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.
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.