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.
vacations are unedited recordings of somewhere, somewhen. Sixty seconds of something
else. Sixty seconds to be someone else.
new one-minute vacation will be added each week on Monday if I can manage it (so
far, there are 327 vacations).
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.)
it's your birthday, this is your present.
featuring host Bronwyn
Ximm, write me if you
'Let's go away for awhile, you and I, to a
and distant land, where they
speak no word of truth...'
|april 21, 2008
|| '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
| '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
'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
| 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
|| 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
|| 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
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
|| 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
|| 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
|| 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
|| 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
|| 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
|| 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
|| 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
|| 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
|| 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
|| 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
|| 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
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
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
|| 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
|| 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
|| 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]
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]
For today's vacation, we thank fellow train-sound
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).'
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.
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
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.'
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]
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.'
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...?
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]
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.'
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.'
'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
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!
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...'
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.'
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
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]
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.'
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...!
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.'
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.'
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).'
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.'
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.'
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
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]
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.'
The following seven vacations, dated April 16 to May 28, were actually posted
on May 29.
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
that followed this project was on hiatus...
Apologies for the
interruption, we will now return to our regular schedule!
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
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)!
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]|
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]|
gray afternoon Binaural's Cristina
Tascón led me around the hillside from the chapel (see below) to Nodar's
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]|
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]|
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
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]|
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
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]|
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!|
'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.
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]|
'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
12 , 2007||1.8
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. |
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!'
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
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...'|
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!'|
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.'|
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]|
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
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.' |
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.'|