Sand Waves: Creating a sound art project with Dynamic Dunescapes

Mac Dunlop

Meet the first recipient of our arts funding grant, sound artist Mac Dunlop, and find out about how he's creating a dune-inspired soundscape.

To write a blog it seems, is a distant relative to the diary. Samuel Peeps might have recognized the format and style immediately. But the quills and inkwells of the past are gone while the reality of paper is only imitated here by a collection of tiny pixels that are still -for some reason - similar enough to a written page to allow the brain to begin.

Where to begin though? With what purpose and with what end? Does it matter - just as surely as all things matter. Just as The Dunes matter, indeed - and there it is.

Penhale Dunes SAC_Cornwall Wildlife Tust

I met with Andy on the Dunes near Godrevey a little over a month ago now. Somewhere north of Hayle, somewhere across the estuary from Carbis Bay, where world leaders and their strange collections of outriders recently met to discuss the world and its weighty matters -interrupted every now and again by Cornish Sea Shantiers or the odd souvenir trip to St. Ives. I hope they found the time to appreciate that Cornwall is indeed a very special place.

Where Andy and I met was once home to an explosives factory, housed far away from populated areas, purposefully built in the banked up pockets of sand that still remain as evidence of the engineers and architects concerns for safety. Buildings were set apart in foxhole-like configurations so should something go off, it would be relatively contained within each building's sandy human-made vale.

Remnants of buildings remain, happily not in the aftermath of explosions, but in the aftermath of age and time. They have an iconic presence, in the same way that a silhouette of a dilapidated pump house that you sometimes see on bumper stickers has come to symbolize Cornwall's heritage in some way.

Which reminds me that on reflection, I think Time is actually a very difficult thing to represent with sound.

Anyway, as Andy and I walked and talked, moving through the dunes, one thing that interested me was the way the contours of the landscape created very different hearing experiences. In the protected hollows that may have once housed depots of explosives, the surrounding sand hills dampened the surrounding waves of sound, acting as natural 'baffles' to the wind, the distant roar of the sea, or the distant rumble of traffic on the road. On the other hand when nearing the top of a sandy hillock, the wildness of the day returned as if the volume dial of nature had been turned back up to full. Experiencing this natural 'bafflement' (a deliberate choice of words here, it tends to capture both the nature of what the dunes do to sound, as well as aptly describing my general state of being.

So that, or rather this, is my first post, diary entry, log, record of ideas. I thought I would write more, but let us leave it there, or here (?). Next time I will delve into another first found topic, on the nature of dog walking, its impact on the environment of delicate ecosystems like this, and perhaps we'll also speak of other things, like bird song and the sound of weather.

If you have any thoughts, or information you would like to share, then get in touch here, it would be great to hear from you.


All the best till next time,

Mac Dunlop

Sound Artist

working on the 'Sand Waves' project


Want more from Mac? Click here to read his next blog, 'Sounding Perran Sands'

A black and white image of sound artist Mac Dunlop looking at the camera

About the Author

Mac Dunlop

Mac is a composer, producer, and performer based in Cornwall, UK. His recent albums include, Viral Nature, Petrichor, and Somewhere Nearby. A new album 'MDQ' will be released in October 2021on the Belgian based Off Records Label. His music ranges in style from experimental ambient to modern classical and jazz. He features on BBC Sounds, Resonance FM, and Cornwall's Source FM as well as other independent music and sound art broadcasters.

Find him online at :,,,