Hebdomadal sound project: January 2013

Week 4
Rain and birds by hydrophone, Edinburgh
January 28th, 3.30pm

While not as wet as the west of Scotland, we get a fair amount of rain in Edinburgh. This presents a great opportunity to use hydrophones, which are essentially waterproofed contact microphones.
The following recording was taken on what was a grey Monday afternoon during a heavy burst of rain. A single hydrophone was submerged in a metal container (soon to be planter) in my garden. The hydrophone has picked up the sound of rain droplets in a way that I find surprising; I swear some of the droplets bouncing off of the container sound just like corn popping. During quieter moments, birds are seemingly chirping through the rain.


Setup: mono hydrophone to Tascam Dr-680

Week 3
Musselburgh Sands, East Lothian
January 19th, 1.30pm

Low tide on the mudflats at Musselburgh, some 6 or so miles to the east of Edinburgh, offers good feeding ground for a variety of wader birds (I saw oystercatchers, redshanks, various gulls, and I think some grey plovers), and for me an opportunity for field recording. I escaped the flurries of snow that had been falling inland by walking out some half a mile on the mudflats, making my way past a seemingly inordinate number of barnacle encrusted shopping trolleys, half submerged in the mud. From here, the acoustics were wonderful. Despite the cold strong winds whipping in from the Firth of Forth, I spent a couple of hours walking along the mudflats, mainly listening and making a few recordings.
The following recording was taken close to where the sea meets the mudflats, with my back turned to the sea. It’s a quiet recording, dominated by the low rumble of the sea and the call of oystercatchers. There’s also the sound of a flock of geese flying in the distance, some gulls and crows, a very distant dog bark, the sound of leaves and other biological detritus skipping along the mud due to strong winds, and towards the end a light shower of not-quite-hailstones.


Setup: RØDE NT4 to Tascam DR-680

Week 2
The Edinburgh–Kyoto Friendship Garden waterfall, Edinburgh
January 12th, 1pm

This week I thought that I’d go and visit somewhere towards Cramond Island, as I tend not to get out to the west of Edinburgh much. The majority of my academic research is to do with aesthetics and landscapes, so I decided that a visit to The Edinburgh–Kyoto Friendship Garden would be an interesting place to experience landscape aesthetics that differ from the majority of Edinburgh’s public gardens.
The Edinburgh–Kyoto Friendship Garden, which opened in 2002, is located in the grounds of Lauriston Castle, which I’m sure is worth a visit itself some other time. The idea for this garden originated in the mid-1990s, when Edinburgh and Kyoto prefecture established a ‘friendship agreement’ (I’m not entirely sure what that is, but I’m all for it), according to an Edinburgh City Council document (here in pdf format).
The most obvious source of sound in the garden is a small waterfall that flows into a shallow pond. An interpretation board in the garden told me that the ‘traditional rules’ governing the use of water in the composition of Japanese gardens originated in Kyoto, and that the ‘dynamic quality’ of water ‘is exploited to bring movement and sounds to the garden’.
The following recording then is of the waterfall from a small footbridge that straddles the channel as it meets the pond. Twice during the recording you can hear that the garden lies underneath the flight path of aeroplanes descending into Edinburgh airport.


Setup: 2 RØDE lavalier mics in stereo position to Tascam DR-680

Week 1
New Year’s Eve bells, Edinburgh

Edinburgh hogmanay 2012 culminated in 5 minutes of fireworks over Calton Hill and Edinburgh Castle, once the clock had struck midnight. This recording was made from the top of Calton Hill, with fireworks exploding above me. Sounds of fireworks over the Castle can be heard distant to the left.


Setup: 2 RØDE lavalier mics in stereo position to Tascam DR-680