Wet and Dry is an immersive soundscape, which spans around 20 minutes and encapsulates the perceptions that a mixed-heritage child has manifested of her parents and their personalities. It incorporates vibrant and captivating narration alongside intense and at times unsettling audio, demonstrating Estelle Birch’s vision through a fascinatingly vivid auditory lens.
The piece is mostly a descriptive one, firstly explaining the characteristics of a dry person’s face, one that is warm, bearded, with broken glasses that are in front of small, gentle eyes. A dry person is wrinkled, they snore, and their beards are full of wisdom and crumbs. Whilst the narrator is exploring these features, audio such as bristling hairs and intense snoring pans across the listeners ears, completely immersing them in the narrator's world. It achieves this in a way that forces the listener to look closely at the character described, sometimes in ways too close for comfort, but never frightening, moreso with a realism that seems almost invasive. Birch describes dry people further, saying that they smell of nature, and they are always pondering, losing themselves in their own thoughts.
After describing what now seems to be the narrator's father, she continues to convey the nature of a wet person, which can only now be assumed to be her mother. She mentions that they aren't as hidden, are more energetic, and ‘smile all day’. They are infectiously funny, and are almost startling in their approach, but in a similarly warm fashion - like that of the more reserved dry person. Their eyes are also small, and kind. They aren’t wrinkled, they’re smooth. Wet people talk quickly, with saliva bouncing around their mouth. Now, more viscous noises join the soundscape, which are louder and more unsettling than the dry sounds before it, squelching past the ears in a wince-inducing audio section. The panning exasperates the noise as it grows louder, before falling into a much more palatable muffled section which depicts the child falling asleep to her parents watching television downstairs.
The narrative continues, describing the habits of both individuals, how a dry person will be nearly silent, will only eat dry and savoury food without gravy, and smoke cigarettes heavily. They enjoy music considerably, even if they’re never seen dancing. Contrasting that is a wet person’s loudness, their sweeter tooth and their slurping of soups. Wet people love gravy, and season their food well. What follows is a striking soundscape passage where slurping noises overlap with the slow coughing of a dry person – surprisingly therapeutic, but nevertheless alien and visceral.
Wet people correlate with playfulness and whimsical ‘boing’ noises, which eventually develop into a vibrant beat of glitchy sounds that interchange and evolve to create a cacophony of chiming dings and the rebounding of springs, it is enveloping and peculiarly pleasant. Juxtaposing the mayhem is the silence of a dry person, with a faint tapping foot, and the rubbing of dry hands when a good story is ready to be told, which is likened to the sound of bark or crusty bread by Birch. The piece concludes with the dichotomy of traits being described through each ear, respective to their attributing person, left for that of a dry person, right for wet. The final phrase is “encourage you to dance”. A fitting end for the auditory rollercoaster, and one that encapsulates the positivity found within each description, in stark contrast to the sometimes unsettling noises also heard within the piece.