Australian Sound Artist

Thursday, February 21, 2013

KunstRadio Commission: Booroomba Rocks Technical

:: Equipment for Booroomba Rocks recording, (minus Quarke the cat) ::
The above is a photo of equipment I took for the Booroomba Rocks recordings, with the addition of leads and minus the cat. The microphones include the new addition to my artillery, the DPA 4023 - matched pair. Items worth pointing out include the Mipro MA101 - a battery powered portable PA, the iPod, the microphone wind jammers and wind socks and the rugged Crumpler Karachi Outpost bag that it all fits in (bar the stand and boompole). The Mipro MA101 is also a new addition that I had not tried out before. Previously I have used battery powered speakers such as the RCF Move100. As light as these are  - they are still incredibly impractical to lug across bushwalking terrain... The Mipro is the same weight and size of a large torch and gets plenty of volume. My biggest complaint would be that despite the advertise frequency response of 60Hz - 15KHz +/- 3db, anything under 90Hz was predictably weakened/not really there. The mids and highs however, were very crisp and LOUD.

The conceptual idea (from a technical approach) was to take the work I had composed using only source material from Uli Kuehn's 'ROBOT', and play it back into this selected space/place (as per it's purpose for creation) in order to record the sonic outcome.

The recordings I did at Booroomba consisted of two stereo paired microphones (four channels in total). The first pair was my tried and true DPA 4060 (omnidirectional), positioned well above headheight, to catch the general surrounds and sound difusion. The second pair was the new DPA 4023's, in ORTF formation, closely positioned to the Mipro to directly catch the playback of the piece in realtime.

:: Recording position ::
:: Recording configuration ::
It was extremely important to me to capture the playback of the composition in it's surroundings as it occurred and likewise, to capture the surroundings as they reacted and conversed with the sounds of the composition. Even I, the most easily pleased listener when it comes to enjoying and discovering the rhythms in everyday sonic occurrences - natural or otherwise - was almost startled by how perfectly,  moments of shift and drama between nature and composition unfolded within the resultant recordings. 

Aspects that I failed miserably in included the positioning of the microphones (a crucial element - I know..). Because of the lack of time and poor weather conditions, equipment positioning was less than ideal. Nerves and rush on setup meant that I pretty much almost just shoved the gear somewhere out of the weather and free of fauna. The PA should have been further away from the 4060 atmosphere microphones, allowing them to capture more subtle diffusions of the playback composition without drowning out the sounds of their surrounding nature. I also wish I had had the time to base the setup right in amongst the trees and shrubs so as to catch the sounds of the rain falling and dripping over them.

Final mistake (another crucial beginners error) was that I did not have adequate wind protection for the DPA 4023's. The recordings suffered terribly for it with not only the grating sound of wind battering a microphone, but also severely limiting just how much time I was able to record (minus the excessive wind). I'd say I know what my next needed piece of equipment will be. Time to start saving (again)......

Sunday, February 17, 2013

KunstRadio Commission: Booroomba Rocks experience

:: Booroomba Rocks, Feb 2013 ::
Last weekend was spent heading to Booroomba Rocks to complete the field recording for the final piece in the KunstRadio commissions. The day ended up being a surreal experience to say the least - with an uncanny amount of participation from Lady Luck at points where it really should have all turned pear-shaped.... As Luck would have it, there was not a soul to be seen at the lookout. I discovered this was not only because of the approaching storm but also due to a festival. Locals and tourists alike headed to Canberra city for the annual Multicultural festival leaving the nature-loving curious to experience their bush surroundings in an eerie stillness, disturbed only by their own trudging of footsteps. 

The storm was a concern. I was nearly hit by lightening once - the world froze in a white light, there was an almighty crack/black and then the world started up again much the same except my hair was smoking/smelt strange and adrenalin was making my legs shake as I ran down the hill. While I was determined to record what I could of the storm, I knew it was unwise to be standing on top of a mountain next to a metal rod while it passed. Distant thunder started while Len and I packed our bags for the walk at the base of the mountain. We made the decision to continue the climb.


I had forgotten the way the bush goes quiet before a storm. The birds stop calling and sometimes - even the crickets cease... It felt ominous - like a preparation of what was to come - a 'battening down of the hatches' for the impending blows. I can't remember it ever being so quiet and here I was, expecting to record sounds. We reached the top, I began scouting for a slightly sheltered space, time became shorter and I realised that there was only a matter of minutes before nature's show would begin. Setup became a bit frantic with the swelling quiet consuming the space of time. As luck would have it, I managed to gather the beginning of the storm as it passed us by - barely clipping us with it's edges - leaving us safe from the lightening and as an awestruck audience on eye level with the clouds as we watched the elements play their part around us. We weren't completely protected - the rain still came and I stopped recording when it turned to hail. The microphones got questionably soaked (I will try them out to make sure they are OK) - but we were extremely lucky. My legs still shook as we headed back down the hill.

Thankyou to Lennart Katzwinkel for his beautiful photos and general calming influence on the day (and every other day).

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australian Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.
Equipment used in these recordings included microphones purchased through the support of the Australian Council. For more details please see HERE.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

KunstRadio Commission cont'd

 I have come through the other side with the final piece for the KunstRadio commissions - this would be the composition whose source material is the recordings of Uli Kuehn's works, as completed at KunstRadio at the end of September last year. This piece stumped me for quite a while. Uli's live improvisation on his 'Robot' was the recording that I focussed on and I could not shake the feeling that it was already complete. After time away from the sounds I began again in Jan 2013 and this time, had success..... This composition will be interesting to contrast against the first ('The Broken Return'), in that while the first composition used source material consisting of field recordings of Andreas Trobollowitsch's piece, 'Minigit' as installed at the Moozak festival in Vienna, 2012, this second composition follows a similar process but somewhat reversed. I created a composition using the sounds of Uli's work, for the intent of finding a suitable environment in the ACT, to play this piece back in, and record a field recording of the sonic result. I have finalised the initial composition and now, it is just a matter of finding the correct time and place, to unleash the sounds into.

The image above was taken when I went looking for environments for the sounds. I spent half a day driving out of the ACT city and listening to it's rural edges. There was talk of a storm at the time of leaving home to start the drive and by the time I reached areas that began to interest me, the clouds were well and truly brewing. Perhaps I will end up recording this piece in the rain - I think I would like to - however, the downpours I have experienced in Canberra do not qualify as light enough so as to not damage my microphones. Any equipment left exposed would be well and truly drenched and I do not want to record with a 'blocked' sky. If I am to record outdoors (as is my wish) the the sound must be able to travel unrestricted.

So far I have looked at areas heading towards Brindabella, on the NSW border. I'm still unsure as to where I will end up but I am waiting for the hot weather to start again so as the cicadas and crickets start their songs. Till then, like the storm, I am waiting......