There are some things I think you would only ever see in Australia, and some only ever in Melbourne. We were out at the Docklands showing Anna's Aunt and Uncle around as they were visitng on holiday so we thought we could have lunch nice and close to home and show them the new areas. As always I was carry a recorder (today it was the H4N) In the public events area there were a bunch of people doing some celebration dances for Chinese new year. This meant we got to stop for a while and watch the dance I managed to record the drums and cymbals they play with the dragons. I have recorded Chinese new yeararade music before, but there are lots of different rhythm patterns and variants so it was good to capture a new one. The dancers were good and it was nice and colorful which is one of the things I love about Chinese new year.
Chinese New Year Dragons
Chinese dragons are not that unusual in Melbourne, we have a big Chinese community and around new years time there are lots of shows on and I think they are a popular and important part of the city, however when you combine them with Morris dancers only about 100 meters away then you have something that doesnt occur in many places.
We arrived at the bar resteraunt we were heading to, only to find a group of morris dancers outside the pub drinking and practising their dances. They had bells strapped to their legs and canes and a couple of people with old accordians. They jumped and pranced about to music that sounded very appropriate for your local pirate party. I set my recorded on a nearby wooden keg (now I am really feeling like I am in pirate land) and recorded a couple of their dance tracks. Its certainly not the type of music I would choose to listen to every day, but it be great to use in the right kind of game project.
Location Victor Harbor Equipment Zoom H4N DPA 4061& MKH60 Boom pole array
One of my favorite places near Adelaide is a place called Victor Harbor. It’s a seaside town about an hour south of Adelaide that is usually cool and pretty quiet. On a day likely to be over 35 degrees a cool sea breeze was a real bonus. The thing I like most about Victor Harbor is the horse tram. Just of the coast of Victor Harbor is a small island called Granite Island that has a wooden bridge that crosses from the mainland. There is a reproduction of an old horse drawn tram than crosses from the mainland over to the island that runs everyday of the year. It just has a lovely relaxed feel about it as you cross over the ocean to the island and back. For me, it was a great opportunity to record some horse walking sounds away from the city or the sports track, and get a selection of sounds as the horse walks across gravel, concrete and wood. It was also just a fantastic day to be walking near the ocean.
I attached everything to the boom pole so I could hold the mic as close to the horses feet as possible without having to constantly bend over, and it also just gave me more flexibility as I moved around. The bridge itself has a lane for the tram, where the horse walks between the tram tracks and a lane next to it for people to walk along. This meant I could walk right next to the horse without being in anyone’s way. I also could record the tram trundling along if I went to the back of it as the horse was far enough away to only be able to hear the tram.
Horse drawn Tramcar
It takes the tram about 20 minutes to cross the bridge and make its way around the island to a little café. I decided to wait on the island for the next trip to return before walking back, this gave me time to grab some scones and a chocolate milkshake. (Almost the perfect combination on a day like today) I sat outside looking at the ocean wishing every day was this good. After my feed I went down to the pier nearby and recorded the sounds of the water beneath the pier. I actually have quite a bit of ocean sounds including water under piers, but I have also discovered that if you pay attention to the ocean on different days, with different strength winds and weather conditions there are actually a lot of different ocean sounds, and I don’t have them all as yet. The pier also had some cool old rusty chains holding old car tyres to it, so I recorded some material as I jingled and clanked the chains. Walking back I collected some more horse material. I usually record a lot more material that I think I’ll need, but sorting through 40 minutes of horse hoof sounds will give me a better chance of getting some nice clean good quality samples.
In the evening I decided to grab some sounds at my brother’s place. They have a baby grand piano and I have wanted to get some samples of a grand for a while. However it has been so long since it has been tuned that I am going to have to classify all the sounds as honky tonk piano because they sound like an old piano from a western film. Good quality sounds, and I am sure someone will find them useful, but not quite the piano I was expecting to capture. The billiards table was however exactly what I expected, and I recorded a good amount of material with that. Both the piano and the billiards table I recorded with my new DP 4061 mics.
The kit I purchased has a bunch of different connectors that allow me to mount the mics in various ways. I used a boundary mic mount and a hanging mount to suspend one mic so it dangled down over the strings of the piano and the second was attached right on the lid to capture reflective sounds. In both cases I sued the H4N’s internal mics to capture stereo samples as well. This is almost standard procedure for me now. Whenever I am using the H4N it is usually in 4 track mode with the internal mics active as well. I have grabbed some excellent material using a combination of its internal mics and whatever other mics I feel are appropriate. I placed tow of the 4061 mics on either side of the billiards table and rolled and hit some of the balls around. The room was well insulated and nice and quiet so I collected some very good material. Tomorrow I drive back to Melbourne, bit I am going to have a huge amount of material to sort through and plenty of new samples to add to the library.
Just one busker today. A guy playing Soprano Saxophone. He was sitting under a bridge near the Melbourne Arts Centre. The location added a nice reverb to everything. I am recording about 3 minutes of each busker I come across. As I mentioned last time I am not trying to capture complete songs, just to get a sample of ambience that includes a busker in the city environment.
I decided this week to add another aspect to the ambiance section of the library. I realised Melbourne has a huge selection of buskers who regularly play around the Melbourne city area. This is a great source of interesting and unusual music examples, and work nicely with the general ambiance of the city mixed in. It’s a far more real sound that the perfectly clean mixed music from a studio. Its not designed to be a piece of music, but more an ambiance of city life.
Of course when I went out on Thursday lunchtime for the first time to look for buskers it was pouring with rain and there wasn’t a busker to be found, fairly typical of Melbourne, and one of the reasons I am really growing to dislike the place. (I hate this weather) By Friday the weather had improved and I managed to find three buskers in my lunchtime. I recorded a Scottish guy in a kilt playing a semi acoustic Guitar and singing, a guy in a cowboy hat playing blues music on a harmonica, and a guy dressed up like a dishevelled clown playing sea shanties on a very old and slightly broken accordion. I think I might end up creating a completely separate section for busker music in the library. There seems to be a very broad range of amazingly weird music out there, so I think it’s worth sampling some of it.
Location Bendigo Equipment Zoom F4 and R09 handheld
We arrived in Bendigo coincidentally on the same night as the Bendigo Parade which is the longest running parade in Australia. This year is the 149th parade. After we had dinner at a nice café we walked along the parade route as the parade went by. There were lots of fire fighting units on parade to say thanks for the excellent job they had done fighting the recent bush fires. I only took the R09 with me as I didn’t want to lug all my equipment to the café. I captured lots of sirens and people clapping as well as a few bands, specifically 2 different bagpipe bands. I don't know why but I’ve always loved the sound of a pipe and drum band, I think a lot of people hate the sound, but I really dig it, the sound of massed pipes playing Scotland the brave will simultaneously have me feeling 10 feet tall and crying like a baby, and no, I'm not Scottish, so go figure? I also recorded the fireworks after the parade. A lot of these types of sounds I have already, but you never know when more might be useful, or what might turn up while you are recording.
Location Canberra Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Boom Pole array and R09 handheld
Today I had to fly up to Canberra for the day. For those of you who may not know, Canberra is Australia’s capital. Yeah I know, most people thinks its Sydney, which is understandable as a lot of stuff happens in Sydney and the only thing that seems to happen in Canberra is politicians arguing. Canberra was constructed specifically to serve as our capital and as such has been designed and laid out specifically, rather than growing organically as most cities do. It’s a tidy, fairly attractive city but it has a reputation for being a bit dull. It is however home of many of our national institutions and that was why I needed to fly up for the day.
I had a meeting with some people at the National Museum of Australia, which is a fairly new building on the edge of a giant lake. I arrived a bit early so I thought I would take a look around. The outside of the main museum building is clad in large sheets of metal, and because of the strength of the sun they had gotten very hot, the result was a constant clicking and popping sound as the metal sheets expanded and contracted in the heat. The overall effect of dozens of these sheets sounded something like a field of insects. I tried to record a fair amount of material, but I am not sure yet how good the samples will be as the individual sounds were fairly quiet. It was a very interesting effect.
Australia's Parliment House
After the meeting I decided to walk around the lake to the Carillon (pronounced Carillion) which is a large tower with bells in it that plays melodies at certain times of the day. It also chimes much like a town clock on the hour and on the quarter hour. The Carillon in Canberra is a well known location and is often used for performances; its position on the edge of the lake makes it a good spot for tourists. I wanted to get a recording of it while I was in Canberra as it is a significant Australian sound source. When I arrived there were a bunch of guys having a bbq and listening to music right next to the carillon. I asked them if they wouldn’t mind killing the music or a couple of minutes while I did some recording. They were really good about it and even offered me a beer while we waited. I may be wrong here, but this strikes me as such an Australian thing to do. A complete stranger comes along, interrupts your party, asks a favour but you offer him a beer and say cheers to him. Its not that other cultures don’t have great hospitality, but the offer of a beer to someone on a hot day is something Australians seem proud to do, and I have to say that after walking 5 or 6 km around the lake from the museum in 30 degrees that beer tasted bloody marvellous.
At 5pm the Carillon sounded its regular chimes. (Sounded like the Westminster clock chime pattern to me) and then it went into a pre programmed pattern of music for about 15 minutes. I captured a few minutes of some of the various pieces it played. It's been nearly 20 years since I was last in Canberra but I’m sure the last time I was there the Carillon sounded much more out of tune, so whether they “fixed” it or whether my ears have adjusted over time, I found the tunes interesting to listen to.
The Carillon in Canberra
I didn’t do much recording today, but I did carry all my gear on the plane simply to capture the Carillon. If I am going to travel somewhere I don’t get to very often I will always take what I can with me just in case I get a chance to record something interesting. There were some nice bird sounds around the lake, but all the roads were far too close to be able to get a good recording of anything, and I just didn’t have the time to go anywhere remote and do more recording. I am more than likely to be travelling to Canberra again fairly soon as I might find myself doing some work with the National Museum, so maybe next time I can plan on recording some bird sounds.
Location Melbourne CBD Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 tripod mount and R09 handheld
This week has been the time of the Moomba Festival in Melbourne. For those of you not from Australia, Moomba is a festival in Melbourne with several parades and performances in various locations as well as a carnival on the Yarra river on the edge of the city. I wanted to record the main parade to add to the library as well as for another project I am working on, so I got up, got my gears ready and headed into the city. The Moomba parade is much like many other parades with musicians and dancers and lots of costumes. Because of Australia’s diverse mix of cultures Moomba has a wide range of looks and sounds to the parade.
The biggest issue for recording was the shear range of volumes as things passed by me. Some of the groups had quiet subtle sounds like people tap dancing, or a Buddhist group that had quiet bells and chanting. The other extremes were the amplified bands, and anything with lots of drums and cymbals. (Which are pretty common in most parades.) I was carrying both the R09 in my hand as well as the H4 on the boom pole (as well as my camera to document things. I really need to grow a third arm) I tried to keep an eye on both the monitoring levels of both devices, but even with that some of the sounds still maxed out simply because I had the device set to the absolute lowest input and things were still too loud. Bass drums and cymbals really tend to push the limit sometimes. Usually when I have both devices I tend to set the R09 to a very low level, but I may need to take it to the next level and start using mics designed specifically to cope with high SPL. Time to do some tests I think.
The Chinese Dragon always finishes the parade
The other aspect of today’s recording was the need to be super mobile. I was on the parade area and needed to move quickly and easily around the various groups to get interesting sounds, or to find the best angle to record a group. Initially I had the boom pole extended quite far as I thought it might be useful to lean over the top of groups or position in unusually places, but considering I was using the R09 as well in one hand, the boom tended to be angled down towards the ground, with the microphone itself angled pointing upwards. This is a fairly good position to use the boom in, however it did mean I had an extra length of pole sticking out behind me. Thankfully I realised this before I clubbed someone from either the crowd or the parade with the end of the pole, and quickly retracted the excess length. I’ve often found that even prior planning for some events doesn’t help much when the real action starts and you find yourself having to respond to other people’s actions, so you really need to stay flexible. Considering there have been several instances lately where I have used both the R09 and the H4 to capture pretty much identical material I think I may need to look at mounting the R09 on the boom pole with the H4, thus removing the need for me to dedicate another hand to it.
Location Melbourne Docklands Equipment Zoom F4 Sennheiser MKH 60 Tripod mount and R09 handheld
Today will go down in history as the hottest day on record in Melbourne with a top temperature of 46 degree Celsius in the city centre. It will also go down as one of the most devastating days in Victoria’s history as bushfires all over Victoria raged out of control in the incredibly hot dry and windy conditions. At the time of writing this over 100 people had lost their lives and over 70 properties had been destroyed. Anyone witnessing these events either directly or through news reports will understand how unbelievably tragic the events of today were. Not relevant to sound recording but something I felt the need to mention if for no other reason than in honour of those who lost their lives.
One aspect of today’s weather was the incredible wind. Not only was it 46 degrees today but the wind for most of the day was blowing at gale force. This made walking outside feel like you were in a blast furnace. I had noticed in the past that days with strong wind caused the apartment building we live in to resonate dependant on wind direction and strength. Today was just such a day and so I went down to the car park level to try and capture some of the sound.
King Lake after the bushfire
The car parking in our building takes up the first three levels, and is generally open to the air on all sides. Metal sheets with thousands of holes in them work like screens between the inside and outside areas. On some days the wind causes the screens to resonate as it passes through all the small holes. Today the force of the wind was so strong that the entire building was resonating like a giant pipe organ. The actual sounds were pure tones being produced by each screen area, but because there were a lot of screens the overall effect was creating harmonic chords. The chords where often very dissonant as the different tones clashed, but very occasionally there would be interesting combinations that made great chord sounds. I was originally only going to record about 5 minutes of this effect, but when I got down there it was so interesting that I recorded over 30 minutes of material. At times the volume was very loud as the wind got so strong. It was like witnessing some strange contemporary piece of music.
Location Melbourne City Equipment Roland R09 Handheld
I was very happy again today that I have made a habit of carrying at least the R09 with me at all times. We were in the city today to do a bit of shopping and discovered it was a day of celebrations for Chinese Luna New Year. (I forgot the celebrations went for a full week) There was a parade as well as small groups roaming the city giving traditional new year’s blessings to businesses. These blessing are focused around noisy drum and gong rhythms as well as a dancing dragon and fireworks. I think the idea is that it scares away troublesome spirits and helps to ensure prosperity for the new year. From my point of view it’s a ton of great sounds to record.
We caught at least two separate blessings at different ends of town as well as following a parade along the main street for some way just because we were coincidentally going the same way. The good things about parades and events like this is that they are often quite loud and so its easy to get a good strong sample, also general people noises are as much a part of the event as everything else so having people walk past doesn’t tend to spoil the recording. The R09 is perfect for this kind of situation, it kept a constant strong signal but didn’t pick up my movement from walking (although I have gotten very used to walking smoothly from time spent recording). The stereo samples are also really good for the depth of sound of these events.
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.