Typically on the day when we are staying with friends who live right out in the middle of nowhere it rains. So on the morning when I was hoping to get some nice clean early morning bird sounds without the contamination of nearby roads or people the whole bush is quiet as a grave. I tried to record their chickens but I think even they were sulking over the weather. I did record a small amount of material, but I am suspecting its going to be of very limited use.
Location Batemans Bay NSW Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom pole array
The weather has been getting warmer as we move north, but also the wildlife has been changing dramatically. Outside our hotel there were a number of Rainbow Lorikeets and some Sulphur Crested Cockatoos. I managed to get a pretty good sample for the lorikeets but only a small amount of the cockatoo. I want to try and get more of the cockies as they are another iconic Australian bird. The Lorikeets has a small feeding pan the hotel owners had put out, this proved really handy as they got somewhat defensive when I was recording them and changed to an aggressive squawk I might not otherwise have gotten. I think the furry wind cover on my mike sometimes looks like another animal. I have had interesting reactions from animals in the past to it.
Location Cann River, South Gippland Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom pole array
We finally found a stretch of road with not too much traffic on it where I could stop for 5 minutes and record some Bellbirds. These are a very characteristically Australian sound I think. There were a few of them in a clump of tress and I managed to get a good sample, even though I could hear a chainsaw off in the distance somewhere. It doesn’t seem to matter how far out in the middle of nowhere that you go, there are always people making noise somewhere. This has always been one of the biggest issues with location recording. Its not just the difficulty with finding the material you want to record, its finding it somewhere where there isn't loads of other sounds contaminating your recording. Patience is important, but also a good dose of luck can be a great help
Location South Gippland Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom pole array
We are now on our way North to Queensland. We have hired a 4WD and will be spending about 5 days driving along the east coast of Australia. I plan to record anything of interest whenever I get the chance. I had missed the opportunity to record a wind power generator in Japan, and so I was glad to have the chance to grab some material here. We were able to get within about 50 meters of a very large wind turbine and the sound as we go tout of the car was great. These things are pretty big and the sound was well worth the detour. Typically there were cows who decided to be very noisy, but I got a fair bit of material with just the turbine going. I also recorded the power depot next to the car-park which had a good generic electrical hum going on.
Location Melbourne CBD Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom pole array and Roland R09 Handheld I had previously missed out on recording the flame towers at Crown Casino on the day I recorded the bells at St Paul’s Cathedral. The weather had been very ordinary and they generally don’t bother activating them in poor weather. To explain to people who have never witnessed the towers; Melbourne’s casino is situated on the banks of the Yarra river with a promenade running along the river banks. Placed at intervals along the promenade are towers approximately 10 meters high that at night time on the hour spew out giant gas flames. Its quite a visual spectacle albeit a huge waste of gas. But more importantly from my point of view the igniting of that volume of gas makes a very impressive and bloody loud noise.I arrived about ten minutes early and decided to record a bit of general city ambiance while I waited. When the actual show started I was alerted by the sound of gas being pumped under pressure into the towers. This gave me time to set my levels and get into a good position. I decided to use both rigs to maximize the material I recorded. I have recorded these in the past on older equipment, but I thought it was well worth getting newer samples. The show as I remembered it was spectacular and I captured a fair bit of good material.
Casino Flame Towers
After the casino I had organized to meet a friend at the newly upgraded and newly named Southern Cross Station at the edge of the CBD. This is Melbourne’s main train Station for country and interstate travel. I was actually pretty impressed with the new layout and wandered around recording a few of the trains. I was disappointed to miss the start-up sound of the train to Sydney. I was just unwrapping my gear when it fired up, but I couldn’t get the F4 up and running fast enough. I did record the train idling and heading off, but I think the start-up was the most interesting part so it was annoying to miss it.
My friend works on the station driving a small buggy around helping elderly and disabled passengers, so I spent a short while with him recording the general ambiance of the station as well as the buggy sounds specifically Again I got some good material.
Location Williamstown Equipment Roland R09 Handheld
Its funny how packing to move interstate and organizing a wedding can get in the way of your normal routine. Most of August has been so busy I have been very limited in how much time I could spend on recording, now that we are packed ready to go and wehave had the wedding I can at least spare the mental space to consider recording. Today we caught a water taxi across from Southgate to Williamstown just to spend the day relaxing and enjoying the weather. I did record a small amount of the boat as we travelled across, but I was not too worried about capturing heaps as it was very similar in nature to the tour boat I recorded at Tazawako in Japan back in May.
Today wasn’t a day I intended to record much, but as usual I had the R09 on me just in case. As luck would have it a local man was out riding his BSA goldstar motor bike which is a rare old bike from the 50’s with a really interesting sound. I didn’t capture much of it as he seemed quite busy, but I did record a good sequence of it idling. I also managed to record a large flock of seagulls making plenty of noise as they fought over chips being fed to them. It was helpful that it was us that was feeding them the chips as it placed me right in the middle of the scrum. Again this was not done for the sake of recording but more just for the fun of feeding the gulls. They were however making so much noise it seemed silly to waste the opportunity.
In amongst all the possessions we needed to sort out and put into storage before we moved north were all my percussion toys and instruments as well as my pride and joy an upright piano minus the keyboard. While this might sound like a somewhat unusable instrument the strings and soundboard that are left can be used to create some incredible sounds. I spent several hours today working my way through bells, gongs, drums and a myriad of percussion toys collecting samples. These will take quite sometime to cut up and add to the database, but I am sure there will be plenty of samples to keep people busy for a while.
My favourite piano
A little bit of a time travel update here. I found when I came to editing all this material that much of it was unusable. I spent some time trying to figure out why and also consulted some of my peers in the industry. After several ideas I think I found the issue. Most of the gongs and bells produce a lot of high frequency material. The Sennheiser MKH60 is very sensitive at high frequency levels and in fact even has a boost above a certain frequency range. Even though the levels on the recorder were well within limits the mic itself doesn't seem to cope being so close to these kinds of instruments. I will re-record this material in the future.
Well even a trip to visit my Mother can be a source of samples, especially when my brother left a lot of his instruments at her house when he moved to London many years ago. I closeted myself in the hallway with all the doors closed and worked my way through a somewhat eclectic collection of noise makers. My mother inherited a few beautiful Tibetan bells from my brother and I think she liked the sound so much she has expanded on the original two and now has about a dozen bells of different shapes, sizes and origins. Included in this is a set of ships bells mounted on a hanging rack. I also recorded a couple of gongs (or more accurately tam tams) that were in storage. All in all a good hours work, oh and dinner was very nice as well.
Today I went to visit my Taiko teacher from before I went to Japan. Toshi Sakamoto has lived in Melbourne for a long time and is a fantastic guy, he also teaches Taiko drums about 4 times a week to dozens of students. I played with Toshi’s group for several years before I went to Japan. I have loved Japanese Taiko drums for ages and it was lots of fun to learn how to play them. I was lucky enough to play them for a while when I was living in Japan. Currently I just don’t have the time sadly.
I had asked Toshi if he would allow me to record the drums and he kindly said yes, he actually went on step better and played them all for me, this meant I got much better sounds than if I had played them myself. Taiko come in various different sizes, from the Shime which is the smallest, through to the Taiko drums which are the medium barrel or drum shaped ones, right up to the huge O Daiko which literally means “big drum” The have an amazing sound and a good live performance of Taiko has an incredible amount of energy and usually fantastic rhythm. Hopefully one day I will have the time to go back to playing Taiko, I have always found its really good for my rhythmic writing of music.
Location Melbourne CBD Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom pole array and Roland R09 Handheld
There were a few specific sounds I had wanted to record in the short busy time that we would be in Melbourne. One of those was the bells at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne’s CBD. I contacted the Cathedral office and they put me in touch with the captain of the bell ringing group, who invited me to come along to one of their rehearsals.
What I initially thought would be an opportunity to get some basic bell sounds from the area in which they pull the bell cords proved to be a much more exciting and fruitful trip.
St Paul's Cathedral
Upon arriving I was shown the setup and then allowed to carefully climb right up to the actual belfry. This was not only incredibly spectacular, but also somewhat daunting. I was a long way up, and the bells were very large and VERY loud. I needed to have hearing protection on to be able to tolerate being so close while they were ringing. I set up my recording gear a level below because even on the lowest input settings the shear amount of sound energy produced by these bells was overloading the equipment if it got any closer. The largest bell at St. Paul’s weighs approximately 1500 kilograms and has a stunning sound when it rings. I recorded with both of my portable devices to try and gather as much material as possible. I think in total I captured nearly an hour of material which I will need to go through. This was a great experience and completely exceeded my expectations for the day.