The dream of the Field Cricket- reporting back

Posted on June 2nd, 2019 by

Peter Sheppard Skaerved – Seven Calls (World Premiere) with

Laurence Rose – Farnham Heath/Field Cricket. Field Notes 1/6/19

Peter Sheppard Skaerved & Miahilo Trandafilovski- Violins, Laurence Rose-Reader

1st June 2019 – RSPB Farnham

Farnham Heath – Photo Marius Skaerved

This was a project which has been a long time in the making. Two years ago, I began having conversations with the nature writer Laurence Rose, for whom music is of great importance. We had had a sense that we needed to find a way to bring the our worlds into the same space, that there is a shared narrative between the natural world and the arts. We had a distinct sense that this needed to be explored in more than a illustrative manner, or through mere juxtaposition. He introduced me to the work of ‘Back from the Brink’ , which aims to save 20 species from extinction, and most particularly to the work to save the Field Cricket (Gryllus Campestris) and its habitat, the heathlands of South England, most particularly Farnham Heath, home of RSPB Farnham.

A cricket’s eye view of Farnham Heath 1 6 19

Gradually an idea emerged, from the hours spent talking and walking in this extraordinary place. LINK I have said, probably too many times, that the mark of a project which is worth doing, is that we should not be able to say what it is, until it happens. We live, unfortunately, in a world where for much of the time, we aim to produce pre-ordained outcomes. This project, aimed to get as far away from that as possible. Laurence and I felt, that if we were to bring certain elements together: music carefully curated, and written, writing, drawing, conversation, walking, watching, touching, listening and imagining, something would emerge. I think that, in the back of our minds, there was a sense that that something might be of value, that not only could it speak to the issues of our day, the questions of how we treat our planet, and by extension each other, the idea that great beauty, meaning could be found in the smallest, most insignificant things, but that, in addition, that a wonderful event, a salon, even an object, of beauty might emerge. And that seemed worth taking a chance on.

It was clear to us, that my dear friend and colleague, Mihailo Trandafilovski was the perfect collaborator for this event, this experiment. Mihailo has a unique ability to look deep into the tiniest particulate of things. So much of his music draws its inspiration from the fundamental structure of the natural world, ranging from the DNA helix to the world of astronomy.

Cirrus clouds over Farnham Heath 1 6 19

So on the 1st June, we all met at RSPB Farnham, along with a collaborating audience, and under the leadership of the visionary site manager Mike Coates, for a day in three parts – a walk/writing workshop, a salon/concert, and a second concert back out on the heath, given for us, by the Crickets, and as it turned out, far more.

(to be continuted)

Afternoon writing workshop

Out on the heath, Laurence encouraged everyone to find a moment, and write it down, to document a sensation, a memory, of the experience of being in this extraordinary environment. Mike Coates spoke about the long history of the heath as common land, and the deep groins in the hillside, which were the many trackways cut by villagers’ carts coming up onto the heath in the past.

A world. Fruticose Lichen on a Birch tree stump

The heath is inspiration itself, both from the every developing history of its importance to local communities, to the very real sense that it is teeming with life, from the columns of ants crossing the sand and gravel paths, to the wonderful sight of a Rhinoceros Beetle on a Birch tree stump.

Sinodendron cylindricum /Rhinoceros Beetle 1st June 2019
Photo Marius Skaerved

Everyone found their own way into the writing task which Laurence set, and I was powerfully aware of the differences this revealed between our various ways of experiencing the world around us.

Prior to setting out, I had been excitedly talking about the potential of sand and gravel. ‘Give me a pile of stones from this path,’ I suggested, ‘ and four hours, and I will come back with fossils and more.’ Well, that turned out to be pessimistic. The very first thing which I saw at my feet, as we stepped out on the heath was a wonderful fossil Heart-shaped Echinois (see below) – legacy of the Cretaceous Chalk of the Downs.

The first thing I saw on the path. Micraster coranguinum  a Cretaceous Heart Shaped Echinoid.

Everyone has a different way of notetaking. Some in small notebooks others with cameras, and some mixing drawing and poetry, such as this example from artist Emma Burt.

From Emma Burt’s field notes


PSS and Mihailo Trandafilovski Prepare
Laurence Rose reads

Music and words

Words by JJ Rousseau & Malene Skaerved. and
Telemann – Gulliver -Suite Overture & Lilliputian Chaconne
Inspiration from the Rural Life Museum – the wonderful venue for the concert
Laurence Rose reads Gilbert White
Writer Laurence Rose (Photo Marius Skaerved
Giacinto Scelsi – ‘l’Arc-en-ciel’. Peter Sheppard Skaerved & Mihailo Trandafilovski 1 6 19 Rural Life Centre/RSPB Farnham
Béla Bartók- Harvest Song (from 44 Duos)
Site Manager Mike Coates introduces the work, the mission of Farnham Heath
Mike Coates with Mihailo and Peter 1 6 19
Mihailo Trandafilovski – Pulsing (Intoduced by the composer)
Mihailo Trandafilovski – 1 6 19 (Photo Marius Skaerved)
Telemann – Loure der gesitteten Houyhnhnms / Furie der unartigen Yahoos

On the Heath, after the concert

After the concert, Mike Coates, led us all back out on the the heath. A wonderful ‘perambulation’, marking out the territory. There’s nothing quite like hearing Gryllus Campestris sing in a feathered dusk, but to have the field crickets singing on one side of the path , and Nightjars churring and calling on the other simply cannot be bettered. This was, for me, the greatest second half of any concert. We artists are humbled, day after day, by Nature’s quotidian. And so we should be.

Field Crickets singing
Laurence Rose talk beneath a wonderful sky
The same, slowed down 600x
Gryllus Capestris (field Cricket) Female-note the ovipositor

Nightjars Singing
It does not matter what we do as artists. Nature’s everyday wonder is just beyond us all