Today is my first day out of full time employment and being able to concentrate on building Sound Library as much as possible. There are still a few regularly available sounds I want to capture around Melbourne and its suburban area. I have already collected a few train and tram sounds, but I have never done a thorough list of everything available, so i am going to work to collect a comprehensive list. I started the day at our major train station which is also a convenient 10 minute walk from home.
After about 30 minutes I had collected a fair amount of general station ambience as well as a few specific train sounds and some shunting noises. I am going to come back soon to capture some more and I will probably spend a day on various trains capturing interior travel sounds as well. Next I moved on to one of our trams as I wanted to record some tram sounds as well, but I also wanted to travel down to the beach to record some various wave sounds. We have about four different models of trams that run on the Melbourne network so today was a good day to capture some of those, but again I'll need some more time to get the whole set.
We have a unique system here called light rail which is using old train lines to run trams along. This isolates the tram from normal roads and allows them to run a little faster and is cheaper than running full trains along those lines. Its also a great place to record some tram sounds away from noisy traffic.
Once I made my way to the end of StKilda pier I set myself up on the rocks and captured some material of the waves on the rocks. It was a very calm day so I have some good material for mild wave movement. I expect some day I am going to have to come down here in a big storm and record some bigger waves, although I'm not really looking forward to that. After the rocks I made my way along the pier and stumbled across some divers scrapping the pier pylons as part of general maintenance. Its not everyday I get to record people welding shovels underwater, so I through the hydrophone into the sea and captured some interesting material. The divers were a little unsure what I was up to and one of them almost cut my mic cable thinking it was a rope snag, but it was all good. Next I headed down to the beach to record some gentle waves on the sand.
Well this turned out to be a disappointing experiment. I have been thinking about doing a lot more recording with the hydrophone as I have captured some great material and want to continue to see what interesting results I can come up with recording under water. I decided to see if I could capture the sounds of ice cracking as it froze and melted so I placed the hydrophone into a plastic container, filled it with water and put it in the fridge. I attached the H4N to the mains power supply so it could run without fear of battery failure and left it on all night. 5 hours worth of recording later I an have nothing at all except the background hum of the refrigerator. Ok, so maybe ice doesn’t make much noise while its freezing, but I thought at least it would crackle and snap as it thawed out. So the following night I took the whole lot out of the freezer and left it to melt, again with the recorder running. Sadly I recorded another 5 hours of absolutely nothing. I was disappointed, but more than that I was very surprised, I really thought there would be some sound generated as the ice melted. I am going to do some more tests on this, but so far it has been a bit of a failure.
On a more positive note I did record a train today. There is a major freight terminal not far from where we live and some pretty big freight trains head out across the creak at the edge of the terminal. This means they spend several minutes clunking across the old metal bridge which makes a great sound. Anna and I were going for a walk as one went past so I got out the Zoom H4N which I was carrying and got some material. The sound these things make is pretty impressive and I want to find out if there is a regular schedule for them so I can bring down all my gear and do a proper recording session. Placing some mics right on the edge of the bridge would get some awesome sounds as these trains can be really heavy. For today I got a good short sample that I will use as motivation to get more.
Hachinohe and Aomori
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.
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.
This is another entry from memory as it dates from before I started keeping a regular log.
I have only owned the Zoom H4 for a short while now. I bought it from my favorite audio shop when I was down in Tokyo for a few days. Now I am back up in Sannohe I have the time to do some tests with it and see what it can do. I am still slightly limited on gear currently, one of the main things I need to pickup is a wind jammer I can use for recording outdoors, but today is quite still so I'll see what I can record.
I really love wandering around Sannohe, it is such a beautiful little town. The buildings and houses are all drab and gray and functional, so they are not very nice to look at, but the town is surrounded by mountains and full of rice fields and orchards so it always looks alive. I thought one of the best ways of comparing the two recorders (The Zoom H4 and Edirol R09) would be to record a passing train and some ambient bird sounds around town. For the ambience both units performs pretty well and very similarly, it was the train that really illustrated the difference.
I stood right next to the level crossing on one of the back lanes in the farming area and activated both recorders as a train approached. I also wanted to take a picture so I placed both recorders on a fence, this would also remove any handling noise. The train passing was quite loud, especially as I was only about 4 feet away from it. Listening back to the two different recordings it showed one main difference. The R09 actually did a better job of recording the fast moving train because its microphones could cope better with the wind generated by the trains movements. I think this might be because the R09's diaphragms do not point straight out and so did take the full force of the wind, whereas the Zoom H4 mics are far more exposed and its recording was very badly effected by the wind.
Normally I would never record without a wind cover, but it is still interesting to see what each unit can handle and which one is better to use should a fluffy cover not be available. I think that in general the Zoom H4 has better and more sensitive microphones, but the R09 is more capable of coping with some wind, so it’s probably a better unit to carry around in case of emergencies.
A few days back in Tokyo to wrap some things up and I had to take this photo. For me, it really typifies Tokyo and the Japanese lifestyle. Trains are essential to the Japanese and nowhere more so than in Tokyo. This shot was taken int he middle of the day so the train is not very crowded, but it is amazing that even in a completely full train I could record the sound of the train with very little unwanted noise as almost everyone travels in complete silence,
I'm actually going to miss the Tokyo trains; even though they are often crowded I always find them enjoyable because they are clean, on time and everyone is polite. One day I am going to come back to Tokyo and record everything I can get my hands on. that should only take a centruy or two.
A trip down to Tokyo means a ride on the Shinkansen or Japanese bullet train. Shinkansen translates to mean Main trunk line, and they are one of the best and most efficient transport systems in the world. I have never had a three hour journey be so comfortable and go so quickly. The trains travel at around 250kph (around 150 mph) and if they are scheduled to arrive at 3.33pm then they usually arrive right on 3.33pm.
Train travel in Japan is really amazing, they have so many train lines and so many different types of trains, yet they all seem to run really well. I wish I had started recording material here earlier because I missed out on capturing so much material from trains alone (not to mention all the other things I missed). One of the issues is I have only just recently purchased my first hand held unit the Edirol R09 which is really amazing and makes recording more frequently much more convenient as I can carry something with me more regularly. My old portable DAT recorder is getting very old and is too bulky to carry regularly.
Happily three hours is long enough on a train that I did think to record some material inside the train. I have captured a couple of samples of interior ambiance as well as a couple of exterior passing sounds. They were trickier to get as a train moving at over 150kph(they slow down near stations) generates a fair bit of wind, so it was a balance between capturing a clean sound and protecting the recorder against the wind. I will need to get a wind jammer for the R09.
Stephan Schütze has been recording sounds for over twenty years. This journal logs his thoughts and experiences