Location Mount Osoresan Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom pole array
With only a few weeks left in Japan we wanted to revisit Mt. Osoresan one last time. Mt Osoresan translates to mean Mount Fear, and it is the second most holy place in Japan after Mt Fuji. There is a large temple complex there and many believe it is where many spirits go when they die. The mountain itself is an inactive volcano but there is still a lot of activity from hot springs, steam outlets and sulfur everywhere. The trip up the mountain supplied some good opportunities to record some more Japanese bird sounds as well as the first instances of the summer insects. There are various Crickets and Cicadas that are active during Japanese summertime, but the species vary greatly across the island. The sounds of the insects in the south of the country are completely different from those in the middle of the country and again in the north of the country.
Osoresan Volcanic Pool
Once we got to the temple complex itself I was able to record various samples of gases escaping the ground under pressure bubbly pools, and other interesting volcanic activities. Some of the sound sources were very quiet and were tricky to isolate, however most of the Japanese visitors to Osoresan are there only for the temple area, so it was possible to move away from the crowds and get some good material. Visually Osoresan looks far more appropriate when it's overcast and raining, maybe it complements the “place of the dead” feel, but having a clear sunny day was far more useful for recording quiet sounds. Osoresan is the second most holy place in Japan and many people come here to pray for the souls of young children. There are dozens of statues and little idols dedicated to children who have passed away. There are also dozens of brightly colored pinwheels that blow in the wind constantly. I guess these are to cheer the spirits of the departed children. I found the area very peaceful without being ominous. Many Japanese seem to be very uncomfortable with the place and were surprised we went there.
Osoresan Temple Complex
The contrast between the bleak gray volcanic crater and the brightly colored children s toys and pinwheels is really interesting. Osoresan is a place where people come to visit the spirits of departed children and as such they leave toys and snacks that children would love. The pinwheels are very common and add a unusual feeling to the atmosphere as they spin in the wind. It is places like Osoresan that really add to the feeling of mystery in Japan. A country with amazing modern technology living side by side with centuries old traditions and beliefs.
As part of the process to extend the non metallic sections of the materials library I set out to record a series of glass breaking samples today. Having access to a remote unused depot in a quiet spot on a mountain certainly helped the process. Using some discarded mirrors about 50cm square I recorded various samples of glass breaking through being dropped and impacted upon. It took a few shots to get the levels exactly right but I captured some good material. Two things I learnt from this session. Firstly I decided not to break all of the 12 plates of glass I had with me. I thought it might be a good idea to save some of them for a second session just in case there were any issues with the material. While it is possible to check the material on site, it is often not until you return to the studio that you discover issues with levels, unknown sound contamination and various other unexpected issues. Especially when dealing with a limited resource (I only had 12 plates to smash) it may be wise to plan for 2 sessions allowing you to redo anything that didn’t work. In this case the material was good, but the second session I am going to use the remaining plates to simulate things piercing glass. I will reinforce some of the plates with tape and then use projectiles to punch through the glass hopefully getting a good simulation of bullets breaking glass.
My favourite depot in Sannohe
The second thing I learnt is that glass takes a long time to clean up. I took along several containers to collect all the shrapnel in and a brush and shovel to help me collect the pieces. Glass however literally explodes when it breaks and 70% of my time was spent after recording hunting down glass shards. The glass was then added to the recycling pile for the next collection. It’s also a really good idea to wear protective gear when dealing with glass. I did and was glad of it.
After four or five days straight of rain (courtesy of the wet season) it was nice to have some clear weather so I could record something other than rain. Unfortunately everyone else seemed to be making the most of the good weather as well. I did manage to record a few stone material sounds, but there was a lot of noise coming from the sports park just down the road.The local elementary schools were having an athletics event day. Not wanting to pass up an opportunity I managed to record a couple of races to get both the starters gun as well as some passing sounds of people sprinting, as well as lots of kids cheering the events.
I have previously recorded the local temple bell being rung in town on the handheld Roland R09, but I wanted to get another recording with the Sennheiser on the F4. Using the shotgun mic means I will get more detail in the sound, but it also increases the amount of external sounds I might get as it is much more sensitive. The recording was nice and clear, but I think I underestimated just how powerful the bell would be, with hindsight I guess a bell the size of a human being should be expected to have a pretty high output. I will go through the material and see what can be used but I am expecting to have to make one final trip to the temple to get the full range of sound the bell can produce.
Location Sannohe Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom pole array One of the best things about the rainy season is the frequent thunder storms. Staying in a quiet area of a small country town means often good recordings can be made without traffic and people contaminating the sounds, so when a thunderstorm comes through it is well worth setting up a microphone just to see what you get. I usually setup my usual rig upstairs, pointing out an open window. This way I can continue to work on my PC downstairs without worrying that I will contaminate my own recordings. Today I did so and was rewarded with some very good thunder sounds as the storm passed directly overhead. The sound that thunder makes changes considerably with your proximity to its source. As a general rule distant thunder will be just the low frequency rumblings. As the storm and the lightning gets closer to your position you should hear more high frequency elements of the sound. The sound of lightning breaking directly overhead sounds like the sky has just been torn open. The volume and range of frequencies are extreme and it is an incredible sound to try and capture. The trick is trying to set your input levels to get a good recording of the distant thunder but also to make sure it doesn’t peak out when the storm moves closer.
Although the sounds of the factory demolition from yesterday were excellent, I realized that I have been spending a lot of time recording metal based sounds recently, pretty much at the expense of other materials. I decided I needed to rectify this, so today I went out and recorded various earth and rock movement sounds, as well as a series of plant and tree sounds. I want to try and make the materials section as comprehensive as possible, so for the moment I am planning to gather a large range of other material based sounds. Stonework will be a little difficult while in Japan as they don’t really use stone or bricks to build with, but it will be a good opportunity to gather wood sounds. For the last few weeks I have been hunting a bird. The wildlife here is very seasonal, and you can tell exactly what season a Japanese film is set in by what birds or insects you can hear in the background. At the moment there are many birds around as it is still spring prior to the rainy season starting. One in particular that I have been trying to capture is a local species of cuckoo. The issue is that I believe there is only one in the area, and it covers a very large area and doesn’t stay still for long. It has been conveniently perching outside our back door, but this means I would be pointing a microphone down the hill in the direction of the main road. I have tried several times to circle around and record it pointing up the hill but it has always flown off. This evening it appeared to be getting ready to nest further up our hill behind the local elementary school. My initial attempt to record was frustrated and interrupted by several cars that all decided to go down our street at that time, then it was followed by a town announcement on the town public speakers (yes this happens a lot in Japan) and then finally a jumbo flew overhead. Despite my being sure it was not going to stay vocal through all of this I did manage to make my way up behind the school and position myself at the foot of the hill and record a good clean sample of our cuckoo. In total I have probably spent several hours chasing this single bird around town. I was happy to get a good sample, but it can be really hard being patient for so long.
Today was a day for exploring. We decided to travel along the coast north of Hachinohe. We have been south a lot but never north. The northern part of Hachinohe is the port district and has a lot of industrial areas. In one of the older areas an old factory was being demolished. I nearly drove past but it seemed too good an opportunity. There was a large earth mover but instead of the bucket attachment it had what was essentially a giant pair of pliers attached. With this is was cutting entire metal girders in half and then grabbing them and ripping them away from the building structure. I recorded quite a bit of very good material with some excellent bending and ripping metal sounds on a much larger scale than I have previously been able to record.
Wreckers Machinery Hachinohe
I've included this picture just because its a perfect example of some of the strange things you see in Japan. This was on a country back road along the eastern coastline of Japan, north of Hachinohe. The building its standing in front of is a hair dresser of all things.
Today was the first good weather in nearly a week. With the rainy season just on us it is generally going to be cloudy and very wet for a while. Today however was sunny and 30 degrees, so I decided to go for a walk and get a few things around town I had previously missed. There is a sawmill on the far side of town that runs nearly everyday. Like a lot of Japanese businesses in remote areas it has very little in the way of security or safety equipment. Even though I was standing on the public footpath I was less than ten meters from the saw in the workhouse. This resulted in a good clean recording.
Sannohe Hospital Plant Room
The heat seemed to be working in my favour. The local hospital had opened all the external doors to their plant rooms allowing me to stand in the doorway and record all the plant equipment. A lot of the various air conditioners and equipment sound very similar but I will continue to record and add them to the library as the more variety there is available, the more options there are for the users. Today was a very good day for recording overall.
Location Sannohe Japan Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Tripod floor stand & Roland R09 Propped up.
A friend challenged me recently to create a specific sound for him, and I realized I had not as yet recorded any organic Foley sounds for the library. I want to have fairly large range of organics for various uses so I thought this was a good opportunity to get some.
I doubled the usefulness of the time spent by actually preparing dinner at the same time.
In this manner I got a good range of domestic sounds of chopping cutting and peeling vegetables as well as some good Foley suitable to represent bones cracking and splitting, skin tearing and various other unpleasant organic sounds. I’ll create sound effect to add to the created section to demonstrate the kinds of things these sounds can be used for.