A swarm of 10,000 geese

A couple of weeks ago I headed out to rural Norfolk with fellow sound designer and recordist Daan Hendirks (http://daanhendriks.co.uk/) with the intention of capturing the sound of the Grey seal pups which are raised for their first six weeks of life in the sand dunes at various points along the Norfolk coast. Most notably at Horsey and at Blakeney point. First thing on day one we headed out to Horsey where just two weeks earlier Daan had been and recorded freely among the hundreds of pups (which you can read about and listen to on his site here: http://daanhendriks.co.uk/blog/winter-2012-grey-seal-pups). It very quickly became apparent that in just these couple of weeks the demographic had changed immensely and in fact we found just one lonesome pup still among the dunes

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We fairly quickly decided to abandon Horsey as although there were quite a few adults and juveniles at the water’s edge singing quite beautifully the conditions were not good and we could not really get close enough. We learned later that the best way to get close to the seals when they are hauled out in this way is to approach by water otherwise they simply dive into the sea and are gone. We’ll have to go back with a boat some time! We moved onto Blakeney and after a lunch of locally picked Morston mussels set out on a long walk along the spit. It didn’t take long for me to wish I had travelled a little lighter, particularly as I was carrying everything over my shoulder in a Lowepro classified 250AW (including 744, SQN 4s, various mics, 50m of xlr cables and the Collins bird guide). Unfortunately we ran out of daylight before we could reach the seal haul out spot which was a lot further than we had counted on! I did manage to get a nice few minutes of desolate salt marsh atmosphere though:

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Unperturbed by the lack of acquiring our ‘targets’ we did a little research in the hotel bar and found another spectacle which looked promising, the dawn flight of thousands of pink-footed geese as the they leave their night time roosts in the RSPB reserve at Snettisham.


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The following are a couple of recordings taken from the dawn chorus period (which was about 6:00AM to 7:30AM). All the sounds were recorded onto my Sound Devices 744 with a pair of Sennheiser 8040s in an ORTF arrangement.





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Finally we stopped off on the way home at WWT Welney (
http://www.wwt.org.uk/visit/welney/) and I took this nice recording of some Bewick’s swans as they were being fed. This time I was recording to my 744 via an SQN 4s using an old T-powered Sennheiser 416.



The hidden sounds of Tottenham Marshes

As it was such a lovely sunny spring day today I took a walk down to Tottenham Marshes which lies along the River Lee in North London. Don’t be fooled by the name though, this is definitely not a marshland any longer as it was one of the major dumping sites for household rubble after WW2. Currently it is more of a wild parkland which crossfades in and out of an industrialised urban dystopia! There is however a small wildlife pond so I got out my light recording rig which is based around a Sony PCM-M10 handheld recorder and a Sound Devices Mix Pre, plugged in my Aquarian Audio hydrophone and lowered it gently into the mirky waters below.

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I wasn’t that hopeful as just two weeks ago when I had been here doing a hydrophone workshop I had been met with a barrage of silence. The warm weather we’ve had recently though must have awoken the insects as they were in full choral glory as you can hear:



After a while listening to this and explaining and sharing with the equally confused and intrigued passers by (I love the excited looks on their faces as they put on the headphones and listen to the hidden underwater world for the first time!) I decided to move the microphone around a little to see what other insects I could find, if any. I pretty quickly hit upon this really nice stridulation sound:



I then decided to switch to a totally different type of transducer, the electro-magnetic pick-up the kind you can buy from most electrical component retailers as ‘telephone pick up coils’ (which I usually cut out of their protective plastic housing in order to improve the high-frequency response). They work on the same principle as electric guitar pick-ups and instead of vibrations caused by sound they transduce electro-magnetic waves into an analogous electric current.

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I made some really nice recordings walking around some electricity pylons and sub-stations but buy far the most interesting sounds came from the nearby railway line. Below are a few excerpts from a longer recording of trains passing beneath me.



Sound Maps

A couple of weeks ago I went to a talk about sound mapping, it is a concept that I find really fascinating in all its forms which range from the very literal phonographical document of the sound of a space such as the maps created by Ian Rawes (http://www.soundsurvey.org.uk/index.php/survey/soundmaps/) to those which seek to utilise sound as a less literal form of data representation such as the LHCsound project which is sonifying the movement of particles within the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (http://lhcsound.hep.ucl.ac.uk/index.html).

Here are a couple more interesting articles/writings on the subject of sound mapping and sonification:

http://spdf.gsfc.nasa.gov/research/sonification/documents/Chapter1.pdf

http://lhcsound.wordpress.com/

http://makingmaps.net/2008/03/25/making-maps-with-sound/

and of course R. Murray Shafer’s book ‘The Soundscape’ (
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Soundscape-Sonic-Environment-Tuning-World/dp/0892814551/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1332595003&sr=8-1)

Theremin

The Theremin is 90 years old this month:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17340257

Sleep Research Facility

I recently happened upon the amazing drone/ambient artist ‘sleep_research facility’ (http://www.resonance-net.com/). Particularly interesting is his first album ‘Nostromo’ (currently available on Cold Spring Records) which is inspired by Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’



Here is the description of the album from the sleep_research faclity website:

“The Nostromo work draws inspiration mainly from R.Scott's 1979 classic sci-fi noir "Alien" - and in particular shots of the interior of the deep-space haulage vehicle the Nostromo during the film's first 5 minutes. Various themes and notions are touched upon by these quiet, haunting scenes, and a conscious decision was made to marry the implications these images carried to an interest in music and sound reflective of spaces as opposed to narrative. The resultant "fictional listening" is a simple exploration of the vast ship in all its quiet darkness. Although apparently silent, it's living human components lying frozen in the deepest of sleep, the ship itself throbs a constant heartbeat from the rumble and pulse of its massive engines, the hum of energy flowing through its circuitry, hydraulic fluids pumping through its quiet mass. But behind these layers hide smaller, more indistinguishable elements (was that something scurrying away off in the shadows…?)”