But First An Apology
Let me start by apologizing for missing last weeks blog. I was absolutely flattened by a miserable virus and, although my "Sounds" article was essentially done, for most of the week, I couldn't get my head off the pillow. Over the last Two and one-half years I haven't missed a week and on some weeks I did two articles, so I figure I deserve some slack. Some of you may have been happy for the break, but, I am beginning to feel human, so it's back to work!
One of the most endangered things on our earth is not an obscure beetle or delicate bird, but quietude.
Quietude does not mean the total lack of sound but rather places where natural sounds can be heard without the intrusion of man-made, technological noise. We have become so accustom to our own din that we hardly notice it, until we start listening for quiet.
Recently I have been trying to record natural sounds to include as background for some of my web site slide shows. I had initially tried music, but I found that nature provides a more appropriate
|Walpole Ridge, Then Late Mowing|
I have just started on my search for quietude. As I drive the back roads I can often be seen pulled over just listening. It can be a frustrating quest, but I have already learned a few tricks along the way.
|Deep in the Valley|
Noise is muted by the hills. On my searches I tend to look for valleys or gorges within the forest. The problem is that people also tend to congregate in the valleys. I seek out low lying back roads where the houses are few are far apart and the dogs don't bark at passersby. Isolated forest trail offer even great chances to escape the rumble.
The Quiet Times
Noise is less when people are snug in their beds and snoring is the only issue. I try to get out early in the morning and late at night. Happily this is also the time when nature tends to be its most vocal.
Evening on Madame Sherri Pond
Signal to Noise.
It seems obvious that noise will be less apparent when the targetsounds are louder and more continuous. Directional microphones can help isolate the sound, but even the most enthusiastic bird has to take a breath now and then that is when highway rumble becomes painfully evident. Continuous sounds such as babbling brooks, surf, or rain can cover a multitude of sins and I have mixed brook sounds with more delicate tracks to cover the technological rumble. Check out the track on my website’s front page (note this Flash and won't player on your Apple devices). What can be more relaxing than the sound of birds twittering next to a lovely babbling brook? I have to pee already!
No Flash? Listen on YouTube
Patience and Editing.
It is an unwritten rule that as soon as I turn on the recorder a car drives by or a plane flies over. Even the quietest location is not quiet all the time. The important thing is to be patient and continue recording. One of the most common sources of human contamination of natural sounds comes from the person recording the sound. Foot steps, sneezes or even a nose scratch can be picked up surprisingly easily. I usually set up my recorder and then retreat at least several yards away. Despite my best efforts transient noise always seem to intrude, but the nice thing about natural sounds is that interruptions are generally easy to edit out without obvious discontinuities.
What you will need: a Recorder, Editing Software and Patience.
As with photography, it is easy to spend a lot of money recording
|Zoom H4n with "dead cat"|
|IPhone Recording, No dead cat, yet|
It is commonly stated that your best camera is the one you have with you and that is also true of sound recorders. I have found that my iPhone does an acceptable job in many situations, especially when I am only planning to use the sounds on the web. I see an “i”Dead Cat in my future.
iPhone Recording of Chesterfield Gorge
Sound needs to be edited and I could have spent several hundred dollars for a program that I probably wouldn’t understand. I ended up with Audacity, a very capable and FREE editor that does everything I need. I can adjust levels, edit out distractions and mix tracks. The program has a set of filters which among other thing allows a degree of muting of background noise.
|Storm Over Harrisville|
I am just starting with field recording and perhaps, when I really know what I’m doing, I will post another article, but I’m having such a good time capturing the sounds of nature that I couldn’t resist sharing my early experiences. Now get out there and listen and let me know if you find the quietude.
Here is a 30 minute trip to the New Hampshire seacoast at dawn from my recent weekend at Rye Beach. I captured this audio while shooting the sunrise behind Whaleback Lighthouse in Portsmouth Harbor. If you can't do Flash, you can go to my YouTube site: