- 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 between updates. If you check in here once in a while, you'll eventually see something new and hopefully interesting.
Curt Olson, Audio Producer/Editor
Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
(Last updated: January 1, 2015)
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...
Soundscapes in Romania
- Free "Soundscape Storyboard" for iPad - Released September 2013
In August 2010 I traveled to Romania with the Jason Harms Quintet to capture stereo soundscape recordings of many of the group's performances and other activities "on the road". (See the entry, "Minnesota Jazz Ensemble in Romania" below.)
Over next the three years, Jason and I spent many hundreds of hours together in happy collaboration crafting something really unusual that he cleverly dubbed a "soundscape storyboard" -- a mashup of high quality soundscape audio and outstanding photography from our friend and colleague Marty McAlpine, all of it to help tell a story.
This was a massive labor of love that swept away nearly every other project for almost three years. It was well worth every minute!
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) >>>
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.
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 this 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: