- Bits and Pieces from Here and There
This is where I post miscellaneous audio clips that interest me. I do it as opportunity permits, with occasionally long gaps of weeks or even months between updates. Check back here once in a while and you'll eventually see something new, and hopefully interesting.
Curt Olson, Audio Producer/Editor
Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
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- brief discussion of stereo microphone techniques >>>
(Last updated: March 30, 2014)
The Crows of Iasi
In November 2013, my wife and I attended an academic symposium in Iasi, Romania. Iasi (pronounced "Yash"), a city of 400,000 in the Moldavia region of northeast Romania, is a leading center of Romanian social, cultural, academic and artistic life.
On two mornings during our stay, I heard a tremendous commotion of crows in a schoolyard just beyond the window of our hotel room. When I asked our Romanian host about it, he told me that local crows come into the city at night to roost and then disburse into the surrounding countryside during the day to feed.
Around 6:00 AM on Sunday November 10, as city trams were making their first scheduled runs, I set a stereo recording rig on the ledge outside our hotel window. Soon the daily crow assembly commenced in the schoolyard. Here's a short sample...
7 Psalms - by Jeremy "Boot" Walker
World Premier Concert • April 13, 2013 • 8PM
Benson Great Hall • Bethel University • St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
A Night Visitation of Wolves
September 22, 2012 - CHIPPEWA NATIONAL FOREST, MINNESOTA, USA
On a weekend outing in the "big woods" with our twin granddaughters and their parents, we observed ample evidence of recent wolf activity in the area. And I thought I heard them briefly at our evening campfire. So I set out some recording gear overnight to see what might happen.
I chose a tiny open spot within a tight cluster of low-slung pines. This made a good hiding place, but set me up for some prominent background noise as gentle night breezes swished through the treetops.
Thankfully the local wolves rewarded me, calling vigorously in two sessions about 40 minutes apart:
And as a bonus, just before 2:00 AM a lone individual from the pack stopped by to sniff the microphone rig:
Wolf sniffing • Listen (3:19) >>>
Sub-Miniature Sonic Boom
For a couple of years a cousin of mine, who lives in rural central Minnesota, had been suggesting that I bring my audio recording gear to a shooting range he has on his family's farm property there. Saturday August 11, 2012 turned out to be the day that finally happened, as our extended family gathered at "the farm" for a long-overdue reunion. And for part of the afternoon several of us enjoyed some target shooting.
On one trip downrange to reset targets, I stood a stereo recording rig about 15 yards or so from the sand & tire berm. In the short audio clip below, you'll hear three shots from a rifle firing hand-loaded .243 Winchester cartridges.
From the microphone perspective, about 135 yards (123 meters) downrange, each shot has three distinct components: 1) a sub-miniature sonic boom (more like a sharp "crack") as the bullet passes just in front of the microphone at ~2,400 fps (732 m/sec); 2) bullet impacts the target and berm to the right; 3) report arrives from the rifle, uprange to the left (see audio waveforms below). And then there's some reverberation in the surrounding area.
This is definitely not the most engaging audio on my website, but I find it fascinating in its own way:
WARNING: These clips could damage your hearing almost as much as the original live gunshots. Be careful to not turn up your playback level too high -- especially with headphones. And incidentally, this is one of those rare recordings that seems (to me, at least) to sound better on loudspeakers than headphones.
2012 Von Promnitz Tour in Poland
From May 23 - June 9, 2012, seven musical groups from across the United States teamed up to tour in western Poland, just prior to the 2012 Euro Cup finals. The musicians played in clubs, pubs, parks, cathedrals and city squares.
Here are some quick audio clips from the tour, edited on the bus:
Von Promnitz Tour Sampler -- Zary, Poland • Listen (4:40) >>>
Elizabeth Hunnicutt at Pub Max in Zary, Poland • Listen (5:25) >>>
Elizabeth Hunnicutt at Holy Mary Church in Zary, Poland • Listen (4:30) >>>
Jason Harms Quintet at the Blue Note Jazz Club in Poznan, Poland • Listen (6:08) >>>
Zea Da Blacksmith at the Blue Note Jazz Club in Poznan, Poland • Listen (4:08) >>>
Jazz meets Rap at the Blue Note Jazz Club in Poznan, Poland • Listen (6:36) >>>
U.S. Pond Hockey Championships
In late January each year, hockey teams from around the world battle each other on ice of Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis, in pusuit of the coveted "Golden Shovel" award. Here are a few sounds from the 2012 U.S. Pond Hockey Championships.
Mid-Summer Thunder Shower
Cliches grow up around us because some things are worth repeating. And for soundscape lovers, thunder is always a sweet attraction -- like this mid-summer thunder shower that occurred July 15, 2011 in my neighborhood about 10 miles north of downtown Minneapolis.
What I find so interesting about this weather event is that there was no wind. Only thunder, rain, local birds and traffic -- including four small jet aircraft making landing approaches at nearby Anoka County airport as the storm slowly subsides.
Note: This recording can probably be enjoyed best by listening on good quality headphones.
Iditarod Champion Speaks at 2011 Beargrease Gala Dinner
Photo courtesy of Kit Larson
Migrating American Woodcock and Resident Barred Owl
In early October 2010 my son, grandson, brother and nephew joined me for an annual male bonding ritual in the family that we call "going grouse hunting." Being an extremely poor hunter myself, I tried to compensate this year by bring along some equipment to make overnight recordings in a couple different locations. Skies were clear both nights with light and variable breezes. Temps were in the low 50s (F).
I managed to capture a couple interesting events very close-up...
1) A small covey of American Woodcock moves through the area (approximately 6:30 AM on October 9th):
2) A Barred Owl calling very close to my gear (approximately 2:45 AM on October 10th):
Minnesota Jazz Ensemble in Romania
In August 2010 I accompanied the Jason Harms Quintet, a Minneapolis-based jazz ensemble, on a ten-day tour in eastern Romania. The group performed in several churches and a handful of public venues.
"Give Me Jesus," recorded at a public concert performance in the northeast Romanian city of Iasi.:
Full concert • Listen (1:45:22) >>>
One afternoon, some of us hiked into the mountains above the town of Comanesti. Guiding us were several young people from the Victory Baptist Church in Comanesti, where we enjoyed gracious accomodations for the first half of our time in Romania.
Just beyond the crest of a hill, oriented away from town, was a small valley where a herd of cattle was grazing -- each one sporting its own bell. The local farmer calls to some of his critters to bring them in..
Note: A massive photo/soundscape production featuring key people and themes we encountered on this tour is almost complete. The intention is to release it as an iPad app. I'll link to it here when it's ready.
U.S. Navy Boot Camp Graduation
A family member asked me to attend his graduation from boot camp July 30, 2010 at the U.S. Navy's Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, IL. Below are three short elements from the lengthy ceremony -- edited together into a single clip:
- The Sailor's Creed, recited by the graduating recruits.
- Anchors Aweigh, sung by the graduating recruits.
- "Liberty Call," dismissing the proceedings.
Outdoors, after the event, a group of new recruits marched past us.
Wolf Pups Howling
Early June in northern Minnesota is when many young critters begin awakening to their surroundings and start learning to mimic adult behaviors. Here is a short audio clip of wolf pups learning to call. This was a pleasant surprise in a long early morning recording captured at the intersection of two logging trails.
My stereo microphone rig was oriented away from the wolves, but there were enough acoustic reflections in the location to make them nicely audible.
Sound Portrait: 2010 Midwest Nature Recordists Campout at Crex Meadows
On Friday Aprl 30, 2010, I was among a handful of nature sound recordists who converged on Crex Meadows Wildlife Area, just outside Grantsburg, Wisconsin, for a weekend gathering that has become an annual event for some.
Friday evening offered specatcular lightning displays from distant thunderstorms. Saturday was mostly cloudy, cold and exceptionally windy. I ended up spending most of that day with participants Paul Dickinson, from Chicago, and David Michael, from New York. And while they were busy recording interesting natural sounds, I was busy recording them.
Here's a heavily-layered sound portrait featuring some of Paul's and David's thoughts as they set up overnight recording stations an hour or so before sunset. Rob Danielson, from LaFarge, Wisconsin, who helped organize the event, frames the piece for us with some insights about the "nature" of nature recording. Special thanks to Rob and David for providing some of their great material, captured with unattended rigs Saturday night into Sunday morning:
Note: I found it strangely comforting to watch other nature recordists, some much more experienced than me, fidgeting endlessly with armfuls of unwieldy cables, connectors, tripods, microphones, digital recorders, batteries, blank media, headphones, fleece fabric and fake fur -- just like I often do!
Cruisin' for Babes
Springtime is mating season in the north woods, and that makes for some interesting natural sounds!
On Sunday evening April 18, 2010, I positioned a recording rig on the south side of Wagner Lake in the Chippewa National Forest of North Central Minnesota, USA. Skies were mostly clear; winds were dead calm; the temperature was an unseasonably warm 64 degrees Fahrenheit.
As the sun set, an American Woodcock began "cruisin' for babes" near my setup -- alternately "peenting" (this species' mating call) and making short display flights around the area. Here's an excerpt from the proceedings:
The next evenening, about four miles to the east, I was targeting the Wilson's Snipe and its "winnowing" sound, which is generated by air flowing over the male's outstretched tail feathers in an aerobatic display aimed at defending territory and attracting a mate.
To my happy surprise, one generous snipe performed his nifty maneuver almost directly over my microphone array, giving me the finest close-up recording of this behavior that I've yet been able to capture:
A Bit of Tasty Dinner Music
The Naniboujou Lodge is located 15 miles northeast of Grand Marais, Minnesota, just 26 miles from the Canadian border. It's one of the most unusual places to stay, and dine, anywhere along the North Shore of Lake Superior. Originally built in the early 1900s as an exclusive private club for the rich and famous, today it caters to a narrow niche of ordinary folks who value a really quiet getaway. And I do mean quiet... no TVs, no phones or internet (except at the front desk), and no clocks in the guest rooms during the summer tourist season.
From January through mid-March, the proprietors offer all-inclusive weekend packages, which my lovely bride and I have enjoyed several times, most recently the weekend of March 5-7, 2010.
Among the two dozen or so guests that weekend was professional harpist and vocalist Amy Kortuem. She was there from Mankato, Minnesota with her mother and an aunt, along with her hand-made Celtic harp. As part of her preparation for an upcoming concert, Amy decided to grace the Saturday evening meal with some tasty live music. It took only few minutes before I surrendered to temptation and dashed out to the car to fetch my light-weight recording rig.
The Naniboujou Lodge's dining room is a visual and acoustic delight, matched perfectly by the chef's exquisite menu. Here's a short snippet from more than 40 minutes of sweet sound captured during this fine dining experience.