Gala Bingo

Coal tit

Asda toilet door

Humpback Whale

Office Telephone

Tree cricket

Tesco checkout


Pedestrian crossing

Great tit

Primary school playground


Shopping centre lift


Police Siren


Office printer

Scops owl

Boys on street


Follow the Voice, 2009

HD Digital video, 16:9
10:45 min
Filmed in Shrewsbury, UK
Wildlife Sound Consultant: Geoff Sample
Camera and sound by Bevis Bowden
Additional recordings by Geoff Sample
Video post-production by VET
First screened in Shrewsbury Unitary Chapel
Commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and Shropshire Museums Services

Following Darwin’s insights into the interconnectedness of species and a playful echo of his book, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (1872), this video establishes parallels between a range of familiar man-made sounds recorded in Darwin’s birthplace, Shrewsbury, and a chorus of animal cries and bird calls. The urban sounds are sped up and slowed down to locate the point at which they closely resemble the sounds of the animal calls. An an office printer slowed down to 9 per cent of its original speed reveals a tone that matches the frequency and duration of the call of a scops owl; a police car siren sped up 800 per cent is very similar to a section of a song sung by a greenfinch; the ‘ beep’ of a Tesco supermarket checkout when slowed to 10 per cent takes on the quality of the rare bittern call; and the toilet doors in Asda, when opened and closed slowly, are acoustically close to humpback whale calls.

In response to seeing him filming in the high street, Coates explains ‘that a man across the street shouted at me, turned around, dropped his trousers and slapped his buttocks’. This sound, slowed down to 10 per cent, is very similar to a nightjar wing clap: a sound this bird makes as part of its territorial display.

First screened in Shrewsbury Unitary Chapel (the church Darwin worshipped in as a child).