one minute vacations: year one one minute vacations: year two one minute vacations: year three one minute vacations: year four one minute vacations: year five

one-minute vacation

NOTE: The project and podcast is currently, regrettably, on hold, while I collect myself during early parenthood. I intend to reboot the project, and return it to weekly service, as soon as I catch my breath—which any new parent can tell you, may and already has taken longer than expected. Thanks for your patience... and don't forget, there are hundreds of recordings in the existing archives...

Surely you can spare a minute to clean your ears? Take a one-minute vacation from the life you are living.

One-minute vacations are unedited recordings of somewhere, somewhen. Sixty seconds of something else. Sixty seconds to be someone else.

A new one-minute vacation will be added each week on Monday if I can manage it (so far, there are 327 vacations).

The first year's worth of vacations are archived here, the second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here. You can also purchase compilations of each year of vacations on CD; all profits go to charity. You can read more about the project here. (For use restrictions see here.)

Your participation is encouraged. If you have a recording that you would like to share, here are instructions on how to submit it. (And here's my advice on making recordings.)

If it's your birthday, this is your present.

One-minute vacation podcast beta (RSS2.0 with enclosures) podcast featuring host Bronwyn Ximm, write me if you have comments!


'Let's go away for awhile, you and I, to a
strange and distant land, where they
speak no word of truth...'

april 21, 2008 1.7 MB 'The sunset call to prayer, or ezan, from the Blue Mosque — or Sultan Ahmet Camii, to give it its proper name. We'd just arrived in in Istanbul, Turkey, after driving from London through northern & eastern Europe, and after finding our hotel we wandered out onto the roof terrace to admire the view as the sun was starting to go down. As soon as the ezan started we knew we were starting to leave Europe... In the background you can hear the calls from other mosques in the neighbourhood and across the Bosphorus. Recorded with a Zoom H2, using its built-in microphones.' So writes culinary anthroplogist Matt Purver, today's contributor. [This recording particularly tickles me, because Matt and his wife Anna are friends, and it was mostly by my energetic advocacy-cum-arm-twisting that they were convinced to take a sound recording device along on their enviable travels! -Aaron]
april 14, 2008

1.8 MB

'The rusty wind chime at this very old Buddhist temple in South Korea made a nice contrast to the low rumble of a jet high overhead, which was in a world far away from the temple's cut granite and the worn but brightly painted wood buildings and dark tile roofs all around. At one point you can hear workmen taking down scaffolding as well; not bad for the pinhole monaural mic of my MP3 player! Haein-sa ("ocean of reflection" temple) is large and long-lived; it is famous for the 80,000-plus woodblock printing blocks for the Tripitaka Koreana that are kept there. Before long all of them will be available for view online in a nice melding of the modern with the ancient. As my wife would not relinquish our HiMD recorder, I had to record this with my BENQ Joybee130 MP3 player; while it let me record FM clips in low quality stereo, it only recorded externally with its single pinhole mic in mono.' So writes Guven Witteveen, who has also tagged Google Maps with digital panoramas shot at Haeinsa and elsewhere in South Korea.
april 7, 2008 1.4 MB 'Exactly what you are hearing in this recording, made in Castanhinho, a black heritage comunity near Garanhuns city, in the countryside of the Pernambuco state of Brazil, I would prefer not to say. But to put these sounds in context: nowadays I'm totally immersed in working with indigenous and black heritage communities at countryside of my state (Pernambuco) and in the Brazilian Amazon forest of Amazonas state. I'm employed to record sound for video documentaries and to do sound design for them; the videos are political or video-art. Besides this I produce recordings for the musical groups of these communities. So of course, I'm doing a lot of field recordings in the work intervals.... :) Recorded with a Sony MZ-R90 MD recorder and a Sony ECM-DS70P stereo condensor microphone.' A mystery, then, for once — courtesy today's contributor, Thelmo Cristovam.
march 31, 2008

1.4 MB

Not all birds are caged: consider this week's vacation, which comes to us courtesy Ian Callahan, who writes, 'I was in Ducktown, Tennessee. in mid-March for my grandmother's funeral; I recorded this sitting in an old lawn chair in her yard for probably the last time. I never hear this many birds where I live in Massachusetts. I used a Zoom H2 recorder [and its built-in microphones]; sorry for the lack of a windscreen.' [Our thanks, and my condolences -Aaron]
march 24, 2008 2 MB As promised last week, spring is here, and the birds are... well, listen for yourself, courtesy contributing oral historian Sady Sullivan, who writes of this week's vacation, 'This is Sam, a parrot I met — and occasionally, me trying to egg Sam on; I knew his repertoire [pun intended I trust! -Aaron]. Sam lived in Cohasset, Massachusetts, with a woman named Joanne and a poodley dog named Willoughby. Joanne was my boss at the time, we were social workers, and I was house-sitting for her. This is a clip from a fourteen minute recording I did in 1999 on microcassette, recently digitized.'
march 17, 2008 1 MB This week brings the vernal equinox, so let's celebrate the end of winter here in the northern hemisphere with this evocative vacation from contributor Cynthia Nogar, who writes, 'Two-inch-thick ice broke up on March 1, 2008, in Tofte, Minnesota. Tofte sits on the shore of Lake Superior, the largest body of fresh water in the world, with the Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Wilderness at its back. I had traveled there specifically in hopes of recording the ice moving and happened to catch this beginning just before dusk. To watch it, the ice barely seems to move as the current slowly pushes it against itself; but where it has fractured, the water snaps the ice and piles it against the rocky shoreline... The snapping and roaring lasted in varying degrees all night and partially into the next day, until twenty four hours later, the water was clear of ice as far as the eye could see. Recorded with a Zoom H2 using in its built-in front 90 degree mics. This was my first nature sound recording.'
march 10, 2008 1.4 MB More music comes to us today from sound artist Pei-Wen Liu (who works as PEI), who writes of this week's vacation, 'In the old village of Diyabakir [or Diyarbakir] in eastern Turkey, women dug on the ground amid destroyed buildings for small pieces of wood to burn; rocks were laid and piled both inside and outside of a great wall... things were difficult there, in May, 2007. On a roof, a place with no visible authority, no classification by gender or age, people shared a small peacful playground, and there we meet this boy, Sahin, at a village wedding. He sang and danced well; we saw the brightness in his eye... This recording was made at Sahin's house, as his younger sister drummed and neighborhood children surrounded us.'
march 3, 2008 1.4 MB This week's vacation arrived as something of an enigma from Miguel Pacheco Gomes, who describes it only as, 'My performance (Lisboa+Claps) with Grupo Coral de Ourique in the opening of the contemporary art exhibition Depois do Dilúvio in the Old Ourique Market at Ourique, South Alentejo, Portugal, on the 8th of June in 2007.' [Typically I don't post recordings of performances or sound art here, but in this matter as in so many other things, I do take a small pleasure in occasional inconsistency. Today is Bronwyn's birthday, so this is her present, by the way!]
february 25, 2008 1.4 MB The Bay Area is blessed with strong nature sound and sound engineering communities; contributor Dan Dugan epitomizes the best in both. Of today's vacation, he writes, 'From February, 2007, to January, 2008, I recorded in Muir Woods [north of San Francisco] every month at dawn, over an entire year's cycle. The one thing I missed over the year was a good storm. There were gray days, but it was never really stormy when I went out for my regular sessions... there were a couple of storms at night, but it was hard to find the motivation to drive an hour in the storm and then go out in it. On January 4, 2008, though, I got my perfect storm. When I heard in the night before that a strong winter storm was forecast to arrive on a Friday morning; I resolved to record it. I had a hard time getting there: many roads were closed; I found a way in, but I had to clear fallen branches in two places on Muir Woods Road so I could pass... Of course, the park was officially closed — but I managed to talk my way past a park policeman, and I recorded for an hour at Cathedral Grove. My minidisc recorder got so wet the buttons stopped working, but I let it run to the end of the disc and it shut itself down properly. I got my sound and it was worth it! Recorded with a Sharp MD-MS722 minidisc recorder and Telinga EM-23 omnidirectional lavalier microphones, mounted in home-made fake-fur domes on my shoulders, equalized in post to be flat across the frequency range.' [The Sharp recorder Dan still uses was my first field recorder back in 1998! -Aaron]
february 18, 2008 1.4 MB For this week's vacation we thank field recording enthusiast Jason Engling, who writes, 'The time of year is mid-August and along with few thousand other people, I am standing on a tridge (a three-way footbridge) over the Huron River in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where a long standing tradition during the annual Heritage Festival is the rubber duck race. Spectators purchase a numbered duck and it is thrown into a huge vat; thousands are accumulated. At the start of the race the ducks are dumped into the river and the current races the ducks toward the finish line. It's pretty humorous to watch the sea of yellow float down the river and even more funny to watch the ones that get stuck on the rocks. Prizes are awarded to the winning rubber duck owners, but all of the money collected goes to charity. And don't worry, they are very careful to make that every duck is cleaned up when it's all finished! Recorded with a Sony MZ-N707 minidisc recorder and Sound Professionals SP-TFB-2 in-ear binaural microphones.'
february 11, 2008 1.4 MB February 7th saw the celebrated arrival of our newest listener: Ember Rowan Ximm. In this recording, which I made with my Zoom H2 using its internal microphones (directly to 192 kbps mp3 by the way), young Ember nurses, with obvious enthusiasm and satisfaction... [a very sleep-deprived Aaron]
february 4, 2008 1.2 MB Somewhere in this project's audience there must be a frog specalist who can help with this species ID query posed by Debbi Brusco: 'I was at Mercey Hot Springs in the Panoche Valley, southeast of Hollister, California, one evening last week. In a small creek there many Pacific Tree Frogs were calling. Upon shining a red flashlight in the water, I found a larger frog (I think; I didn't notice any parotoid glands) that was not vocalizing. It was perhaps 3.5" long not including the legs, greenish, had irregular spots without centers, mostly dark eyes, and a lightish dorsal stripe. I picked it up and turned it over, and the lower part of the underside looked grainy, mostly white with some black. It had a somewhat pointy rear end. I can't ID it from the books I have.... What you hear in this recording are the Tree Frogs calling, and a call the mystery frog made when I picked it up and it wanted me to let go — which I did, seeing how it had just "talked" for me on tape. Recorded with an Olympus DS2 digital voice recorder, which I ended up setting down, since I had a flashlight in my mouth and a frog in one hand , a frog strong enough that I really needed two!' [Don't you think that's a lovely recording for a pocket-sized voice recorder that costs just a tad over $100? -Aaron]
january 28, 2008 1.5 MB Contributor Ambrose Pottie describes our vacation today succinctly: 'A petting zoo recorded in Granby, Quebec in July, 2005, on a trip with my family.' As he says, that pretty much says it all!
january 21, 2008 1.9 MB For today's vacation, we thank photographer Collin Orthner, who writes, 'I hear these sounds virtually every night during the winter months, as there is a rink just across the street from my home here in Red Deer, in Alberta, Canada. I remember playing hockey for many years and I just tuned the sounds out most of the time, but the other night they caught my attention. I ran outside to catch the last few minutes of a Pond Hockey League practice — about twenty or so 10-12 year olds were messing around after their coach blew the final whistle of the formal practice. Recorded with aa Sony MZ-R37 MD recorder and a Sony ECM-M907 microphone.'
january 14, 2008 1 MB Today's vacation, which inaugurates the seventh year of the one-minute vacation project, comes to us courtesy photographer Blake Gordon, who writes, 'Last fall I began taking pictures of Austin, Texas, between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., which led me to see the city in a completely different way. There was stillness to the scenes. One evening my ears honed in on a commercial AC unit, and I realized how noisy it still was; there was sound everywhere, sound that in the day was normally masked by traffic. So I began recording as well. It was revealing to [clearly] hear a train or a siren and to know that it was a mile away. This sound, the "ghost train," happens as trains navigate through the S-curves that run through the middle of town. I was shocked to hear, not brakes screeching, but pitches rising and falling into one another. I suppose it was from vibrations brought out by the curve. It takes about eight minutes for the an average train to pass... this was recorded about a block and a half from the tracks, near Shoal Creek.'
january 7, 2008 1.9 MB Rain really tore up our neighborhood last week. But sometimes it can be more collaborator than foe; witness this week's vacation, for which we thank Jeremy Slater, who writes, 'The sound of percussion from rain water on crushed up Kirin cans in the Koenji neighborhood, on my last night in Tokyo, Japan. The cans said "Enjuku" which means: ripeness, mellowness, maturity, perfection. This piece presented itself to me as I was walking in the night. I felt happy in the rain recording this. Recorded last November with a Sony MZ-RH10 minidisc recorder and a Sony ECM-DS70P microphone.'
december 31, 2007 1.4 MB As the year ends, let's share a quiet moment to reflect on it, courtesy prolific Freesound participant Dobroide, who writes, 'A fjord's beach at Qaleragdlit, Greenland, in August, 2007. Waves splashing, a nearby stream, wind rumbling, and the crack of ice falling from a distant glacier front (you have to pay attention). Recorded with iRiver H320 with a pair of Soundman OKM mics plugged into a FEL BMA1 preamp.' [As with the binaural recording from two weeks ago recorded with the same microphones, this one is best heard with headphones! -Aaron]
december 24, 2007 1.4 MB Christmas Eve is being celebrated by many; and in this hemisphere, it's a perfect time for a quiet walk in the snow with musician Bengt Hamedani, who appropriately enough recently gave me a gift: he reminded me that creativity is infectious. About this week's vacation, a present for all of us, he writes, 'Simply walking in the snow in a town in Sweden called Rättvik, on vacation with my wife last year... It's interesting how you discover sounds in your recordings that you wasn't aware of when you did the recording. In this recording, I hear traffic in the distance; at first I thought it was disturbing, but now, as I think you [Aaron] wrote somewhere, it makes the recording a record of an event that can't be repeated in exactly the same way, so it has its own unique meaning [and character]. I used a Sharp MD 831 minidisc and a Sony ECM-MS957 stereo electret condenser microphone.' [He's right, I have said things like that, as in this interview. -Aaron]
december 17, 2007 1.8 MB There's something reassuring about pure animal contentment, even that of domesticated beasts living a decent life, so let's not venture far: 'Near the small town of Ruhpolding in the Bavarian Alps in southern Germany, one sunny afternoon in July, 2007. My wife and I were hiking and in a forest meadow we encountered a herd of grazing cows. We were immediately caught by the richness of the sounds, so I neared the herd and the animals came very close. In this dense bucolic soundscape you hear the sound of cowbells, loud breathing, munching and grass-plucking, a fly buzzing by and mooing at various distances. The equipment was a Sony MZ-NH1 HiMD recorder (in uncompressed PCM mode) and OKM II Klassik binaural microphones.' So writes today's contributor, Gunther Reiche. [As with all binaural recordings, this one is best heard with headphones! -Aaron]
december 10, 2007 1 MB I'm not the only one to holiday in Italy; today's vacation comes to us from local Alessandro Massobrio, who writes, 'A funny moment from my short vacation in the Ligurian hinterland of northern Italy, where in late September, some very large pigs are stopping the car traffic by rolling in a mud puddle in the middle of a pass. Some people go straight on by with their cars, others come down to watch closely. Recorded in mono with a Sehnneiser MKH-816P [long shotgun] microphone and a Fostex FR-2 recorder.' [I wish we'd had time to get out in the country ourselves! -Aaron]
december 3, 2007 1.6 MB One final recording from my own recent trip to Venice, Italy... I can't resist sharing a minute I worked hard to record. This is but a small section of the cacaphonous, nearly ten-minute-long pealing of the bells of Venice's famous Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, across the Grand Canal from the Piazza San Marco. During the last days of our stay in Venice, these bells would ring out at what seemed to be completely random times; 3:18 p.m. in the afternoon stands out in my memory as a particular curious time... Perhaps they were on some cryptic ecclesiastical calendar, I wondered? As it turned out I wasn't too far from the truth; the bells were ringing the call to Mass, and it was the schedule that was changing daily in the lead up to the famous festival of the Salute, which is held annually on November 21 to celebrate the retreat of a plague from the city in 1663 (the occasion of which, following a prayer beseaching the Virgin's aid, resulted in the building of the church). Even knowing the calendar of events, however, I had to try many times to capture the bells' peal in its majestic entirety — sometimes they inexplicably didn't ring a call; at other times it started earlier (or later) than I expected, and caught me unready, or walking away sadly, having given up on them. I only managed the capture them properly on our very last night! [Aaron]
november 26, 2007 1.6 MB Last week we heard the hidden world of the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. This week, I'd like to share with you a contrasting recording I made myself: how the Grand Canal sounded at the very minute I posted last week, but this time, as recorded with conventional microphones (my beloved Sonic Studios DSM quasibinaural mics). To explain: my wife and I made simultaneous recordings from the same spot; I was curious to hear how the obvious soundscape contrasted with the hidden one underwater... which do you find more interesting? (Recorded with a Sony MZ-RH10 HiMD recorder.) [Aaron]
november 19, 2007 1.6 MB Today's my birthday, and indeed, this is my present: a vacation recorded by my wife, Bronwyn Ximm, on our own vacation, in Venice, Italy, on this very day! This is the duly famous Grand Canal, as recorded with an Aquarian H2 hydrophone that she dangled off the end of a private pier in the San Polo sestiere in the heart of the city. What you hear is the ruckus of the perpetually chaotic boat traffic on the Canal, which ranges from private water taxis to vaporetto water buses to dozens of kinds of working boats... each with its own raucous motor. Recorded with a Zoom H2 recorder. [Aaron]
november 12, 2007 1.4 MB Today's contributor, sound artist Pablo Jones aka Hilux Audio, writes: 'A moment from my vacation in Lazise in northern Italy, where Lake Garda is nestled into mountains, creating a micro-climate where thunderstorms appear almost from nowhere and sort of drift up the lake. The mountains also create a lot of reverb which adds to the drama of it all. I made this recording when I was woken one night about 3 a.m. by a particularily big storm; you can hear one rumble of thunder as it reverberates around my apartment. The background "hiss" is actually rain on the shutters, and not my cheap Sony MZ-R55-based recording kit!' [Which I post today in honor of my own very brief vacation in northern Italy, which I leave for tomorrow... a last little trip before our daughter arrives! -Aaron]
november 5, 2007 1.8 MB For today's vacation, we thank fellow train-sound enthusiast Owen Butcher, who writes, 'Steam locomotive 2705 passes through the Australian bushland between Thirlmere and Buxton; I sat in the middle of the bush by the railway line and waited for the loco to pass. I sat high above a cutting to get the 'chug chug' sound that people would expect from a steam engine; down close to the line, the sound is very messy and full of steam. Recorded on the 21st of October, 2007, with a Zoom H4 recorder using its internal microphones (I used some slight compression to help bring the sounds of the bush out of the recording, as I had to have the gain down very low as the loco is very loud).'
october 29, 2007 1 MB 'A walk down Kalverstraat, a fairly narrow pedestrian-only shopping street in Amsterdam in February. I was there on business, but liked the sound of a street organ so I stopped. The organ was very elaborate, with moving characters, large enough to be its own trailer— and, as you can hear, it had all sorts of instruments. The clinking sound is the operator shaking a brass collection cup for donations; I made one. I used Soundman OKM II binaural microphones and a Marantz PMD 670 recorder.' So writes today's contributor, Nick Miller.
october 22, 2007 1.1 MB Sound artist Lasse-Marc Riek (of the wonderful label Gruenrekorder) writes of this week's vacation, 'On the 20th of June 2007, at 5:00 p.m., in the Nelimarkka Museum, in Alajšrvi, Finland. Museum caretakers Tuija and Asko wrap paintings from the recent exhibition. Recorded in mono with a Sennheiser MKH-416P microphone and Marantz PMD 660 recorder.'
october 15, 2007 1.6 MB If that fall chill is getting to you, listen no further than today's vacation, which comes to us thanks to Brian Valente, who writes: 'I was in Yellowstone National Park in September of this year for a photo trip, and while the steam pots didn't do much for me visually, I certainly found them amazing to listen to. Steam pools and gurgling fissures are all over the park, and this particular area looked like the surface of the moon... in this recording I count at least three separate steam pots. I recorded this with two Sennheiser MKE64 mics in a near-binaural setup and a Korg MR-1000 DSD recorder.' [And with this amazing vacation, we reach 300 vacations! -Aaron]
october 8, 2007 2 MB No sooner did I praise those days of gold than (of course!) the first storm of winter arrived. Before they continue, here's a quiet moment to consider the pleasures particular to autumn, courtesy contributor ArnĢůr Helgason, who writes, 'September 16 was a sunny but windy day in my suburb on the western outskirts of Reykjavik, Iceland. I brought a microphone out on the balcony of our house which is facing south; the northern wind therefore didnít disturb the recording, but the sounds of the leaves blowing away is heard quite clearly... Recorded with a Nagra Ares-M and Shure VP88 microphone.'
october 1, 2007 1.6 MB As is typical in San Francisco, the golden days of summer are just upon us now, but today's contributor, Quinn, writes, 'In Japan, August is the most humid and hot month of the year. Since I moved to a small village on a mountainside here, I've been enjoying the sound of higurashi cicadas on the evenings of hot summer days. Their sounds are nicer than other kinds of cicadas, which are loud in the hot daytime.' [Is it my imagination, or do I remember hirurashi being used in Miyazake's Totoro...? -Aaron]
september 24, 2007 1 MB Halfway around the world, it should surprise noone that we also find kids being... kids. Contributor Pierre Cao sets the stage: 'As the bell of the Basilica of Saint Peter marks ten o'clock, school kids gather in the Piazza San Pietro in Rome, Italy, to celebrate Mardi Gras. For the occasion they dressed in funny costumes; led by their teachers, they sang and danced all together.' [Recorded I believe with an Edirol R1 -Aaron]
september 17, 2007 1.6 MB Mid-September means school's in session for most American kids. Let's commemorate that with today's vacation (recess?), which comes to us from musician, artist, and field recordist [not to mention personal inspiration] Rob Millis, who writes, 'Recess time at a school in Ubon Ratchathani in northeastern Thailand, right near the border with Laos, and as they do everywhere, the kids were going completely insane. Some had gotten ahold of saxophones and trumpets, you can hear them honking away as others screamed and yelled at the foreigner (that would be me) standing on the other side of the fence: "Falang! Falang! Hello! Hey maaan!"' Update: in response to my query, Rob clarified, 'I use a Neumann U47 AK37 semi-automatic binaural ribbon assault microphone. Usually controlled remotely from another planet. Alright, not really. It was recorded with the on-board microphone on my Sony DV camera in 16 bit digital.'
september 10, 2007 1.6 MB Music of a more intentional sort, courtesy today's contributor, Petri Kaipiainen, who writes, 'Walking down a side street in Kathmandu [Nepal] late in the evening in the late 90's, I came across a small band playiing, I think they were celebrating a wedding... Recorded with a Sony MZ-R30 MD recorded and a Shure VP88 stereo mic in its mid-wide setting.'
september 3, 2007 2.3 MB 'Every year in June my parents take up residence on the Belgian coast in an apartment that looks over the see and the sandy beach. It is a joy to stay there. Part of the beach is taken by a sailing school and at night they "park" their boats on the beach; I've never counted them but there must over one hundred of them. Whenever the wind picks up, the halyard (the rope running up the mast to raise the sails) beats against the mast and this makes the most remarkable bell-like sound..... On this particular day, as I was walking alone on the beach just after sundown (my favorite time of the day) I heard this "sailboats in the wind" concert; I ran inside to get the recording kit I had with me, to finally capture it! Recorded with a Nagra Ares-PII+ recorder fitted with NP-MICES XY stereo microphones.' Pure enchantment, brought to us by sound artist Peter Caeldries.
august 27, 2007 1.8 MB And as long as the Zoom's out, let's hear how it works across the Atlantic... 'Belfairs Woods, in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex, England, mid-February. This being the first really beautiful bright sunny day of the year, all the local hobby pilots seemed to be out and I did not catch a recording without the noise of a light aircraft in it! Recorded with a Zoom H4 using the internal mics. Here's a map of where I made the recording.' So writes today's contributor, photographer Ian Tomey. [Personally, what I love in this recording is precisely the enigmatic thrumming of those planes! -Aaron]
august 20, 2007 940 KB As long as the umbrella's open, let's enjoy the rain in Cincinnati, Ohio, courtesy contributor Steve Bayer, who writes, 'A March afternoon's thunderstorm closes out the winter of 2007. Recorded on a Zoom H4 (using its built-in mics) resting on plant stand on the front porch, out of harm from wind and rain. Relax with drips, splashes, soft thunder, swishing motorcars, their doppler effect, and damp birds softly singing in the rain...'
august 13, 2007 1.4 MB Another memorial this week, this one for... an umbrella. But not just any umbrella. As contributor Lu Olkowski explains, today's vaction documents 'The most sonically lovely umbrella in the world! I have since lost that umbrella and it smarts. No new umbrellas sound like that. Recorded in the most ordinary of ordinary places: my neighborhood, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, a recently gentrified Italian-American immigrant community (think "On the Waterfront," but in Brooklyn instead of Hell's Kitchen). I just walked out of my apartment to the corner and stood there a while as music streamed out of a neighbor's window. Recorded with a Beyerdynamic MCE 86N(C)S mic parallel to the handle, pointed straight up into the umbrella.'
august 6, 2007 1.6 MB Tonight (on Tuesday) on top of the hill my wife and I live on in San Francisco, we held an Owlwake to commemorate and remember as a community the two Great Horned Owls that lived in the trees on our little windswept hilltop starting last year. Both owls, which quickly became beloved local celebrities (certainly best documented in this amazing photoset from Art Siegel, wake co-organizer), died this year, the first only hours after I left for Portugal in April, from what was determined via an owl-topsy performed by Wildcare in Marin County to have been avian herpes; my wife and I took the second to the same facility only a couple of weeks ago; we haven't heard yet the cause of its death (though since the pair nested together we assume it was the same disease). A wake seemed an appropriate farewell, as the owls provided not only an all-too-rare brush with the 'wild'; they also offered, as was oft-mentioned tonight as people shared memories and thoughts, a source of equally rare community contact: we all somehow regularly found ourselves happily chatting with strangers, often our neighbors, when we stopped to gaze at them (as my wife and I did literally every day). Today's vacation is offered in remembrance of them; in it you can hear a bit of the pleasure these feathered wonders provided, as a family arrives to 'spot' the pair, along with one of the many dogs who have the run of the hill. (This was also the first time I tried out my new recording rig: a pair of Sennheiser MKH-800 multipattern microphones, here arranged in an MS array, and a Sound Devices 722 recorder.) RIP Tux and Tuctin Owl, one of whom you can hear hooting here, in a recording I made a few minutes before this vacation. [Aaron]
july 30, 2007 1.9 MB My sister-in-law leaves for Asia in less than two weeks; one of her first adventures is going to be a tour of Ladakh, a part the Tibetan plateau in political India which preserves Tibetan culture in a way that Chinese Tibet does not. I envy her itinerary, I've always wanted to go there — but at least I can visit via today's vacation, which comes to us from artist Keith de Mendonca, who writes, 'I recently travelled around Ladakh (in the state of Jammu & Kashmir in northern India), which borders onto Tibet; there I heard a lot of singing and chanting made part of work, such as people singing whilst moving rocks onto roofs — or, in this recording, whilst passing large rocks hand-to-hand in a human chain to load them onto the back of a lorry. The rubble in this case was once part of Chemrey monastary, which collapsed last year as a result of heavy rainfall.'
july 23, 2007 1.2 MB A true vacation comes to us today from Angela Duncan, who writes, 'This is Mackinac Island, Michigan, as I heard it sitting on the beach (Lake Huron, I think?) with my iBook, recording the waves and seagulls, and playing with the little white stones that covered the entire beach. It was a perfectly beautiful, blue-sky day with little white clouds. I worked there last summer as a photographer for the Grand Hotel and had a lot of free time.' Oh, the long golden days of summer...!
july 16, 2007 1.1 MB For today's vacation, we thank repeat-contributor Kevin T. Allen, who so evocatively writes, 'My sister and I fell in love with the mountainous region of Sapa in northwest Vietnam during a trip in the summer of 2005. There we became very friendly with our Black Hmong guide, Ger. She invited us to visit her home, so we trekked to the small village of Loa Chai to spend the day with her family and joined them for dinner, which was served squatting on the dirt floor of their thatched-roof house. It occurred to me how very differently a home sounds, away from the 60-cycle hum of modern amenities: you could really hear everything at once, really feel the space and its place in the world. The slurping of noodles, the roosters just outside, the shaman's gong, dusty footsteps, the piercing song of the cicadas, Ger's father's sighs of delight as we showed him photos — even the faint sound of running of water from the nearby irrigation system... the time we sat there together sharing an acoustic moment was perhaps my favorite sixty seconds of our trip.'
july 9, 2007 1.9 MB Today's contributor, James Nestor, writes, 'On the way back from a weeks-long surf trip on the coast of Panama in March, two friends and I had to spend a night in the town of David before crossing the border. We were lucky enough to time our stay with the annual country fair. Farmers and ranchers from all over this very desolate, rural part of Panama gather during the fair to sell their wares and show off a baffling range of livestock. Outside of the fair proper, locals compete to attract fairgoers to their bar-b-ques, rudimentary craps tables, and backyard discos by blasting stereos (mostly playing reggaeton) at sound levels I have never before experienced! This recording was taken on a walk up to the fairgrounds along the busiest of the sidestreets with an Edirol recorder and binaural microphones.'
july 2, 2007 2 MB This week's vacation comes to us from Alex Ellis, who writes, 'On a sunny Saturday morning just before noon in Peterborough, England, I chanced upon a sort of period opera being rehearsed in the Norman Cathedral. At the nave, five female musicians performed on a wooden stage; in this recording, the beautiful and clearly well-to-do singer faced away from the microphones, leaving her voice to echo back to me where I sat in the pews. Recorded with an iRiver iFP recorder and homemade binaural mics I made by mounting Panasonic electret microphone elements in earbud-style headphones (like those that come with the iPod).'
june 25, 2007 2,5 MB For today's vacation we thank composer and sound designer Kirke Godfrey, who sets the scene: 'Walking around to the far side of Magnetic Island, off north Queensland in the Great Barrier Reef region of Australia, with a group of friends... pushing past the stinging green ants, out to the beaches and rocks, we came across a tranquil little bay with rocks and small stretches of sand (providing the fizz in this sound). So peaceful! Recorded in July of 2002 with a Sony DV handicam.'
june 18, 2007 1,4 MB Today's contributor, Geoff Middleton, brings us sounds of an English summer night. Specifically, 'Nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) singing at 1:30 a.m. on a summer evening in 2002, at Whisby Nature Reserve, in Lincoln, UK. Recorded with a Sony minidisc recorder and a pair of AKG C300 microphones.'
june 11, 2007 1,5 MB Field recordist Fabian Klenk writes of today's vacation, 'In Hampi, in the state of Karnataka in southwestern India, I took a room on the side of the small river in the more isolated Virupapur Gaddi area. It overlooked the rice fields and was far from the tourist crowds. Every evening, after sunset, the fields would burst with sounds from frogs, toads, and insects. Late on my last evening there, I went into the fields, sat down, and recorded this with my iRiver H340 (on which I run the open-source third-party Rockbox firmware) and Soundman OKM II binaural microphones. Everytime I listen to it, I want to go back!' [And everytime I hear it, I want to go! -Aaron]
june 4, 2007 1,5 MB Today's vacation comes to us from Chad Randl, who write, 'A trip on the Schilthorn Cableway in the Swiss Alps: on September 27, 2006 we were on our way up to the revolving restaurant at Schilthorn peak, where they filmed the Bond movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The cable car was shrouded in clouds with no visibility. Tourists spoke to each other about their other travels. At about halfway through the excerpt we broke through the clouds to a spectacular view of the Alps (at about 2000 meters). Listen for the aaahhhs! Recorded with an Edirol R-09 using its internal mics.'
Note: The following seven vacations, dated April 16 to May 28, were actually posted on May 29.
I recorded all of these myself in and around the small town of Nodar, in northern Portugal,
where I had an arts residency between April 10 and 28. During the residency and
several weeks that followed this project was on hiatus...
Apologies for the
interruption, we will now return to our regular schedule! [Aaron]
may 28, 20071.4 MBI hope to post a page soon about the project I realized during my stay in Nodar, but I'd like to finish this series with a favorite among the recordings I made working on it. Suffice to say for now that I intended to record here the sound of the sheep who lived next door being herded home late one afternoon, after a day grazing in the lush pasture between our house and the river. As with so many of my favorite recordings, what you actually hear is something I could not have planned... This is the sound of Dona Ilya, the sheeps' owner, discovering my unattended backpack on the side of the path, grumbling, begging heaven's aid, and finally grabbing the pack and — convinced that it was scaring her timid sheep — unceremoniously dumping it further along the path. What she didn't notice was that in doing so my pair of very small Core Sound HEB binaural mics were attached to the recorder in my backpack; moving it she ripped them out of the deep crannies I'd stuffed them into in the stone wall at the side of the path! No harm done, to my gear or her sheep, but you'll notice the stereo image changes quite a bit after the disruption in the middle of the recording when my recorder and mics are dumped on the ground... The funny thing was that I'd left my gear recording unattended specifically to avoid scaring those sheep; I'd discovered right away that they and the goats I loved (see below) would balk at passing me when I tried to record them on narrow paths, unintentionally causing delays for their tired herders (of both the two- and four-footed variety)! [Aaron]
may 21, 20071.4 MBSomething the other recordings I've posted in this series haven't conveyed is the profound natural quiet of Nodar and its surroundings. Though cars and the odd motorcycle would pass through en route to one or another of the similarly small towns dotting the hills every day, I've never been somewhere so civilized where motor and industrial noise was such a rarity. In the absence even of regular airplane overflight (which was quite infrequent, much more so than the open expanses of the American west which are my normal metric for natural quiet), I began to seriously mistrust my ability to judge sound levels; it was not uncommon to clearly hear bells tinkling on the necks of animals a thousand yards away or more. This recording is a bow to that quiet; in it, late one afternoon I capture crickets on a hillside above town and the white noise of a tributary running down to the river below... which at the time seemed achingly loud. Recorded with Sennheiser MKH-800 mics to a Sound Devices 722. [Aaron]
may 14, 20071.4 MB One of Nodar's young entrepeneurs burns the plastic jackets and casing off foot-long lengths of multi-strand solid-core copper communications wire, so that the bare if soot-stained copper can be sold as recovered metal. I'm still a bit skeptical as to the provenance of that cable! Recorded with a Sound Devices 722 and Sennheiser MKH-800 mics — which I endeavored to keep well away from the acrid, toxic, and no doubt liable-to-coat-and-destroy-microphone-elements multi-hued smoke! [Aaron]
may 7, 20071.4 MBOne gray afternoon Binaural's Cristina Tascón led me around the hillside from the chapel (see below) to Nodar's old mill, which I'd tried and failed to find on my own — it's obscured by trees in a side valley. Upgraded with a steel wheel, it looked dormant but useable if the small stream running below the millhouse were to pick up. Absent a torrent I climbed below the house and recorded myself spinning the wheel back and forth. The sound of the millstone scraping with a rasp above me sounded so much like breathing that I improvised for ten or fifteen minutes, trying to replicate the breathe pattern of oncoming sleep. I must have done a reasonable job, since listening to the recording later that day Cristina fell fast asleep on the couch! Recorded with my beloved Sonic Studios DSM-6S/EH mics (as always in a WHB headband) to my Sound Devices 722. [Aaron]
april 30, 20071.4 MB On the edge of town on a hillside I found the burnt-out shell of a small chapel, which was disused but only recently destroyed in the serious fire that denuded many of the hills around Nodar only a few years ago. Like almost every structure in town the chapel was constructed with irregular blocks and fins of local slate; in this recording I walk through the building's interor on stone from the fallen roof and partially collapsed walls, and try to give voice to it. Again recorded with Sennheiser MKH-800 mics in Blumlein to a Sound Devices 722. [Aaron]
april 23, 20071.4 MB An instantly-enchanting soundmark in Nodar is the tinkle and dong of bell-clad livestock cruising lush pastures and distant hillsides. A delight of my residency was that every morning I would wake up to — or later, after I adopted the local schedule, enjoy my coffee to — the gamelan jangle of goats leaving their nearby paddock to forage high in the hillside pastures. (Though initially sent off in one direction or another by their owners, it was a lone fierce sheep dog who kept them all day, and it was he who brought them home from miles away each night.) Recorded with my Sennheiser MKH-800 mics (again in Blumlein) and Sound Devices 722. [Aaron]
april 16, 20071.4 MB A few days after I arrived at my Binaural residency in the small town of Nodar in northern Portugal, I was caught by a wild late afternoon thunderstorm while taking my first hike high into the hills in which the town nestles. As thunder boomed I sheltered near a concrete water tank constructed to combat the not-uncommon fires that plague the area (largely a result of the cultivation of fast-growing but hot-burning eucalyptus). Not long after I started recording, blown rain turned to blow hail; punctuating the grumble and bluster of the storm you can hear hailstones bouncing off the DPA Windpac windshield that sheltered my microphones! One of my goals at this residency was to field-test the recording rig I used to record this, Sennheiser MKH-800 multipattern microphones (here arranged in the Blumlein configuration) and a Sound Devices 722 recorder. [Aaron]
april 9, 2007940 KB Tomorrow I take a vacation of my own: I'm off to Portugal for a residency. I couldn't ask for a more auspicious send-off than this recording from Kurt Tidmore, who writes, 'One evening in Lisbon, Portugal, my wife and I walked up to the Castelo de Sao Jorge at about dusk. The castle was originally built by the Moors and overlooks the city from the top of the old Alfama district. The streets in the neighborhood were full of university students in their traditional black suits and capes. As we walked with the castle walls looking down on all this, we came upon an old woman sitting in the dark singing fado, the Portuguese equivalent of flamenco or the blues. Recorded (as uncompressed PCM) with a Sony MZ-NHF800 HiMD recorder using a Sony DS-70P mic and a home-made wind guard.' See you in May!
april 2, 20071.7 MB 'For three months I lived in a large town called Chichibu, Japan, studying the bamboo flute and doing a bit of cycle touring. Chichibu is nestled in the mountains about an hour and a half northwest of Tokyo. Every night at six p.m. (or five in winter) the town's P.A. system would play this song. It echoed all over the town and often produced strange phasing effects as the wind, or your position relative to the various loudspeakers (mounted on power poles around town), changed. I thought it was just a quaint small-town thing, but when I went traveling, I discovered that it happens all over Japan, including inside office buildings!' So writes Benji-san, today's contributor; you can read more about his stay here.
march 26, 20072.3 MB We continue our run of nature recordings today with the help of sound designer Marc Levisohn, who writes of today's vacation, 'Where I live I overlook a canyon where hawks circle above, making these classic cries which echo throughout the valley; you know something is running for its life beneath them! Recently I've been hearing coyotes at night too. Recorded on March 18, 2007, from my studio window onto a Sony D-100 DAT with its preamp modified by Sonic Studios for use with their DSM-6S stereo mics, which I wore in my WHB Windscreen Headband.' [It's a sore point among nature recordists that the instantly familiar cry of the red-tailed hawk, which I believe is captured here, is commmonly used on TV and in movies to pinch-hit for the much less 'authoratative' cries of bald eagles (and other raptors)... -Aaron]
march 19, 20071.4 MB 'One evening in early May 2005 I positioned a stereo mic array on the shore of a remote lake in the Chippewa National Forest in north-central Minnesota and walked away for about an hour. Some time after I left, a beaver (or two?) apparently resumed an ongoing project near the microphone... Recorded on a Sony TCD-D7 DAT recorder with a pair of Shure WL-183 microphones in an experimental wedge array.' So writes today's contributor, innovative field recordist Curt Olson.
march 12 , 20071.8 MB Whale Bay in Northland, New Zealand, at dusk in late July, 2006... as recorded by location sound recordist Grant Finlay, with a Neumann RSM191i stereo microphone, an SQN-4S portable mixer, and a Sony TCD-D8 Portadat.
march 5, 20073.3 MB Fans of the rest of this site are probably aware of the debt I owe today's contributor, Leonard Lombardo; he makes the Sonic Studios DSM-6S/EH microphones I used to make the recordings you hear in the field recordings section (and the compositions I've made with them elsewhere). About his contribution Leonard writes, 'Debbie and I had a delightful experience of a very quiet rolling thunderstorm here in Sutherlin, Oregon, last June 11th. It was a surprisingly calming event featuring thunder, rain, birds, and dogs in our rural-like neighborhood with close surrounding hills. Luckily we were already outside and ready to record the very-early-morning birds on the driveway with an artificial head baffle wearing a hat already set up; it took only a few minutes to pull the rest of the gear out of the truck and start recording as the storm started. This is a short clip taken from a recording over two hours long. Listen for the sound of raindrops, which is a mix of distant ground contacts and the surround sound of drops against the hat's brim. Recorded with Sonic Studios DSM-6S/H windscreened mics on full-size GUY HRTF baffle, PA-24XP mic pre (on +10 setting), into the line-level input on an M-Audio Microtrack recording at 24 bits and 88.2K; this excerpt was converted to to CD quality in Cool Edit Pro with dither and just 6 dB of gain (and no other processing). I suggest listening on the newest very-awesome Sony MDR-SA3000 or 5000 model headphones!'
february 26, 20071.4 MB Today's vacation comes to us from sound artist Brandon Locher, who recorded 'a collective of friends, Endless Mike and the Beagle Club, playing on a street corner in Brattleboro, Vermont, on May 5th, 2006.' (You can hear more recordings of the band Brandon made that day here!)
february 19, 20071.4 MB For today's vacation we thank location sound mixer Hayden Jackson, who writes, 'This is a recording I made in the summer of 2005, when I worked on a music video in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The last day of the shoot was on top of La Tigra National Park, which looks over the entire city. Two park employees armed with machetes were detailed to watch over us for our protection. I set up my gear (a Sony ECM-MS957 mic going directly into my Sony PCM-M1 DAT recorder) to record this track unattended (hey, I was busy working!)/. As we were quite a distance from the city, I'm amazed at how well my mic picked up some of the voices below, particularly the children. That was a memorable night: as night began to fall, the park employees took off and we were left alone. While we were packing up our equipment in the dark, two police officers approached us and demanded that we drive them back down the mountain. As we got into the van, our interpreter informed us that some of the police were corrupt and we had best watch our backs, so I was a bit uneasy when the head officer rode up front with me, his gun out in his lap mere inches from me. The drive down the mountain seemed to take forever! But thankfully, the officers didn't try anything funny...'
february 12, 20071.4 MB The excitement around our house since we got back from Mexico has been the pair of Great Horned Owls that have taken up residence on the top of our hill here in San Francisco. Every morning my wife and I walk up to 'check on them.' Inevitably we're entertained by circling flocks of crows; it's the time of year when they engage in preposterous acrobatics as they mate. So it was with much excitement that I read the account of today's vacation, which comes to us courtesy ecology and evolution PhD candidate David La Puma: 'I went out early this morning in hopes of testing out our new Sennheiser ME66 microphone and Marantz PMD670 recorder for our Ornithology class. Here in Somerset, NJ, the usual birds were singing: Tufted Titmouse, Black-capped Chickadee, the occasional White-throated Sparrow. I picked up a Northern Cardinal singing down the trail a bit, so I walked along in an attempt to get closer. When I rounded the corner I found the cardinal perched about thirty feet in the scrubby edge of a cedar stand. As I positioned my microphone I almost immediately saw (and heard) a Great Horned Owl come bounding out of the top of a red cedar. It had been perfectly camouflaged, and as it left the tree its weight caused the top to spring back in the direction of its flight like a catapult, which startled me and filled me with excitement. I know owls nest on our property because I hear them throughout the year, but itís rare that I actually get to see one. What followed was an audio extravaganza, as American Crows who were probably just as startled as me "mobbed" the owl some distance away... Enjoy!'
february 5, 20071.3 MB A trip to the Yucatan need not sap everyone's work ethic, as amply demonstrated by this week's contributor, Martyn Stewart, moderator of the Nature Recordists mailing list. He writes, 'I recorded these insects and frogs at dusk at El Cuyo near Rio Lagartos, in the Mexican Yucatan. With its subtropical forest and mangroves it's a great habitat for flamingos, for which it's famous. I was more interested in documenting the state of the biophony there after the hurricane (Wilma); some areas of the Yucatan were totally devastated. Many birds were killed and a lot of farmland and pasture was under water for months afterwards. My recordings will be used to form a baseline for future catastrophes. Recorded onto a Sound Devices 744 recorder using Sennheiser MKH-30/40 mics in an MS pattern.'
january 29, 20071.6 MB Regulars will have noticed a hiccup in service around here, for which I apologize; my work ethic was temporarily displaced by a placid passivitiy over the holidays when we spent a good number of days in the Yucatan near the Belize border, where the most pressing things on my agenda were watching crabs tentatively creep out of their holes, frigates wheel above the occasional pelican, and listening to the tradewinds blow through the palm near my hammock... the sound of the latter I offer you by way of apology, as recorded with my trusty DSM-6S/EH microphones and a venerable Sony MZ-R37 MD recorder. [Aaron]
january 22, 20071.6 MB At the end of the week my friend Paul leaves for Amsterdam to flog the products we make together at a convention; so how about a bit of sound from that city, courtesy sound recordist Eleanor Beaton, who writes, 'On holiday in Amsterdam this past December I stayed near Museumplein. One evening as I went out for a walk with my recorder through the park, I paused at an ice rink where night-skating and a bit of hockey was going on. As I was listening an English-speaking family came along and played with a musical instrument built into the ground — it looked like a metal "tic-tac-toe" board, and (as you can hear) made xylophone-like sounds. Recorded with an M-Audio Microtrack 24/96 and a RØDE NT4 stereo microphone.'
january 15, 20071.4 MB Today's vacation documents the end of one. Fellow field recording advocate Michael Oster explains, 'The end of my vacation: inside an Airbus A-319 that has just parked at the gate in Tampa, Florida, people gather their belongings, while support crew hook up electricity to the jet and its flaps are retracted... Recorded September 3, 2006, with an Edirol R-09 using its internal microphones.'

There are more: archives of the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth year.
You can also purchase compilations on CD; all profits go to charity!

One-minute vacation podcast beta (RSS2.0 with enclosures) podcast, write me if you have comments.