top of page
  • Matthew Shenton

Listening to the Landscape 4

Updated: Mar 5

In this blog series I have discussed how relocating to Suffolk inspired me to investigate how other artists have responded to the county, how rural language plays an important role in my sound work and how an underwhelming dawn chorus stirred me to investigate rural soundscapes. In part four I will look to the future and how some recent funding looks set to shape my artistic work.

In early 2023 I began to feel that my work investigating the historical interaction between humans and landscape, and its impact on rural soundscapes, had been too passive in its presentation and small scale in its ambition. 

Was there even a coherent political and ecological aspect to my work? I always felt that it was there from the start, but I began to realise that my ability to contextualise these aspects of my work was inadequate. 

The lack of lyrics in my work means that my messaging is presented to any audience through album blurbs and track titles. Each release was an ‘exploration’ of my feelings about rural life, with a hope that an(y) audience would be able to join the dots. 

The first album included a somewhat tongue in cheek blurb discussing how footpaths in Suffolk footpaths regularly disappear through coastal erosion or (more often) by arrogant landowners denying their existence. There was the title of my second album and, what I felt, was the haunting dread evident in the compositions. The third album had included zine art insert with each track assigned an image and a descriptive paragraph discussing the composition. 2023’s riverrun included an abstract prose stream about how the album history, politics and my feelings about our relationships with rural ecosystems.   

This presentation style, I now realise, was all too subtle. I needed to change my approach, challenge myself and take some risks to successfully move from exploring soundscapes to influencing them for the better.

I had been kicking around an idea for a community project examining how global external factors influence village soundscapes. I wanted to look at how over time the working class sounds of my village had vanished, what had replaced them and what the future holds.

Whilst my artistic development has been steady and fulfilling, it has been predominantly self taught and achieved in isolation with limited time and resources. I spoke with other sound artists and researched funding through Developing Your Creative Practice from the Arts Council. Sound Artist Stuart Bowditch agreed to support my application and mentor me. Jo Kennedy and Loula Yorke agreed to speak with me and share their expertise. I spent untold hours writing and rewriting my project application, sent it off in August 2023 and crossed my fingers. In November, the application was approved and the funding came through for my project called ‘Listening to the Landscape’. Catchy title…

The project will see me build a supportive network of likeminded artists, improve my field recording skills, invest in some new equipment, experiment with software to present the sonification of localised ecological data, and work with my community to discover how the global affects us locally. I am already halfway through a course learning how to program with Max and have been out with Stuart getting wet feet whilst field recording.  

I’m really looking forward to seeing how the next eight months will shape my future as an artist. From January 2024 I will try to blog once a week to share what I have been doing and to celebrate project milestones.


bottom of page