Hebdomadal sound project: April 2013

Week 17
Various locations, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
April 23rd – 25th

Digital Orca by Douglas Coupland, Jack Poole Plaza

Starting in the downtown core of Vancouver, the first recording this week is taken at the intersection of Granville and Dunsmuir Streets. Across from where I was sitting recording, a man was playing solo guitar to a backing track and a seemingly indifferent crowd. I particularly enjoyed the little flourishes he finished each song with. Also, you’ll hear some skateboarders and road traffic, which is dominated by the sounds of trolleybuses, with their characteristic beeping, pneumatic doors, and the sound of overhead cables.

(April 23rd, 3.40 pm (05:15))

Mass transit systems across the city were well integrated and very diverse, relative to what I am habitually used to in Edinburgh. Indeed, one of the exciting things I found about being in Vancouver (geek alert), was the various ways to travel through and in/out of the city (ferries, boats, trolleybuses, a driverless metro system (wonderfully called the SkyTrain), seaplanes, horse-drawn carts, rentable bicycles, as well as cars, taxis and so on).

False Creek ferry

Aimed at tourists as a relatively cheap way of leisurely plodding along False Creek, were a couple of ferry operators who can transport about 10 people per ferry. Here’s a recording from inside one of them on my way to Granville Island:

(April 23rd, 1.30 pm (06:00))

Seaplanes at Vancouver Harbour Water Airport

Next is my favourite recording from my trip, taken from Vancouver Harbour Water Airport, where small seaplanes take people mostly to and from Vancouver Island. You can hear people walking the short gangway to board their flights, a departure announcement, and of course the roar of seaplanes. The seaplane taking off around the 6 minute mark was incredible to listen to at the time, rattling my skull in a pleasing manner.

(April 25th, 3.20 pm (08:05))

North Vancouver from the SeaBus

I wanted to get over to North Vancouver closer to the North Shore Mountains that loom large over the city, which requires crossing the Burrard Inlet. To do so is very easy, as integrated into the bus system is a ferry (the SeaBus) route that takes huge numbers of commuters across in about 20 minutes. The following recording, which is representative of the whole journey, starts from within the Waterfront Station terminal (downtown Vancouver). At about 2:30 I enter the ferry, and I disembark at Lonsdale Quay (North Vancouver) right as the recording fades out. The ferry is completely enclosed with no option to be out in the open, so you can hear the sounds of the ferry’s engine, gears, and passengers.

(April 24th, 1.10 pm (08:00))

Cleveland Dam

After I had made the crossing, I took a bus further north to the Capilano River Regional Park, a protected watershed that supplies much of Vancouver with its drinking water that is surrounded by pine forest (including some huge Douglas Firs). The following is an edited selection of recordings along a walking route through the park, starting from Cleveland Dam (audible for the first 30 seconds), through the forest, along various river rapids (3:05-4:40), and ending next to a Government-run salmon hatchery.

(April 24th, 2.30-4.45pm (09:00))

Capilano River Regional Park

Capilano salmon hatchery

Setup: either 1 RØDE NT4 or 2 RØDE lavalier mics in stereo position to Tascam DR-680

Week 16
Various locations, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
April 20th – 22nd

At the tail end of week 16, I unexpectedly got the chance to travel to Vancouver. Having not traveled this far west in Canada before, I got excited by the new sounds (and sights!) of this incredibly beautiful city. Feeling a little jet lagged, the first recording is taken from my 18th floor hotel room, overlooking the Burrard Street/ Smithe Street intersection.

(April 20th, 3.30 pm (05:00))

Next is a composite of two recordings of the Vancouver Sun run, a 10km road race through the heart of downtown Vancouver that attracted some 48,000 runners. Due to the large number of participants, the start is staggered with runners setting off in smaller groups across an hour or so. A covers band and an announcer were entertaining those waiting to start; both can be heard throughout the recording (the fake Scottish accent during a rendition of The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) was particularly entertaining). The second half of the recording is the sound of hundreds of runners as they pass me about 100 yards from the start line.

(April 21st, 9.20 am (05:00))

Stanley Park is a rather wonderful urban park covering the most north western portion of downtown Vancouver. I spent a couple of mornings following the various trails through the park, and the seawall that borders it. The following is a recording from a small bay simply called ‘second beach’; you can hear the Pacific lapping onto the shore (the first time I have seen and heard the Pacific), some Canadian geese and a few crows, and some seaplanes overhead that skip between downtown Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

(April 22nd, 11.00 am (06:00))

The park is heavily used by visitors and there are a couple of roads that run through it; nonetheless, there are a few spots that are fairly tranquil and are very biodiverse. One of these spots is Beaver Lake, which, I learnt, is gradually dying as it becomes overgrown with invasive plants. I didn’t see either of the resident beavers, but I did see plenty of other animals, including wood ducks and turtles. In the following recording you can hear birds (including wood ducks splashing about and chatting to each other), seaplanes flying very low, and cyclists, walkers and joggers doing their thing.

(April 22nd, 12.45 pm (07:30))

More recordings from in and around Vancouver next week.

Setup: either 1 RØDE NT4 or 2 RØDE lavalier mics in stereo position to Tascam DR-680

Week 15
Hunter’s Bog near Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh
April 15th, 12pm

Between Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags, there’s a small valley that is known as Hunter’s Bog. There are historical traces of land cultivation here, and it is alleged that Bonnie Prince Charlie rode through the bog when he briefly took control of Edinburgh during the Jacobite rising of 1745. The following recording captures a very windy afternoon on the bog. The area is relatively flat, allowing certain sounds (trains passing on the Edinburgh to North Berwick line; some distant building work) to funnel down the valley.


Setup: RØDE NT4 to Tascam DR-680

Week 14
Hermitage of Braid nature reserve, Edinburgh
April 7th, 4-5.30pm

The hermitage of Braid nature reserve is a thin sliver of woodland that follows the route of Braid burn, adjacent to some of the wealthiest parts of Edinburgh. It’s a great place within the city’s boundary to hear some of the brave birds that have so far emerged this bitter Spring. Starting out from Braidburn Valley Park, I took a walk through the reserve and made a few recordings at different heights from the valley floor. Though I’ve only visited a few times it seems to be an area well used, so you’ll hear voices echoing across the valley and walkers passing with their dogs, as well as the distant hum of traffic and overhead aircraft.

From the top of the north side of the valley:

Standing by a tree yet to shed last year’s leaves, midway up the valley on the north side:

Next to Braid burn near a footbridge:

Setup: RØDE NT4 to Tascam DR-680