Access provision for By the Sound of Things

Audio Description of By the Sound of Things


Transcripts of By the Sound of Things


Oh, beautiful thing, how far have you voyaged to be with me

They call me a Sea Can;
I am Intermodal container: GVC U 203093 2 (that’s my reporting mark)

I’m a 40ft steel box
Rectangular, corrugated core-ten steel with plywood floor,
An empty space in waiting – 63 cubic meters.
My volume is my commodity. I can hold 12000 shoe boxes,
I can carry 25 tonnes of stuff

I am One of 50 million Sea Cans
One vessel, a bearer of things, among millions of bearers of things.

Ah, the things I have held. Borne them across swollen oceans aboard heaving metal beasts.
In this void – what has been here before?
Bananas? T-shirts?

Bouncy balls, car doors, sponges, washing machines, Tupperware, teaspoons, and microwaves. Wind-up Toy cars, Stocking fillers, party hats, headphones, books you will never read, electronic this and that. Toothbrushes, toilet rolls, Polyfilla and rubber gloves. Storage boxes, for making tidy, all this Stuff

The things I bring comfort you, thrill and entertain you, save you time, make your life easier?
They also become overbearing to you. You must have a clear out.
You must unburden yourself, free yourself from all those objects of desire.

All of these things.
Click – buy now
and they’ll arrive, next-day delivery, in smiling boxes,
do their dance, play their music for you.
Think of all those things, voyaged from afar

All of these things – this orchestra of the everyday.
where are they all now?
So many of these bits and bobs have fallen silent
Bouncy balls lost in hedges, chargers for things you no longer own,
phones – now piled on broken phones in drawers – the spoon that fell down the back of the radiator, lost lego bricks in hoover bags,

Your home is an island of marooned castaways,
A tide of things comes in and out
washing up on your shores and carried away
you buy and you throw away



Oh, beautiful thing, how far have you voyaged to be with me

They call me a Sea Can;
I am Intermodal container: MRK U 992534 5.

I am a witness to the ocean – a listener.
a resonating chamber – an instrument played by commerce
I hear it all.

A vast container yard stretches as far as the eye can see
Boxes on boxes on Boxes
I am in the middle of a stack, ready for loading.
I am waiting for a ship called EDITH

I am packed, belly full with things you need, want, desire
and things you don’t really need, and don’t really want.

My cargo will soon be dispersed across a thousand homes
Will you remember that once they were sea faring adventurers?
They have circumnavigated the globe
12,000 nautical miles

EDITH is here
She’s come to collect me
We’ll be heading west

Ningbo, Hong Kong, South China Sea, Singapore, Vung Tau, Indian Ocean, Suez Canal,
Strait of Gibraltar, Hamburg, Rotterdam, Antwerp, English Channel, Southampton, Liverpool

A gantry crane lifts, and I’m swung high in the air
onto a towering stack of containers.
A careful waterborne balancing act

I am a number in a game of global Tetris. I am a dancer in a global ballet
I am a drum that beats to the rhythm of commerce.
The objects I’m carrying are choreographies of matter
Dug, refined, formed, assembled
Barcoded, tracked, loaded, transported, unloaded


EDITH thunders westbound across the ocean, in the black of night.
with her bounty of 15 thousand corrugated boxes
Only the man on watch looks out.
She screams your song
shouts it far into the dark of the deep.

the roar of the world’s biggest diesel engine, 5 storeys tall and 110 thousand horsepower.
The mighty beat of a mighty beast
Burning 16 tons of pitch-black bunker fuel an hour
The dregs of the refining process.
So thick that, when cold, you could walk on it.

It could only be burnt out here, where you won’t care.
Free to spew that filthy, black-carbon breath into the sea air.
50 million cars’ worth.

BE DIRTY, BEAST. No-ones watching

Out there are thousands upon thousands of ships, their engines roaring in unison,
their huge propellers churning through the water
If they were a country, together they’d be the world’s sixth highest polluter.
5 thousand dots on a global map
their spidery trails outlining the continents.
You have filled every gap, every space with the act of buying and selling
And also below
echoing into the deep


You think you’ve tamed the oceans.
Shipping lanes treat wild water like roads
Neat little lines of ships.
Where are the raging storms of your childhood dreams?
The confusion of mists?
Shipwrecks, pirates, mythical beasts?
Ghostly bells, ringing from the depths,
Drowned towns?
The seduction of sirens? … The sweet song that lures you onto the rocks

You have tamed it all with cold efficiency. Sliced through mystery with GPS.

Buy now – click – and the objects of your desire are teleported into your waiting arms
The journey dissolves into nothing.
Have you erased the sea?
Do you no longer dream of the horizon?

The sirens call you in
The siren-song of ‘click and collect’

A storm is brewing
Rain lashing
Gale-force winds heaving against the sides of the container stack

A storm force stronger than steel
EDITH is pitching, heaving, rolling
We’re all swaying

I’m loose, I’m loose
One violent surge on a wave the size of a house
And I fall overboard

The ship screams on into the distance
And I am left behind
floating, lost at sea

The water floods in
And I dip below the surface – I have crossed the horizon

come with me
take on new ears
your ears are not ears for the sea.

We can hear the percussion of rain on the surface
And we hear the ship
her noise, long gone in air, lingers long, and loud in water
The mini-explosions of fuel igniting inside the engine cylinders
the rotating gears and propellor shaft
bubbles formed by the ship’s churning propellers
And the waves in its wake

her noise is directly related to her speed
The faster her propeller turns, the louder she roars

I’m filling, sinking
slowly into the dark
below – into a different realm
bound for the deep seafloor.

I am carrying my own lost Atlantis
Objects that will never reach their high street shelf, or their kitchen drawers.
They are visitors to a new world

The sea is a thick space.
Light withers, smothered by its depths.
Sound is amplified, accelerated – free.

This is a world of sound.

Water is 800 times denser than air – and sound behaves differently,
it travels 5 times faster
Water supercharges sound

Animals down here might only be able to see for a few meters
But they can hear for thousands, even tens of thousands
Sound is their way of seeing their world

Sound is used to understand
to orient and communicate,
to signal and locate

Sound connects everything
Here every animal sensing sound is deliberately locked into the water

They navigate along gradients of sound
Sense patterns in the soundscape; to find each other, to find prey, to find home

The ocean throngs with a chorus, a polyphony
many voices forming a delicate and intricate song.

The aching song of mammals – their low frequency moan and high frequency click and pulse
The grunt of fish, and the crackle and snap percussion of invertebrates.

As a collective, marine life is painting the sea with sound
Singing and re-singing the sea into being.


And down
As the light fails
The ships engine roars on still, hours after the fall
A low continuous drone.
It’s like the sound of too many voices talking at once
Noise, all the time

If you see with sound, this noise is blinding
Like a bright light from all directions turning all to white
An acoustic fog
Can’t find food
Can’t find a mate
Can’t socialise
Can’t locate
Imagine losing all information about the world you live in

Man-made sound – ships, seismic survey blasts, sonar, pile driving – can create Sounds so loud – pressure waves so violent – they can kill invertebrates on impact, burst the swim bladders of fish and rupture the ear drums of mammals.
Sounds many orders of magnitude greater than anything the natural world produces.

Try to imagine, you are a mile away from the source of a noise
How loud would that noise need to be to shake you to death?
How loud would a train have to be for you to hear it 100 miles away?

Sound is vibrating every atom
Noise affects everything from the molecule to the ecosystem

Shipping is the greatest source of noise in the ocean
now detectible everywhere in the world
from the deep ocean to the arctic,
All the time
A constant and chronic noise

Blue whale hearing is sensitive enough to hear a ship approaching for 24hrs before it arrives and 24hrs after it passes
For a Blue whale, that individual ship is a 2-day experience.


Everything you buy has a second sound, an echo.
A little piece of this ship noise is wrapped up in the objects in your pocket.
Swearing into the sea
Your consumerism depletes, but it also overburdens

What if it all just slowed down

You could do with a little hesitation
A pause before you buy
to imagine a horizon beyond the horizon of your doorstep
a depth beyond the depth of your pockets

Oh beautiful thing, how far have you voyaged to be with me