Puzzle Wood

Natasha Barrett

  • Year of composition: 1994
  • Original work: Puzzle Wood
  • Version: Arr. Natasha Barrett, 2016-17
  • Duration: 13:34
  • Instrumentation: stereo fixed medium
  • ISWC: T0016882895

Puzzlewood is the name of a small forest — previously called Puzzle Wood — nestled on the edge of the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire (England, UK). The landscape is shaped by strange rock formations and caves formed by natural underground erosion, exploited by Iron Age settlers, and later the Romans, for the extraction of iron ore. Nature reclaimed the landscape that is now covered by ancient trees and traversed by meandering and confusing paths.

I first visited Puzzlewood at the age of four or five, when my family moved to the Forest of Dean. Fewer visitors than now frequented the area, and on my visit, the deserted Puzzlewood made a lasting impression on me. In recent years the area has been used for movie sets, amongst others for the filming of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015. I prefer to preserve my nostalgic memories of the place from the late 70s.

An alluring aspect of acousmatic music is its ability to evoke a multi-faceted and paradoxical listing experience, where our imagination for ‘unheard’ sounds interacts with the real, but invented sonic landscape. As new connections are made, new allusions jostle for attention. Some tiny fragment of sound may shatter the existing context to reveal an even stronger ‘trompe-l’œil’, or sweep it aside in favour of some personal reminiscence. In this way I would like listeners to lose themselves in Puzzle Wood.

The 2016 version of Puzzle Wood includes some minor compositional adjustments and a revision of this mastering process to bring forth musically important elements of the final mix. At the time of composition, in 1994, I was applying the latest technologies in experiments on how to project many sounds simultaneously without them masking each other. The process involved some extreme frequency ‘carving’, and although the results functioned in sound diffusion concerts, were problematic to successfully produce for a disc release with the available tools.


Puzzle Wood was realized in 1994 in the studios of City University London (England, UK) and premiered at City University London in 1994. The piece was composed as part of the doctoral degree program at City University. Puzzle Wood was awarded an Honorable Mention at the 17th Luigi Russolo International Competition (Varese, Italy, 1995).


  • 1994, Concert, City, University of London, London (England, UK)



About this recording

The piece was revised and mastered in 2016-17 at the composer’s studio in Hvalstad (Norway).