Sounds of Silence

Various Artists


Sounds of Silence banner

Five sound works inspired by the Lakes in lockdown, created by artists with deep bonds to Cumbria and commissioned through an open call. Expect birdsong, villages lost to flood and imaginary mountains.

Imaginary Mountains

Michael Denny and Simon Sylvester

Imaginary Mountains is a 45-minute soundtrack to a walk in the wilds of another Cumbria. Combining music from acclaimed composer and music producer Michael Denny with a narrative from award-winning writer and editor Simon Sylvester, the soundscape is a continuous piece of music and spoken word that explores themes of loneliness, emptiness, departure, arrival and belonging. The work explores the shared experience of all citizens under lockdown — the fears and frustrations, the tragedies and triumphs.

1.1 – A Forest And The Silence (00.00)
1.2 – Up. Up. Up. Up. (03.58)
1.3 – A Silvered Silent Screen (07.04)
1.4 – Fools We Are (10.25)
1.5 – Death (15.55)
2.1 – From The Top Of The Mountain (21.48)
2.2 – This Temple (27.14)
2.3 – Ever Smaller Circle (30.37)
2.4 – I Will Find My Sisters (35.32)
2.5 – White Sand (38.46)

Michael Denny Composer / Music Producer
Michael Denny is a composer and music producer specialising in creating emotive soundtracks blending traditional instrumentation with synths, self-recorded samples and field recordings. Recent credits cover an eclectic range of projects from mindfulness music for the Calm app, to production music placements worldwide including regular airings on BBC Countryfile.

Simon Sylvester Writer / Editor 
Simon is a screenwriter and film tutor based in Kendal in Cumbria. His short stories have been published in dozens of magazines and journals, and his debut novel, The Visitors, won the Guardian Not The Booker prize. Most recently he has won or placed scripts in multiple screenwriting competitions.

All music written and recorded by Michael Denny. All instruments played by Michael Denny except drums by Simon Denny. Narrative written and edited by Simon Sylvester. Voiceover by Hilary Pezet. Artwork by Monica Metsers

The Drowned Valley


A visit to Haweswater as a teenager during a drought instigated a deep fascination with the lost village of Mardale Green – long since flooded to build a reservoir now providing water for Manchester. The Drowned Valley is a fantastical musical journey, attempting to resurrect a ghost from that time and place them in the peaceful yet uncanny surroundings of a lockdown Lake District.

Goodnight is Andrew Tomlinson, a musical artist born and raised in the Lake District. Andrew has spent the last 20 years making albums, soundtracks and musical explorations, both on his own and with his band The Witch And The Robot. He now lives in Manchester.

Birds of Lakeland/Birds of Lockdown

Polly Atkin and Will Smith

Take a virtual walk with poet Polly Atkin and bookseller Will Smith as they wander common land at the fringes of Grasmere during the Spring and Summer of 2020.

Polly and Will began to record birdsong during their walks at the start of lockdown using the BirdNet app, comparing their observations with Mary Armitt’s year-long survey of ‘The Birds of Rydal’, published in The Naturalist in August, 1902.

Birds of Lakeland/Birds of Lockdown interweaves their recordings with spoken word, and commentary on the landscape and changing conditions, to give a glimpse of a moment in, and across, time.

Polly Atkin lives in Grasmere. She has published a poetry collection, Basic Nest Architecture (Seren: 2017), and three pamphlets, and is working on a memoir exploring place, belonging and chronic illness. In 2019 she co-founded the Open Mountain initiative with Kendal Mountain Festival.

Will Smith is a Grasmere-based bookseller and academic whose book reviews feature monthly in Cumbria Life and on BBC Radio Cumbria. He is a lecturer in Publishing Studies at the University of Stirling. In 2019 he co-edited with Polly Atkin a poetry anthology, Companions of Nature, and Lakeland Book Award-winning Grasmere: A History in 55½ Buildings.


Jack McNeill

Inspired by soundscape ecologist Bernie Krause, who explores the impacts of soundscapes on ecosystems, Rewindwild is a personal exploration into the sounds revealed by lockdown and how we listen and respond to ‘noise’ returning to the Lake District.

Field recordings reconstruct soundscape elements of geophony, biophony and anthropophony into a new, imagined sonic environment. Bass clarinet contact mics create woodland floors and leafy canopies, teeming with life and hidden patterns. Half-pitched air and articulations become playful gusts, while melodies (clarinet, bass clarinet and voice) weave a lyric through the piece. 

Jack McNeill

Clarinettist, composer and cross-discipline musician Jack lives in Kendal and directs Propellor, who brought Loom to last year’s Lakes Alive. Clarinet for Tao of Glass (Philip Glass/Improbable/MIF 2019), often improvising (RSC), recording (Gecko, Cerys Matthews, Trish Clowes) playing (Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Ensemble 360, Sacconi Quartet) and guesting with Hidden Orchestra.

Joe Acheson (Hidden Orchestra, Kew Gardens’ Sonic Woodland) kindly guided me through this journey as I learnt new digital techniques and field recording skills.

Rewindwild has been mixed and mastered by Calum Malcolm. I’d also like to thank my wife Sophia who is a constant support and inspiration. Finally, thanks to Aerial for commissioning the piece and bringing an exciting new artistic hum to this area.

Play Video

Is This Just One Day?

Emma Nuttall and Taylor Nutall

During the stillness of the pandemic, hidden sounds of the Lake District return. The crunch of solo footsteps along the lakeside, the delicate pillowing of rainfall softening the edges of a dark day, and – somewhere in the trees – the snap of a twig. A deer is disturbed. The birds scatter in a shrieking squall.

Sound unites us with our living context… emplaces us. Use your headphones to take in the elements of these soundscapes. Let notes trigger feelings, tones take on their own textures and meaning and imagine yourself to be present in the Lake District for one day.

But sound also marks out moments in time: the dawn chorus, songs from when we were in love, or snow-quiet winter mornings. Revealing not only a physical space, but also internal geographies of memory, time and meaning.

On your journey, listen for the quiet atop a mountain, for rhythms, repetitions or overtures of legacy. Catch the irreversible beat of time, the cadences of decay and the whispers of things forgotten, left unremembered.

Here are places both yearned for and enveloped by, where the past and present coalesce across the landscape, overlapping, intertwining and harmonising. Where the landscape begins to forge us, as we have forged the land.

Is This Just One Day? is an evolving ambient and multi-layered soundscape experience of a journey through the Lake District. The piece picks out locations around the Lake District, which have particular value to the authors. From these areas, field recordings from the landscape were taken and put to music to form a collection of sonic verses and words totalling 30 minutes.

This piece is a meditation on the passing of time across the Lake District, of the repetitions of our experience and of our overall lack of agency with how our environment can change.

Emma Nuttall grew up in the Lake District. She is a creative writer, producing stories and experiences for multiple mediums including audio, augmented-reality, virtual-reality, interactive stories, location-based digital experiences and film. She is currently working toward completing her PhD, which focuses on narrative perspective in digital fiction.

Taylor Nuttall lives in the Lake District. Trained as a visual artist, he has exhibited widely with painting, installation, and digital media. CEO and Director for the arts organisation Folly 2001-2011. Recent creative work is exploring sound art and electronic music. He is currently Chair of Full of Noises.

Music & composition – Taylor Nuttall
Words & video editing – Emma Nuttall
Images except below – Taylor Nuttall
Images courtesy of Andrew Locking (Skiddaw) & Tony West (Langdale Pikes)
Audio recordings except below – Taylor Nuttall
Skylark recording – Creative Commons
Sheep recording – Creative Commons

Explore More

Aerial is a festival of contemporary music, literature & performance, taking place in the stunning landscape of the Lake District.

Get the latest Aerial news

Aerial is made possible by funding from Great Place Lakes & Dales: placing art, heritage and culture at the heart of our future.

Copyright © 2020 Aerial. Branding by Louiza Rabouhi Landscape photography by John Shedwick