, I find myself thinking!). Some of the stones are now in the local pub car park, which lends that surreal and slightly eccentric British quality of something ancient and unknowable sharing space with something comforting yet banal.
Throughout our visit, there was that slightly unsettling rural sound of gunshot ricocheting in the surrounding hills. This, along with the chatter of my jaw from cold, found their way into my vocal responses.
On the way back to Bristol, we stopped off at a hill fort, as the darkness took over the sky. It was an unremarkable hill barely visible from the road, yet climbing up, shapes and sculpting was clear, if faint, giving this lonely windy hilltop an haunting atmosphere.
The recording suffered from the exposure of the site – the wind is very dominant and I did actually get help in modifying it slightly to make it easier on the listener. Despite maybe not being a ‘good’ recording in some technical ways, the intimacy and quietness of the singing, the proximity of my lips and breath to the stones, is what makes this work a fond memory for me. This track is subtle – headphones recommended!