Attuned to a Silent Melody in Second Life

Silent Melody, March 2020 – click any image for full size

A full region, Silent Melody is an impressive, open region designed by Celtic McDaniels (Celtic3147) that offer room to explore, take photographs, relax and, at a time when we’re all being told to stay home, simply feel the richness of nature and breathe.

Rising from east to west, this is a setting that presents what might be taken as a slice of wilderness brought into the virtual; a place where water tumbles from pool to pool or down sheer faces of high cliffs to feed fast-flowing streams that in turn tumble away to coastal bays and channels that cut the region’s eastern side into attractive, irregular lowlands and islands.

Silent Melody, March 2020

The landing point is on the largest of these islands, sitting just above its rocky coastline, a lily-filled pool fed by a fountain and guarded by a brickwork square of path, offers a place to start explorations. From here, a track winds south and down to where a wooden bridge connects to a tongue of mainland that licks its way to the open sea, passing between the jaws of the landing point island and a smaller isle that forms the south-east corner of the region.

Two further bridges connect the landing point, one to region’s inland areas and the other to another little isle to the north-east. Both of these northern and south isles offer their own attractions – a shingle beach here, a chair hanging from the boughs of a tree there, while a picnic corner sits at the tip of the tongue extending between landing point and southern island.

Silent Melody, March 2020

Between these eastern isles and the western highlands, the land is a rich mix. Tracks are to be found running through parts of the grass and flower carpeted landscape, while picnic and seating spots lay scattered under the shade of trees and shrubs, little bridges connecting tracks and greenswards by spanning stream and inlet.

In the heart of the region sits a natural bowl of rock nestled against the feet the the western cliffs. It folds its arms around the ruins of a cabin, an old piano sitting outside to presenting a romantic setting, even through keys and strings have long since between given over to moss. An usual sitting spot can be found here, perfect for cuddles or contemplation – but you might have to look up in order to find it!

Silent Melody, March 2020

Just to the south of this stone ring, a track winds to the west, ending in grassy humps that rise to a rocky out-thrust from the high cliffs, stone steps rising from grass to its flat top. Here sits a large French provincial style house – but be warned, it is a private residence, so do try to avoid trespassing too close. However, it is possible to skirt the front of the house and reach a grass-topped path that runs around the cliffs like a hat band sitting half-way up their bulk. This path offers a way out onto the east-pointing finger of rock that extends away from the cliffs and channels one of the streams running down from the cliffs, before depositing it by way of the further set of falls to the inlet that cuts deepest into the region.

A humpbacked bridge sits at the end of this rocky out-thrust, reached on one side by a track that winds inland over the lowlands to the east, whilst on its far side a set of stone steps run down to a low-laying finger of land also pointing eastwards. From here, and via a further bridge, this one of wood, it is possible to reach the region’s north side, where a slender, white-sanded beach is watched over by a cosy waterside café.

Silent Melody, March 2020

West of the café, just a short walk over flower-speckled grass, sits formal gardens and a little precinct of town-style houses, little places of business and a second café, all squared-off around a stone fountain and dominated by the imposing bulk of an Irish-themed pub. The garden paths leading visitors to this square also pass an outdoor dance area marked by a pavilion and glass-sided piano. It’s one of two of what might be called “formal” dance areas within the region, the other being a deck connecting the bulk of the landscape with the little rocky isle sitting in the south-east corner of the region.

With its sense of space, subtle sound scape, plethora of places to sit (including those that might take a little time to spot, high and low, such is the fun of exploring!), and lots of opportunities for photography, Silent Melody offers a pleasing visual medley for all who visit.

Silent Melody, March 2020

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Ostoja: a woodland retreat in Second Life

Ostoja, March 2020 – click any image for full size

Designed by ViktoriaRaven and Janeen Arliss, Ostoja is a quarter of a Full region that is offered to public visits and photography. Bounded on two sides by curtains of cliffs on two sides, it is open to the sea on the other two – both watched over by a tall lighthouse, the rest of the parcel forming a high, mesa-like island linked to the cliffs by a pair of rock bridges.

Seen from the water, it is both an an intimidating and intriguing sight: its sheer sides seem to be foreboding, but the coastline offers a landing point with wooden steps climbing up to the top of the island and – if one looks – and the hint of a cave entrance promising secrets to be discovered.

Ostoja, March 2020

The landing point is located on a curved shelf of rock sitting just below the island’s peak, a place where an aged terrace sits and a small garden guards the wooden steps that rise from the beach. The greenhouse offers a place to lounge or bathe, whilst on the far side of the terrace from it a footpath of stepping stones points the way to a cliff-side glade on the far side of the island.

Here sits a tree-shaded conservatory, it’s high dome overlooking he ruins of a wall suggestive of an ancient structure, now all but gone. Beyond the wall is a private residence, the boundary marked by ban lines should you get too close. These spoil the setting a little, but as they’ve likely been raised as a result of people ignoring the signs requesting privacy, their presence is understandable.

Ostoja, March 2020

Behind the conservatory and sitting slightly above it, is the ruin, of an ancient chapel, a quiet retreat complete with its own pool of water, the brick surrounds of which speak to it clearly having been added a long time after the chapel had fallen past its prime. Around it, the plants, sofa and lights make the old chapel a cosy retreat.

Take the steps down to islands coastline, and the ribbon of beach that is home to flamingoes, places to sit, the aforementioned landing point and – that hidden cave entrance.

Ostoja, March 2020

Tunnels and and caverns sit within the very heart of the island, winding their way to a point where a hidden place for trysts awaits, and a further opening offers a way out to the inland side of the island, a place with a cinder beach, lit by floating lanterns and overlooked by the house on its rocky perch. An imposing figure carved from stone rises from rocky footings between island and the waterfalls of the cliff walls, a further guardian for the the setting and the house.

Compact but with a lot to discover, photogenic and detailed, Ostoja is a delight to visit, and a destination not to be missed. Caitlyn and I both enjoyed our ramblings there, and would (again!) like to thank Shawn for tip.

Ostoja, March 2020

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Art and a fort in Second Life

Grauland, March 2020 – click any image for full size

Grauland, the Homestead region held by JimGarand, is a location that undergoes periodic redesign on the part of its owner – something that keeps it an interesting and intriguing place to visit. We dropped into the region on Friday, March 21st having heard a whisper that Jim had been working on a new design; but as he was still in the process of moving walls and buildings around (and we didn’t want to intrude – or get clobbered by a wall passing by!) we quickly skedaddled away.

However, working with some speed, Jim took the region from a collection of wall sections and three buildings plonked down seemingly randomly, to a complete new setting that – as has always been the way with the region – offers a new delight for visitors.

Grauland, March 2020

The latest design – called Grauland Castle and Art Park – again offers an interesting mix. Split into two islands with what might be a sandy-bottomed tidal channel between them, the region presents a setting dominated by a great fort-like structure on the larger of the two. This has a mixed look of both Roman and medieval influences, presenting a large walled courtyard dominated by a basilica-like building together with a pair of clearly medieval buildings.

While the buildings were empty at the time of visiting, the rest of the grounds of this fort – it strikes me more of a fort than a castle, but that’s just a personal thing – offers 3D art awaiting appreciation. It’s an eclectic and attractive mix of sculptures and modern art pieces,  the courtyard also offering an outdoor seating area and a pergola covered bird cage, also with places to sit around it.

Grauland, March 2020

The art continues beyond the main, west-side gatehouse (which I’m using as an arbitrary landing point for this article), which contains the teleport to Jim’s sky-based store. Outside of the gate are two more pieces of art, one pointing the way to Grauland’s signature motif: it’s own version of the Giant’s Causeway formed from Cube Republic’s excellent basalt columns set.

To the south, across the narrow gorge / channel and on the smaller of the two islands, sit a ruined rotunda and a copy of Stonehenge. They lie separated from one another by the islands’ scrub grass, a single track running south from the fort to connect it to them, passing by way of a small bridge to do so. The south island can also be reached from outside the fort by following its walls south, while to the east there sits a low beach, its lie again suggesting it might also be tidal in nature.

Grauland, March 2020

This is a simple, minimalist build, but one offering an interesting mix of things to see, including a fair few – the fort, the henge, the rotunda and a tombstone raised in the last century – that suggest the island is a place with great age to it. One where art sits well within its boundaries, offering a further layer of interest for the Second Life traveller.

All told, another new twist on looks for Grauland, visually engaging and as worth taking the time to explore as the previous builds.

Grauland, March 2020

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Chouchou: The Babel re-opens in Second Life

Chouchou: the Babel

I was pleased to learn that The Babel, the “sounds lab” created by the musical partnership of pianist Arabesque Choche and vocalist Juliet Heberle, finally re-opened to the public on March 21st, 2020.

Originally conceived by the duo in 2009, The Babel was a fascinating interactive setting whilst available through until 2013, when it was closed and removed from the grid. More recently, and as I found myself reporting in May 2019, it looked as if all of the couple’s regions looked set for closure, the couple believing the builds had run their course. Fortunately, they were encouraged to reconsider their decision, and in October 2019, it was announced that the Chouchou regions would be remaining in SL under the auspices of the Second Life Region Preservation Society (SLRPS) – with the promise that The Babel would also be returning (see: Chouchou set to remain in Second Life – and there’s more).

Chouchou: The Babel

Well, it took a while to fully open but The Babel made its official public re-engagement on March 21st, 2020, and I took time out to jump over and visit after a somewhat hectic weekend, and am pleased to say that it remains an engaging visit for the musically minded.

To call The Babel a place would be a mistake; it is an experience, a musical construct comprising boxes, elements and levels, which may at first glance appear completely random – but there is order. Each box is a sound – a note or chord – which is played when touched. Some will play once when touched, others work on a toggle – they will play until touched again. These boxes are in turn grouped into elements, or collections of notes / chords / voices. By touching (and re-touching) the boxes around you, it is possible to create tonal harmonies and even “compose” your own pieces, although it takes a combination of practice and a quick eye / hand. Climb the stairs to play the upper levels, and you’ll find some of the steps also play notes, adding to the complexity.

If all this sounds confusing, Chouchou produced an introductory video to the build back in 2009, which once again has relevance.

Two books on the elements and boxes can be found at the foot of the spiralling stairs, but given the ambient lighting, these can be hard to read.

Climbing to the top of the stairs will take you in a room with piano notes and chords set out in two grids around a series of Julia’s voices, which some may find easier to “play”.

Chouchou: The Babel

As conceptual now as it was in 2009 (or 2012, when I first visited it!) The Babel makes and interesting return to Second Life and once more rounds-out the trio of Chouchou regions in-world.

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A lighthouse for the imagination in Second Life

Lighthouse IMAGINATION, March 2020 – click any image for full size

We were drawn to ARNICAR India’s build of Lighthouse IMAGINATION, located on her Homestead region of Everlong, through another recommendation from Shawn Shakespeare, and it presents a truly marvellous, atmospheric location. Sitting beneath a cloud-marbled  evening sky (although I’ve admittedly used an alternate sky setting in the images here), it is a windswept place, largely denuded of trees, rich in detail and the kind of setting that calls on you to stay and immerse yourself in its wild beauty.

The island rises from a slightly troubled sea, waves breaking over offshore groups of rocks, a skirt of gravel coast sitting between waves and the rising rocky face of the island, the undulating back of which is covered in moss-like grass. It’s a place that is home to less than a dozen trees, many of which are wizened with aged, backs bent as if curled against the winds that must surely wail across this lozenge-like landscape when the weather turns. Shrubs fair better than trees here, cliff edges and the rills between rock tops heavy with their greenery even as finger of bushes stretch out across flatter parts of the island’s top.

Lighthouse IMAGINATION, March 2020

This is a place dominated by a single structure: a massive brick-built lighthouse that stands firm upon a great stone foot anchored at the island’s northern end. The multi-faceted eye of this massive industrial-looking place turns unblinkingly, warning away the ships that can be seen to sail slowly by, their outlines softened by off-shore mists, and that might otherwise stray to close to the dangers posed by the rocks lurking beneath the waves.

The Lighthouse is a place that again speaks to the dark moods of nature that can perhaps lash this island: the great stone footings, the heavy brick walls, the use of iron girders and steel plates rather than wooden stairs and platforms to provide ways up to the lighthouse and around its tower to the light. Both metal and steel may be rusted, but they are robustly bolted together and embedded in the walls of the lighthouse, ready to stand firm against whatever Nature might throw at them – although it’s hard not to feel pity for the lighthouse warden who has to travel the exposed, curling path up to the light in times of storm…

Lighthouse IMAGINATION, March 2020

To compensate for such times, the interior of the lighthouse is warmly furnished and equipped. A cast iron stove heats the main living room, a second, wood-burning stove likewise heating the room above and to one side of it while the third offers creature comforts: ale, billiards and a chance to forget what’s outside should the weather turn.

Getting around the top of the island  is assisted by an old bridge and lashed trunks of fallen trees, all of which span the rills and cuts that divide the land. However, getting down to the shoreline is a little harder (indeed, getting up and into the lighthouse can be a bit of a challenge); explorers need to find the appropriate points in the island’s flanks where the rocks dip to provide natural trails down to the surrounding ribbon of gravel.

Lighthouse IMAGINATION, March 2020

It’s worth taking the time to find these paths down and exploring the island’s narrow coast, as both will reveal more of its secrets and beautiful detail; places to sit, owls, birds and waterfowl to observe, sheep to wander past, a shoreline photographer to slip but without disturbing – and more.

These delights extend offshore as well, both to the south-east and to the west. At both of these points, paths are marked through the shallows. One of these leads to a wooden birdwatcher’s nest perched on an outcrop of rock and raised above the risk of tidal flooding and the annoyance of waves and spray by stout wooden legs. It is a cosy little place, rich in art and ideal for escaping other island tourists – or for observing them from a distance.

Lighthouse IMAGINATION, March 2020

The second path, marked by two of Cica Ghost’s ducks walking it, points to a tiny offshore setting that is an absolute delight: a partially sunken garden terrace, home to a grand piano sheltered by another aged tree, a chandelier hanging from one of its boughs. This is a totally unexpected setting to come across, utterly serene and offering a further nuanced depth to the region.

Quite marvellously designed, enriched by the local sound scape, offering much to explore whilst keeping a wonderfully desolate beauty, Lighthouse IMAGINATION is a fabulous visit – one bound to set your own imagination free.

Lighthouse IMAGINATION, March 2020

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The snowy fields of Studland Bay in Second Life

Studland Bay, March 2020 – click any image for full size

We first visited Studland Bay earlier in the year. At the time the region may have been under redesign, as it was primarily a snowy island, a little hilly in places, and with a few trees. A dirt track ran around the island, a trail for a team of horses and their carriage to follow, but there was little else to be found.

Since then, this Homestead region, designed by Eliza Quixote, has been enhanced to offer – at least at the time of our most recent visit in mid-March – it offers a pastoral setting still held by winter, making it an ideal visit for those who might otherwise be missing the allure of snow.

Studland Bay, March 2020

The landing point is located close to the island’s lone house, a be-porched farmhouse with barns close by and a frozen pond behind. The house is cosily furnished and offers an attractive break from the snowbound landscape, should the latter get to be too much (the house doesn’t appear to be a private residence). It also includes some highly acceptable rules for the use of the porch.

The most obvious way to explore the region is to follow the track. This loops its way around the core of the island, sometimes branching, including to find its way through one of the barns. It offers a comprehensive routine around the farmlands, the path well-rutted by the passage of the cart with its team and by the tractors available for farm use.

Studland Bay, March 2020

The fields here are mostly devoid of fencing, adding to the feel of openness in which the local cattle can roam in search of grass on which to graze – the snow being of a depth where the grass is not too heavily covered. Should it turn out that the snow falls again, there is plenty of hay that can be spread as required. The one fence on the island serves to ring a group of sheep, who similarly graze through the snow, and which are watched over by an eager collie.

The walks along the tracks will also reveal the surrounding regions in the estate, however, while these may appear inviting, the majority appear to be private, so be wary about being tempted to hop over an take a look.

Studland Bay, March 2020

Easy on the eye, with the opportunity to ride a horse-drawn carriage and plenty of places amenable to photography and with a easy, well-suited sound scape, Studland Bay makes for a restful, easy visit.

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