Digital archive and interactive sound map of 18 woodland locations impacted by HS2 Phase 1 between London and Aylesbury
HS2 Ghostlands is a project created by multidisciplinary artist and experimental composer Gwen Siôn. Working on location over a 5-month period in Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and the outskirts of London (regions directly impacted by HS2), Gwen has undertaken extensive research into HS2 and its environmental impact and collected field recordings across 18 specific woodland locations suffering both the direct and secondary effects of HS2 to create a sonic archive of these environments under threat. Her project, HS2 Ghostlands, aims to preserve an accurate auditory record of these sites (accessible as an interactive sound map) in an attempt to memorialise and immortalise these soon to be lost woodland spaces and enable a transportive sonic encounter with them. By creating a digital space which exists beyond the loss of the physical locations, HS2 Ghostlands facilitates a continuing point of contact between the public and these natural environments, making them accessible even after their destruction.
HS2 Ghostlands aims to capture a moment in time by exploring the ghostly, liminal landscapes of endangered woodland through acts of mapping and translation, musical composition, field recording and photographic documentation. The final outcome of the project includes a digital archive of recordings in the form of an interactive sound map, a set of musical instruments hand-built by recycling natural materials found at the locations and a newly composed piece of experimental music. The music piece, entitled Ghostlands, combines all the environmental audio recordings of the woodland locations with original musical compositions created in response to the spaces using found natural materials as instruments as well as original vocal, multi-instrumental and electronic compositions inspired by reading the shapes, colours, textures and structures found in the visual landscape of the woodland as a musical score. Some melodic elements are also inspired by echoing patterns in birdsong heard at the locations and some phrases are directly translated from the birdsong itself by converting the audio data of recordings into midi data which was then assigned the voice of an acoustic piano. Ghostlands uses a mix of traditional acoustic instruments, electronic instruments, a variety of hardware devices and Gwen's own handmade instruments. By creating instruments from fragments of the landscape, such as fallen or felled tree branches, the musical compositions are not only framed by the sounds of the woodlands in the field recordings but are also made from the sites themselves, literally resonating through the dead wood of these locations.
This project has been created in response to HS2 in a political act to record and preserve UK woodland, highlighting issues of deforestation and the habitat destruction and biodiversity loss that happens as a direct result. By actively engaging with the woodland, practising deep listening, recording, archiving, using and responding to environmental sounds, the project aims to give the forest a voice in an attempt to acknowledge the presence and importance of these irreplaceable natural spaces which face destruction. The extreme effects of deforestation on the global climate emergency are devastating, yet we are currently witnessing the largest deforestation project in Britain in over 100 years, HS2, which will result in the permanent destruction of 108 ancient woodlands and precious wildlife habitats.
Click or scan QR code to view the proposed route of HS2 and all woods under threat (information courtesy of the Woodland Trust)
Click a location marker for coordinates and to access live directions
Click on a location marker followed by the image of the woodland to listen to the sound of the location
To listen to Ghostlands, the music piece composed as part this project,
click or scan the QR code below
For information on the impact of HS2 on UK woodland and to find out about actions you can take against HS2 visit:
To find out more about the artist visit
HS2 Ghostlands was commissioned by Sound and Music and the British Music Collection as part of their ‘Climate. Sound. Change.’ call for works created in response to the climate emergency.
The music piece Ghostlands was archived as part of the British Music Collection on June 21st 2021.