by Anne Versailles
25 August 2021

Through a soundwalk, I invite walkers to dare to leave the paths to go deeper into the forest, to make the branches crack under their feet, to hear the forest making noises, to become a fern or a dung beetle or to fly away like a buzzard. A project realized in partnership with different users of the forest of Raismes.

To listen on-site visit

In Belgium, where I live, leaving the paths in the forest is usually forbidden! But there, I was in residence in France, in « Portes du Hainaut », not far from the border where the Natural Park of Scarpe Escaut extends. This Park counts 4600 ha of forest, the national forest of Raismes-Saint-Amand-Wallers. And there, the biologists-educators of the House of the Forest (forest interpretation center ) have an objective: to invite the walkers to leave the paths to really discover the forest. But many do not dare...

So I worked with them to create a sound walk that encourages walkers to leave the paths, to make the leaves and branches crack under their feet, to go deeper into the underbrush, to let themselves be guided by what sounds there, to gradually lose their marks.

Raismes forest

This walk is composed of various sounds. There are of course those that I collected, by fieldrecording, within the forest itself. I transformed some of them in a more musical way. I also went to the forest with Samuel Bodart, a percussionist poet, to record him playing on tree trunks using branches as mallets.

tree branches

I also recorded a guided walk by one of the animators of the Maison de la Forêt and used some of her explanations on forest biology. And in partnership with a neighborhood house located on the edge of the forest, I was also able to interview some local residents and ask them questions about their intimate experience with the forest. A few horticulture students also shyly accepted to land in the forest with a recorder to describe what they perceived around them.

tree trunk

To encourage walkers to leave the paths, I also wanted to give this walk a fictional entry: enter the underbrush and become a fern, or a dung beetle, or fly away like a buzzard! To write these mini-fictions, I organized a writing workshop for the biologists who work at the Natural Park of Scarpe Escaut. For a few hours, we had fun writing mini-fictions of this type. We also put ourselves « in the shoes » of an old oak tree in the forest and remembered everything we had seen at our feet. These texts were then put into voices and recorded. Using the sounds captured in the forest, I created a sound ambiance for each one.

dark trunk detail

I then implemented all these sounds on the SonicMaps platform, starting from the House of the Forest in Raismes. In a form that will encourage walkers to deviate from the paths to search for these sounds. The departure is in the roots of a tree. In the root nodules, sounds of the underground, of the infra, of what can't be heard but can be imagined. Then to take the trunk of the tree whose axis follows the main path. But very quickly, branches deviate from it. Then there are leaves to reach. In the underbrush, outwit the GPS of your smartphone to try to get there and listen to what the forest has to say.

Anne Versailles

"As a sound artist, I know how much sound can open the doors of the imagination. You listen and images are born in your head. But as a walking artist, I also know that it is good to go with your ears in the air to listen directly to the landscape. My intention in this walk is to be in people's ears with materials and sound textures that their ears do not usually listen to. To take them deep in the forest and there to invite them to remove their headphones to listen to the forest that sounds, live, under their steps."

Anne Versailles