Over a calendar year Underwater Cairngorms
Mhairi and David will research the seasonal effects on the underwater
soundscapes in five specific locations. They spend one week a season
gathering sounds below the water and the environmental sounds above in
the chosen locations. This will paint a complete acoustic audio picture.
They will establish a digital sound library for these locations, thus
creating a baseline for ongoing and future studies.
Mhairi and David will use the site specific sounds to compose an
experimental musical suite of newly commissioned pieces that will
reflect and be inspired by the waterscapes, blending the audio gathered
The new music and sound library will form the content for *Phase 2* of
this project; the ''Cairngorm Sound Trail''. Five sound installations will
be situated at the freshwater locations within the Badenoch and
Strathspey area. These installations will enable everyone to experience
and enjoy the newly composed music, and the underwater field recordings
sourced from the chosen locations offering visitors a unique, creative
and artistic experience that exposes the wonder and ecological diversity
of these special surroundings.
During the summer of 2021, Mhairi Hall and field recordist David de la
Haye were commissioned by the Scottish Freshwater Group alongside
Newcastle University to explore and record underwater soundscapes
sourced from the Cairngorms, Mhairi’s native homeland. As part of the
delivery of their findings, they composed a piece of music inspired by
and using these unique freshwater sounds, called ‘The Boatmen of Garten’
(link attached to end of form). This project is hereby know as the
This initial project came about through both Mhairi and David''''s
interest in recording environmental sounds and field recording. They
had been in touch, sharing audio and advice for many months. However,
Mhairi had never recorded sound underwater. This project was not only
environmentally fascinating, but it also offered an introductory
learning opportunity for her.
Freshwater habitats remain largely undocumented throughout the UK, and
have never been recorded in this area. This initial creative project
was largely exploratory and, incredibly, within one day they uncovered
truly fascinating, inspirational and varied soundscapes. During this
brief time they visited five lochs each offering a different selection
of unique sounds, an audiological glimpse into a hidden world. Some of
these sounds are identifiable through David''''s ongoing research
alongside an international team of freshwater researchers, but many
Mhairi used these sounds as inspiration, giving a
new perspective of her familiar homeland, to create the bones of a new
composition. After she had taken the musical composition as far as she
could, she passed it back to David who then, using his sound engineering
experience applied some interesting effects such as filtering the piano
sound through the water recording. ''''The Boatmen of Garten'''' became a
joint creation, and both felt this experience could and should be
expanded into a larger project. Their pilot was a real success on many
levels and the feedback they received was incredible. Listeners were
able to tune into and empathise with an otherwise unknown world.
Loch Garten and Loch Mallachie; We sampled this loch during the pilot,
and discovered a variety of sounds. This area is very popular for
tourists, bird watchers and locals alike.
River Feshie; in the vicinity of the Frank Bruce Sculpture Trail. A new
sound installation here will compliment and support the decay of the
current art trail. Mhairi has spent many years walking round this
Sculpture Trail, and watched it decay as the artist intended.
Loch Morlich; one of the most famous lochs in Scotland, and a very
popular tourist destination all year round. This loch is important
because of it''''s popularity for water sports, swimmers, walkers, skiers.
We aim to educate and provide awareness to the visitors who enjoy this
spot, encouraging ecological sensitivity alongside the recreational
activities. There is adequate car parking for full accessibility. They
explored this loch with a kayak during their initial research, and found
some interesting, unidentifiable, very deep sounds that warrant further
Lochan Uaine; an interesting and unique biodiversity to be explored.
This loch is popular due to its striking green colour. Some people swim
in it, most enjoy the walk to it and around Glenmore. It sits in a
peaceful valley where historically it used to be full of illicit whiskey
An Lochan Uath; a peaceful area with a selection of smaller, sheltered
lochans. It has a walking routes, an incredible viewpoint, and
accessible bird hides. It is lesser known that the other lochs but
again is promoted within the CNPA as a visitor attraction for the
stunning views, and being fairly remote.
Creatively combining experimental music, environmental sound and
acoustic ecology is at the heart of Underwater Cairngorm. It has been
successfully piloted through ''''The Boatmen of Garten'''' which has
uncovered a unique opportunity. Underwater Cairngorm will transform
these places through the imagination in a uniquely creative way. It
will also present real and very important scientific data that can be
used to help preserve, raise awareness and further knowledge of this
area in Scotland which aren''''t just tourist attractions but also
habitats to many species. Underwater Cairngorm will put Scotland on the
worldwide map for creatively gathering and presenting these unique
sounds that belong to our waterscapes and ecologies.
Underwater Cairngorms seeks to document the environmental challenges of
these freshwater locations and deliver them in a creative, musical way
that is accessible to the general public. The catalogue of sounds will
be used as a baseline for future research, not only on the season
effects but also the environmental changes that are happening in our
world. The information gathered will contribute to bio acoustic
research that is being carried out in other parts of the UK and world.
This will add Scotland to the worldwide findings and Underwater
Cairngorms has scope to lead the way with this creatively, and could
present the opportunity to be rolled out across other areas in Scotland.