Ô Domaine de Roquedols

2 August 2020


Following the path to the Chateau of Roquedols, first you hear traffic, then you begin to hear a buzz or hum in the forest around you. You all looked for it, listening in different places. You looked up in the canopy with binoculars, thinking there was a wasp nest or a swarm of bees. But it had no concentrated source. It had no single pitch, it seemed, it was not stable, it shifted slightly without establishing a pattern or tendency. It was all around you, unobtrusive but pronounced, masked from time to time by a vehicle passing on a road somewhere through the trees.

Outside the forest, camping on the Causse Noir, big birds of prey constantly fly over. The presence of these airborne insects is also the result of not using agrochemicals, you think. 50 years after gazetting the National Park of the Cévennes, this is what you hear, M said.

By craning your neck or lying on your back at night, you could see the Milky Way split into two parts with a band of darkness running up the middle. Wind farms with red lights flashed in the distance from the top of the scrubby hill. You saw Corona borealis. Public lighting was turned off in the middle of the night.

Sit on the short grass in front of the castle of Roquedols, with its reddish purple shutters closed, strangely stranded in history. Imagine you hear excited voices and horses' hooves arriving at the dilapidated porch. We must take care of happy people, Svetlana Alexievich writes; they are in a fragile condition.

The whole forest is full of insects, you think: the sounds of their wings fill the air among the monumental trees. Sometimes they can be heard up close. Their wings directly impart vibrations to the membranes of your ears and microphones. At a distance, as a shifting drone, they cannot be seen. They are not a single swarm or nest. A multitude of many smaller invertebrates: hover flies, gnats, lacewings, wasps and solitary bees - they are barely perceptible in isolation. Typically masked by other sounds, as stars by artificial light, they present as an ephemeral elusive object - inconsequential, neither here not there, next to nothing


Alain-Fournier: Le Grand Meaulnes
Svetlana Alexievich: Second-hand Time, trans. Bela Shayevich, Fitzcarraldo Editions 2019
Paul Tourle: Flies and Fortresses: Italo Calvino and the Live Archive, Sounds Remote, Uniformbooks / Soundcamp 2016