I was busy this evening selecting photos from my family archive for transfer onto CDs, just to spread the chances of survival so to speak, when the low frequency beat of a military helicopter became louder and louder as it passed low overhead, just skimming the chimney pots and shaking everything inside.
It’s one of those sounds that a field recordist either hates because it intrudes into their ‘quiet’ ambient recordings, or one which is loved to be captured for its raw power and tremendously thumping low frequencies.
The experience soon passed however, until about 15 minutes later when back it came again, low and loud, so I thought that I couldn’t miss the chance of recording this if it came back again, as they often did as they practiced on the nearby military training area. I realised that I wouldn’t have time enough to set up my preferred choice of recorder, either the SD702 or Edirol R-4 with the blimp system microphones, so I grabbed the portable Sony PCM D100, but unfortunately I had been using it for some indoor narration, so the recording settings had to be adjusted, and part way through doing this the deep thump, thump, thump could be heard getting louder and louder….. too late, by the time I had managed to open the nearest window the helicopter had disappeared into the darkness, low over the fields.
Not to be beaten, I quickly went outside and waited; if it came round again I would be ready to record. It was a lovely starlit night with owls and the occasional bark of a farmhouse dog being heard in the distance, which I would have loved to record, but daren’t adjust the gain settings to capture those quiet distant sounds as there would be very little warning to reset them if the helicopter returned, apart from the fact that although it was a starlit night, it was too dark to see the side switches and settings of the gain control without switching on the dazzling backlight on the recorder. No sooner had I thought about it, then the telltale thump, thump, thump could be heard approaching as I pressed the record button ……. but no record light …….. pressed again ……. still no record light. By this time the helicopter was already passing fast and low overhead leaving me puzzled as to what had happened. I knew that the batteries were fully charged and the recorder was working when I tested it before coming outside, so I went inside into the light, only to discover that I had inadvertently pushed the ‘hold’ switch instead of the power ‘on’ switch, which are adjacent to each other. Not to be defeated, I quickly went outside again and waited, as it would be sure to come back again…….so I waited…….and waited……and waited…… It didn’t return.
Oh well, you can’t win them all, the owls had gone quiet and the farmer’s dog must have gone to sleep …….but at least I’m blessed to be able to look up at that beautiful starlit sky and wonder who else is out there in the Universe trying to capture a sound recording, but has been beaten!