Detecting Bats and Other Noises; a final Sand Waves Sound Art Post

Mac Dunlop

Mac Dunlop is a sound artist, who has received one of the Dynamic Dunescapes art grants to work with our Cornwall Wildlife Trust team and create something inspired by the beautiful Cornish dunes. He has created 'Sand Waves', a collection of seven Sound Art compositions.

Using the player below or by clicking this link, you can listen to all seven as a collection.

Two smiling men stand in the sand dunes, one holding a microphone and recording device

Cornwall Wildlife Trust Dune Ranger Jon Cripps joins Mac Dunlop out on the dunes

I finished the field recording session of this Sound Art Dunescape project about a month ago. It can be long periods of time between beginning a project like this and the final product, but that isn't unusual.

Over the months there have been extended periods between collecting sounds, revisiting the dunes to try and get the same sound but better, or walking the dunes on a different day because the weather itself can make sounds sound different. For instance, a dry leaf will rustle quite nicely in the wind while a wet one may only drip.

Even in a protected environment like the dunes there is little escape from the sound of human activity. The road even at a distance, and then the sound of the sea carried on the wind. The sounds of others, dogs happily barking and barging their way around, cars turning in and out of parking areas. The jostle of a truck over speed bumps in the distance.

Whatever the wind might carry toward you may not be what you want in your recording of busy bees, or rattling seeds. There is the sound of the wind itself too, trying to capture it gusting past your ear isn't always easy. That reminds me of a line from a poem I wrote in Portugal:

"For the wind to blow, it needs somewhere to go."

On the other hand, you might hear a bird in the distance and it may sound like the perfect moment for recording, only for the bird to disappear just as as you get closer.

The Dunes exist because of some natural conditions of geography and climate. They also exist in their current state because of us, and the way we have chosen to use and shape them. At Penhale, the ruins of St. Petrocs chapel are half sunk in water for part of the year. and it stands both as a monument to those who originally built it, and as an artefact of how we as a culture and society have chosen to preserve it. It hasn't been rebuilt so much, but we have halted the decay of time with concrete and fences, and made a new architecture of it.

The dunes represent a unique habitat that humans - as a species of animal - inhabit along with all the other indigenous and new species that make a home there. Some live there permanently, some just visit for a short stay. Our sounds are as much a part of the landscape as any other noisy creatures. It's easy to forget that nature is everywhere, all at once and we are always part of it too. Nature is inside us and outside of us at the same time. Rarely do we find enough quiet where you can hear the sound of your own breathing.

Life - and being alive - is after all, a very a noisy business.

Try to listen to everything all at once. Then tune in to something you hear amidst the busy-ness. And don't worry about getting closer to nature, you're already in it.


Thanks for listening, and if you would like to hear more, find me on bandcamp.


Mac Dunlop


Want more from Mac? Click here to read the first of his blog posts for Dynamic Dunescapes, 'Sand Waves: Creating a Sound Art Project'

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 :,,,