Saham Hills Unleashed

sony-pcm-d100

Recorded at Saham Hills, Norfolk, England. UK. ‘Saham Hills Unleashed’ is a 3-track album of natural field recordings carried out between 23:11hrs 31 December 2016 and 00:10hrs 01 January 2017.

The 3no. tracks capture an amazing diversity of sound to be heard from Saham Hills, which includes not only the more distant and heart-warming ‘mellow’ sound of church bells wafting in on the gusty breeze, as bell ringers work hard to tame the 6 bells within St. George’s Church at Saham Toney, but also a sonic assault from the immediate neighbourhood as New Years Eve celebrations get under way. Party and firework celebrations can also be heard from afar, as the surrounding villages and particularly the market town of Watton appear to jump-start the New Year celebrations.

WARNING  **********  Listener discretion advised. Do not be deceived by the quieter passages within the tracks, as there are some sudden, unexpected, and seriously loud events!!

 

The Field Recordist

Nice to hear my work being aired on BBC Radio Norfolk this week, hosted by Matthew Gudgin, and somewhat surprised that field recording is not considered too geeky by the general public!

The episode can be heard via the following link to the BBC iPlayer, which starts at the 0:40:40 minute mark.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/p04fkp5c

Electronica Digitalis

electronica

I am currently in the process of migrating my audio archive to a new catalogue and database capable of being used with more user-friendly digital asset management software (DAM). My audio field recording archive has progressively grown over the years, having previously been catalogued to a database using music management software.  This essential work of archive asset migration has proven to be good for my soul and has certainly highlighted the errors of my ways over the years, such as missing and incorrect metadata entries, changes over time with what should be similar descriptive entries, duplicate entries, files which are not worth keeping, and other annoying patterns of use and inputs which could have been better.

It is a somewhat tedious and time-consuming task, having to cross-reference my early field recording notes required when correcting errors or entering missing metadata; however, every now and again I am re-energised as I stumble across something which I had forgotten about. Curiosity then gets the better of me as I have to stop and listen to the rediscovered track; transporting me back to the time and place of the original recording, which unfortunately delays me even further in the daunting task of archive migration and maintenance.

This was the case with the following short piece of experimental music which I composed in October 2010 from electromagnetic wave radiations, emitted by various electronic equipment, including:-

BT Broadband Home Hub
Laptop Computer
Wind-up Radio
Flat Screen Television
Sony Hi-MD Mini Disc Recorder MZRH1

The description entry for one of the tracks used in the composition initially puzzled me, but whilst listening to the track my memory immediately confirmed that the description was in fact correct as shown ‘Sony MZRH1 recorder, recording itself, recording itself ‘ ….and no it’s not a typo of the entry, which initially made me think otherwise.

All rumbles, clicks, clonks and whistles were recorded with a telephone pick-up coil fed direct to a Sony MZRH1 Hi-MD Recorder, which were then processed and edited into this piece.

‘Autumn Storms at Saham Hills’

Composed from natural field recordings, the sound track and film to  ‘Autumn Storms at Saham Hills’ were captured 16 September 2016 at Saham Hills, Norfolk, England.

The nearby lightning strike heard at the 11:00 min. mark tripped the electric power circuits to the property and also destroyed the telephone handset. I think this must be one of the closest strikes that I have managed to record so far without distortion.

Recording Gear Used:
x1 Sennheiser ME67 Long Shotgun Microphone with its K6 Powering Module tripod-mounted above the mid-side stereo microphone array.

The mid-side stereo array contained within the tripod-mounted large basket windshield blimp:
x1 Rode NT1A Microphone (mid)
x1 Rode NT2A  Microphone (fig 8 pattern side)

All with long cable feeds direct to an Edirol R-4 recorder (no preamp necessary on this occasion!), and powered with an external Yuasa NP7-12FR SLA battery pack.

Not forgetting my old faithful Slazenger umbrella which I discovered now leaks and needs either replacing or reproofing,  this is mounted to the same tripod as the large basket windshield blimp.

 

Awoken By This Mystery Sound

I was awoken just before midnight on 4th September by this Mystery Sound coming from the adjacent harvested stubble field, so I grabbed the Sony PCM-D100 recorder and managed to capture this handheld field recording through the open window. I could not risk going outside to record as the security lights would have triggered, scaring the animal or bird away.

The call sounds a bit like a deer, but it appears to vary as if moving back and forth across the field, any thoughts about what this could be would be greatly appreciated. The other call heard in the background appears to be from a Tawny Owl which appears to be joining in on the conversation!

  • Weather fine but breezy
  • Original audio format: 48KHz, 24-Bit
  • Sony PCM-D100 Settings: S/N=100dB, Gain 8.5
  • Inbuilt microphones 120 deg. X/Y with x2 layer faux-fur
  • Handheld through open window
  • Location: Saham Hills, Norfolk, England

 

The Changing Face Of Sound

There appears to be a recent resurgence of interest in the more ‘subjective’ aspects of field recording, prompting me to repost one of my earlier (now archived) ‘Sonic Fields’ blog posts dating back to 2011. My concerns back then about certain aspects of field recordings are still relevant today, possibly even more so, given the relatively cheap and widespread use of DAWS, together with other readily available AV processing software.

Apologies for the non-active page links in the article, as the original archived .mht web page file format had to be converted to .pdf for use in the link below.

The Changing Face of Sound

A Defiant Song Thrush

Song-Thrush

My intention was to record a Song Thrush  (Turdus philomelos) happily singing away on his perch in the trees adjacent some barns about 75 metres away,   but I had to wait as USAF F-15 fighter jets from nearby RAF Lakenheath decided to start reconnaissance flights overhead.

USAF F-15 Audio

They were quickly followed by two Army Air Apache attack helicopters from nearby RAF Wattisham as they practiced their low flying skills from across the fields.

Apache-Gunship

Apache Gunship Audio

Once things had quietened down a bit, I was able to increase the recorder gain controls to capture an unperturbed Mr Song Thrush who had stood his ground and defied them all, making himself heard above the background noise of traffic and aircraft.

Song Thrush Audio

 

 

The Frustrations of Field Recording (3)

Recording thunderstorms can be very difficult, with the level of difficulty being inversely proportional to their distance away; with the prize capture and most difficult being a direct strike on the microphones, only joking of course!

In my previous post ‘Summer Storms’ I mentioned the fact that my field recording sessions covering the period 14th, 15th, 16th, 23rd & 25th June 2016 at Saham Hills, Norfolk, England did not all go to plan, so I will explain.

The storms during the course of those 5 days mentioned were very sporadic and unpredictable, with them suddenly appearing and disappearing just as quickly. The 23rd June however turned out to be the most productive day, with numerous intense storms accompanied by torrential rain, hail and frequent cloud-ground lightning strikes, but this is all in hindsight; the problem beforehand was of predicting when and where they would appear, or as with the previous days would they merely ‘pop-up’ and pass by some 5 – 10 miles away. Nevertheless, I was prepared and waiting with the Edirol R-4 recorder and RME Quadmic preamp connected to the mid-side stereo microphone array and Sennheiser long shotgun microphone via long cables and also the ‘drop & recover’ field recording package containing the Olympus LS11 with its external XY microphone array of Soundman OKM II Classic capsules and A3 preamp, so what could go wrong – I was completely covered?

What I failed to predict was how quickly the thunderstorm would appear, its intensity and its distance away. As mentioned previously the level of difficulty in recording thunderstorms is inversely proportional to its distance away, and in this case the distance away was zero miles as it appeared directly overhead with cloud – ground lightning strikes within 100 yards, so the level of difficulty was ‘difficult’.

Unfortunately the recordings of the closer thunderclaps captured on the ‘drop & recover’ package were completely distorted as the Soundman Classic II microphone capsules are only rated to 103 dB and I would estimate these close strikes being in the region of 120 – 130 dB; so whatever gain levels, pads or limiters* had been set on the A3 preamp or  Olympus recorder , the signal had already been distorted at the microphone.

‘Drop & Recover’ Audio Clip  (warning it’s loud!)

However, the mid-side stereo array, RME Quadmic and Edirol R-4 recorder handled the loud thunderclaps much better, although still with some slight distortion, as the Rode NT1A large capsule microphone can handle up to 137 dB.

Edirol R-4 Audio Clip

Despite the frustration of failing to capture those prize close thunderclaps at maximum dynamic range with no distortion, I do prefer the overloaded track captured by the ‘drop & recover’ package, as it’s exciting, full of life and guaranteed to remind me in later-life of what happened and the excitement of that particular day!

       * I never use limiters whilst recording as they kill the dynamic range, producing a dull, lifeless recording, and it’s so much more fun trying to get the gain levels set just right!

‘Summer Storms’

‘Summer Storms’ – a time-lapse and real-time film and audio field recording compilation captured 14th, 15th, 16th, 23rd & 25th June 2016 over Saham Hills, Norfolk, England. The final shots show the drenched large basket windshield blimp, which had just survived a torrential rain and hail storm, without its usual umbrella protection. The large diaphragm microphones were safe and dry inside the basket blimp.

I will be uploading several full-length field recording tracks later; the 3.5 minutes of film track audio clips are just a small portion of the 10.5 hours of field recordings captured from the four recording systems used, and they did not all go to plan, so some of those will be featured in further episodes of ‘The Frustrations of Field Recording’.

My Large Waterproof Windshield

Ready for action with my largest pop-up waterproof windshield used so far!

_1090095_1090102_1090101!

Severe weather is expected in the early hours of tomorrow morning with thunderstorms and torrential rain forecast. I’m currently tracking the storms as they approach from Belgium, with real-time lightning maps.

Fingers crossed for plenty of thunder & lightning and hope the wind remains light so that the storms linger a while.