Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Woodberry Baltimore Maryland September 29 2009 10:18 P.M. till 10:28 P.M. (click here)

I decided to take the mic out again to the front porch, but this time I placed it under a pile of dying tall grass, a spot that is nightly infiltrated by crickets. (The theme of the evening, at least for the dying end of summer, is that of the cricket chorus.)

This evening I pointed the mic AWAY from the street. Although the cricket noise was particular (you could hear, distinctly, the various, individual crickets and their respective chirps), the resonance from the house amplified the traffic noise.

It seems to me quite clear that, within the canyonlike aspects of any street, sound, like the wind, especially that which resides in the lower depths, is enveloped and concentrated there.

I plan on creating a few days worth of recordings that visit this "reflective" aspect of houses.

Woodberry Baltimore Maryland September 28 2009 9:43 P.M. till 9:53 P.M. (click here)

This night marks a test run of the X/Y stereo mic (AT8020).

It was a quiet evening on the front porch of our home. The traffic noise was slightly muffled this evening - perhaps things were slowing down on 83.

I'm thrilled that decibal balancing is tight - at near silence the bars were balanced at approx. -20 dB, and when cars went by it jumped smoothly to about -12 dB. With the original X/Y on the PCM-D50, levels would have jumped and appeared as spikes in the edits.

Nothing special this evening - a mere environment capture, purely to test the mic's boundaries...

Roland Park Baltimore Maryland September 27 2009 8:49 A.M. till 8:53 A.M. (click here)

A botched experiment in a tunnel in which water, seeping into its cracks and folds, created a lapping sound, not dissimilar to the slap and slosh found on beaches. Down the street a BGE truck pumped a steady hum, which the tunnel captured quite eloquently.

It's short in duration because the mics captured more hand-interference than environment. If I had a picture of myself hanging (almost) upside down, it could have been more interesting than the recording.

Next time, bring the boom!

Albany Albany New York September 26 2009 10:07 P.M. till 10:14 P.M. (click here)

After reading with my friend Natalie Knight at the Center for Social Justice in Albany (, a bunch of us walked over to the Palais, a cute (but loud) haunt tucked away on a quiet street.

Without fiddling around with mics (because the tables were set with food and glasses and there was nowhere else to put my equipment) I set up the PCM-D50 in its naked form at the edge of the table.

The sound is quite crisp and clear, and I reworked it very little. You can hear me and a guy I met (sorry, your name escapes me...) talking about making soup and winter stews.

In my exhaustion (4 days on the road between Baltimore, NYC and Albany), I opted out of scouting the neighborhood at midnight to capture its environment. The only thing that interested me was the pristine quiet on the back porch, the slight wind, and the jingle of windchimes. But the evening was too fast for me to have sat down to ponder sound environments...

Hamilton Beach Queens New York September 25 2009 10:36 A.M. till 10:47 A.M.(click here)

I spent the morning scouting the areas between Charles Park in Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach Park (I think it's called) in Hamilton Beach. Both straddle the north-east side of Jamaica Bay, and across from these parks you can (hear!) JFK airport.

Throughout the morning the wind was stronger than on previous days, but mornings on the water are always windy. I hopped from marsh to marsh, ducking between reeds and divets in the mud to escape the wind.


When I reached Hamilton Beach, I stood under the subway train tracks, piled up with huge boulders, watching two men fish under the bridge. There was also a large boat with an indescribable machine washing the edges of the bridge, which made so much noise that the wind seemed a trifle.

I managed, though, after several hours, to duck between two very tall plots of reeds surrounding a very deep divit (about two feet deep) through which a little stream of water ran through. I placed the shotgun mic as low to the ground as possible - so that I wasn't touching the few fronds that moved gently in the breeze, scratching the windscreen.

It was quite serene, and in a few instances (it's very hard to hear because of the competing wash of the tide) one could hear the "squeegee" sound of water evaporating from the mud. I'll have to bring a highly directional mic the next time to capture this sound .

East New York Brooklyn New York September 24 2009 1:52 P.M. till 1:57 P.M. (click here)

Listened to a young man and a young girl trading insults a few seats away from me as the train entered Brooklyn. I used only the mics attached to the PCM-D50 so as not to be too conspicuous (I didn't feel like getting called out and/or beat up and/or getting my gear smashed up or stolen - these kids were mean looking!)

The sound quality is rough but that's the nature of candid moments.

It was a strange moment, though, when the girl left the train and hugged AND kissed the boy she had been verbally attacking for 20 minutes... Perhaps sound and intention are not as obvious as one may think?

Woodberry Baltimore Maryland September 23 2009 7:59 P.M. till 8:08 (click here)

I took the mic into the basement again, but positioned it in front of the central air unit, which eminates a high-pitched rattling (as opposed to the low rumble of the washing machine).

Listen to the slow insistences of each environment (washing machine and central air unit). You can clearly hear Karen in the background, caught at the outer edges of the coordinate polar regions.

I have to admit I have an affinity for voice sounds that exist at the cusp of recognition. In listening to the pitch differences of our voices, the way the voice carries up and down as we tell our stories, ask our questions - all this, even when muffled to the point of incoherence, in this we can tell the mood and mode of a person's attitude and emotions.

Freeland Baltimore Maryland September 22 2009 9:12 P.M. till 9:21 P.M. (click here)

I used the shotgun mic for this recording, but wish I had my X/Y stereo mic because I positioned myself on a footbridge straddling a small but vocal stream on a freind's farm: on one side, a huge expanse of forest and blackberry brambles; on the other, a gently sloping hill with tall grasses and a handful of trees. The insects on both sides were contrasting: sharp, long buzzing from the forest, and intermittent squeaks from the hills.

The shotgun was a poor choice: the sounds on both sides coalesced into an indeterminate wash of crickets and other insects. The shotgun is a mono mic and should only be used for close-up recordings.

Overall, though, the recording is not bad. Not great, but not bad either. But it is a lesson learned. In the future, I'll either use the shotgun between the reeds banking the stream, pointing directly into the water, or I'll set up the X/Y at the center of the foot bridge just above the water.

Woodberry Baltimore Maryland September 21 2009 8:47 P.M. till 8:57 P.M. (click here)

This evening I took the shotgun mic into the basement and placed it a few inches from the base of our washing machine.

I left the bass up, not too high, because the sound is very lulling. I'm always interested in the industrial nature of sound (or the aural nature of machines?) Is there an "industrial" sound?

see Throbbing Gristle, Bruce Gilbert, Monte Cazazza, etc.

One thing to think about when encountering repetative sound environments: is this truly repetition? or (to quote Stein) insistence? Listen long enough and you will notice, not only an evolution of textures, but you'll be able to better pick out particulars hidden in the monotony.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Crownsville Anne Arundel Maryland September 20 2009 12:02 P.M. till 12:08 P.M. (click here)

This recording was made at the Maryland Renaissance festival in Anne Arundel County. I used the NTG-2 shotgun mic with the roll-off off.

A man playing a wind-up or crank music box. This recording is superb. I turned on the PCM-D50 as I walked toward the music, then stood about 5 feet away from the musician. His voice and music were completely distinct from one another, and the noise level of the crowd was minimal ambience.

Woodberry Baltimore Maryland September 19 2009 3:12 P.M. 3:18 P.M. (click here)

Below the 41st Street bridge, at Clipper Mill Road, exists an "open room" environment. The bridge is surrounded by a mooring on one side, columns opposite the mooring, and to the left and the right two private yards.

This space, this whole area of Woodberry, at any time, is dominated by a strong high pitched wash of hiss coming from I-83 and the larger avenues (41st Street, Falls Road, Druid Hill Lake Drive). It is virtually impossible to avoid this sound. But it is a natural part of the environment, and I am slowly learning how to stabilize the relationship between this hiss and the higher frequency tones.

For this recording, I stood beneath the 41st Street bridge with an NTG-2 shotgun mic pointed directly beneath 41st Street. I callibrated the recorder (PCM-D50) and the mic (roll off) to minimize frequencies beneath 175 Hz. It was necessary, though, the edit lower frequencies just enough to give the big trucks a booming presence. I edited the higher frequencies minimally, slightly boosting the noise between 12k and 15k Hz, thus giving the crickets and the traffic hiss dueling harmonies.