I parked near an interesting construction site today. There was some large device that I suspect might have been a pump or generator (sounded more pump like) and there was a large crane rigged up to drill some very deep looking holes. I recorded a fair bit of material even though most of it was pretty regular cyclic mechanical sounds. I am glad I did because at one stage the drill must have hit some hard rock or some other snag as the entire array shook quite violently. The sound for this was not quite as spectacular as the entire 100 meter high rig shaking, but it was still a good sound to grab.
Location Hachinohe and Aomori Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom pole array
Even in the remote northern area of Japan there are many different train lines. Japan has an extensive and very effective rail network. The unusual thing is that every single line seems to utilize its own unique set of rolling stock. A one hour express train trip from Hachinohe to Aomori City (two main city centres in Northern Japan) gave me the opportunity to record no less than 5 or 6 different engine sounds from various angles and distances. The express train I travelled north on was quick and fairly quite inside however the local train I returned on was a simple two carriage setup with lots of bumping and squeaking to record. Japanese are unusual in that they will often travel long journeys without speaking to each other so I had the opportunity to record many of the train’s sounds that I would only have otherwise gotten if I’d had the entire train to myself. I doubt I will be this lucky in other countries. I will attempt to research the exact model numbers of all the trains I recorded as this might be useful or of some interest to some people.
Trains at Hachinohe
Diesel engine in the snow
This picture was taken earlier in the year when it was still snowing. I did record the engines on this trip, but it was before I started the regular journal entries. Any trip by train in Japan provides the opportunity to see many different types of rolling stock, and they all sound just slightly different.
Location Sannohe Aomori Japan Equipment Roland R09 Handheld
Sannohe Town area
As with a great many recordings today was simply opportunistic.The rainy season will be starting soon throughout Japan and so rain showers are becoming more common. On a brief trip through town I noticed the water flow in the drain system was not only quite strong, but seemed to be flowing in audible waves. The end result could be quite effective to simulate an underground river or something similar. I did however reconfirm the important lesson of “make sure you empty your memory card regularly” as I ran out of storage space. Typically once I had filled my memory card a seagull decided to sit next to me and make lots of unusual squawking sounds.
Location Sannohe Aomori Japan Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom pole array
Sannohe Town area
In Japan council workers will work even on Saturdays, and recently the town council has been resurfacing the roads through the centre of town. This was a good opportunity to record a variety of material. The process involves several pieces of heavy machinery from a standard small scale earth mover to rollers and a machine that lays out bitumen.
I tried to get isolated samples of each of the larger machines, but the various stages of work occur simultaneously, so most of the samples contain the general ambiance of a busy work site.
It is also the time of year for farmers to be planting their rice fields. Many farmers still do all of this by hand, but many use a small strange looking tractor that has metal wheels fro moving through muddy rice fields. The tractor takes fresh rice stalks and sows them into the ground in a rotary mechanical motion. I am hoping that the sounds from this carry above the general running sound of the tractor as they are an interesting combination of mechanical whirring and a watery slosh sound.
Finally today I was able to capture two frogs who have taken up residency in an unused swimming pool. The local elementary school has a pool that looks like it has not been used for several decades (probably since the economic crash in the 80’s I suspect) As a large body of water I am surprise there were not more frogs present. It did allow me to get a good clean sample of just two frogs isolated instead of the usual horde of frogs present in the rice fields in this area.
Location Nanbu Aomori Japan Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom pole array
The nearby peony garden at the foot of Mount Nakui will be holding its festival this weekend. This was a good opportunity to visit the garden before all the visitors arrived and have a look as well as see if there were any birds that could be recordable.
There were in fact quite a few birds in the surrounding forest however the wind was a little strong to get an nice isolated bird sound, however it was possible to get some fairly good general ambience with wind and a selection of birds together. By far the most annoying aspect was the almost continual series of aeroplanes flying overhead. Jumbos have the annoying ability to be heard almost from horizon to horizon, so a single plane can disrupt recording for 5 to 10 minutes.
The real event of this trip was an unexpected opportunity to record something in a drain. I believe it was a frog, as that would be the most logical thing to be sitting in a drain, however its sounds were a combination of slightly croaky frog sounds and all together non froggy squeaks. I did try to see into the drain but whatever it was I could not see it.
I have classified this one as a frog sound, but I cannot be totally certain of its identity. Once again it seems to be the things you don’t expect that are the most interesting.
Location Tazawako, Akita, Japan Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 boom pole array & Roland R09 handheld
This is the first full entry in the recording journal. The previous entries are summaries of past recording sessions and some of the notable aspects of those sessions. The previous recording sessions occurred some time ago and as a result most of the information is drawn from memory so I’m not going to swear to the accuracy, there may however be some useful information for some people.
This entry actually covers a few days over what is called Golden Week in Japan. This is a national holiday over the course of a week where most of the country goes somewhere for one of their few vacations.We decided to go to Lake Tazawa in Akita prefecture as we had been there briefly in the past and wanted to visit it again. We were really lucky and had 4 days of stunning weather. I had taken all my gear with me specifically to record anything of interest while we were there. We were staying in a camping ground in a log cabin about 50 meters from the lake and over the course of the week we did a bunch of stuff.
Lake Tazawa, Japan
We took a tour in a smallish tourist boat across the lake. (held maybe 50 people) One of the really unusual things about the Japanese is they really don’t talk very much in public, even when they are on holiday. Even when they are in a boat on a tour looking at lots of interesting sites they all just stand quietly. This allowed me to hold the R09 in the boat as it travelled across the lake and get beautifully clean recordings of the boat at all the different speeds it was moving. I could hold the R09 over the back near the engines, or over the sides to record the water movement, or inside the cabin area to get the general sound of the boats interior. In Australia all I would be able to record in these circumstances would be screaming kids and chatting adults so it was a great opportunity.
The next day we decided to hire some bikes and ride around the lake. It was only about 10 km so it was not going to be a difficult ride. As we rode around I held the R09 behind me to screen it from wind noise and record some of the bike movement. I did not have a wind jammer for the R09 at this stage so it didn’t really work very well. Later in the afternoon when we returned to the camp site I grabbed the Zoom on the pole and rode around the car park recording. This worked a lot better as the Sennheiser mic is better protected from wind noise. I got some good material of pedalling rolling and breaking on the bike.
That evening I walked down to the lake after dark. There were no people around and almost no traffic on the roads at all. This allowed me to get some good samples of the frogs right next to the lake. I always love recording nature sounds when I can get them cleanly. I needed to approach the frogs very slowly through the marsh area, treading carefully not to make any loud footfalls or break anything. Once I was in position I stood completely still for nearly ten minutes while I recorded. I find this a lot easier than it sounds because I find myself mesmerized by the sounds I am capturing, so I just relax, stand and listen. The better the circumstances for recording (i.e. not background noise) the easier I find it to stand still.
Tazawako Japan Sunset
Apart from the boat, bike and frogs I grabbed some nice bird sounds and the very squeaky sound of a pedal boat Anna and I hired to potter round the lake in. These were all pretty standard recordings with nothing very unusual in the recording process. This trip marked the first instance where I had really started work on gathering material specifically for the library. I had previously started to catalogue my archives of material, but I had not formally started adding to it. From here on things are going to get interesting.