Australian Sound Artist

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Liminaria; Interferenze 2014

This post is long overdue but you know the saying - 'Better late than never'.

Blog posts of Liminaria (Interferenze 2014) can be found HERE

A small example of some field recordings as gathered by myself and other participating artists for Liminaria can be found HERE

If I find the time - I will try to blog some more about the experiences - it can be hard to put such things into words......


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Interview (Part 2) on The Field Reporter

:: Tessa Elieff in residence @ Pollinaria, 2014. Image by Daniela d'Arielli ::
Part two of an interview conducted by fellow Australian field recordist, Jay-Dea Lopez
now published at the online journal, "The Field Reporter'. 
Read it HERE

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Day Five at Pollinaria

:: Claudio Pentronio at one of his families barley fields near Castel del Monte ::
Friday 20th June

Today was spent visiting two local farmers and cultivators of grain and wheat. The first was custodian and farmer, Alfonso D'Alfonso. His harvests are found in the Capestrano, Abruzzo  region and include one of the most ancient grains - spelt (Farro in Italian) as well as Barley, Solina and Senatore Cappelli (a wheat). With each visit to the local farmers, I have been fortunate enough to be able ask them a few questions about themselves and their families histories in working with the land. Daniela is an excellent translator (amongst many, other things....) and has helped me gather these personal stories as we go.... The below is a rough transcript of selected questions I asked Alphonso whilst at his property, sitting by a clear stream drinking wine and eating the produce from his land including bread and fresh raspberries.

:: Alphonso with a farmhand ::
TE: Can I ask of your families history in relation to working the land in this part of Italy?

Alphonso: My family arrived in Capestrano from Naples around 1700. We have always been farmers and cultivated the land for produce but it was my father who first planted wheat. My past Grandfathers were known within the community by a nickname. The name was 'Manina' (this means, 'Little Hand'). My Grandfather worked very hard and had very big hands - so much so that friends would call him Manina, as a joke....

TE: Which are the oldest grains that you grow?

Alphonso: We grow a very ancient strain of Spelt and also Saragolla (the Americans call this Camoot). You must understand though that each grain will grow differently, depending on the nutrients of the soil it is planted in and the elements that it grows by. The Spelt that is planted in America will be very different to the same grain, planted and grown here in Italy.. But it all relates back to that ancient strain.

TE: I have heard many stories about the good memories associated with the time of harvest and they are wonderful to hear but I assume there must be the darker memories also? Can I ask what some of the darker aspects of the time of harvest are?

Alphonso: The hardest aspect for me to see at the time of both past and present harvests, is the difference in the workers. You easily differentiate those who have land and the grain and those who do not. Each year at harvest, there are a number of workers who arrive, who travel for the work and support their families by moving around - going where the harvest is in order to labour for a casual employment. It can be hard for them, their children and their partners. They can have very little and sometimes it is made obvious by small things you see, like the condition of the clothes they and their children are wearing. 

:: The last field of the day ::

The last fields we visited for the day were those of the local shepherd. We were met by his son, Claudio Petronio and taken to a couple of 'spots' the last being the image above. This photo was taken with me standing - the stalks were at that height that you see them. Out of all the places I have visited during this residency, this one, will be the one that I revisit most in my memory... The fields were positioned at the base of these huge mountains that surrounded them on three of their four sides. We reached the location at the end of the day - right as the sun was dropping - so the light was changing rapidly - its spectrum shifting from yellows to reds to blues within the timeframe of an hour. The local wildlife was settling in for its evening. Birds and insects alike were preparing for the night. A solitary duo called to each other across the valley in a gentle rhythm, with the pulse of crickets as their backdrop. There was a small wooden shack there - built by hand - out of rough wood, just for shelter. I fought the urge to go inside, drop my bags and remain there indefinitely.

Sheltered by the mountains - you felt calm and satisfied - the world beyond was no longer.........

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Interview (Part 1) on The Field Reporter

:: Tessa Elieff in residence @ Pollinaria, 2014. Image by Daniela d'Arielli ::

Part One of an interview conducted by fellow Australian field recordist, Jay-Dea Lopez
now published at the online journal, "The Field Reporter'. 
Read it HERE

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Day Four at Pollinaria

Thursday 19th June.

Todays tasks to conquer included visiting the small, locally run flour mill - where I will have the opportunity to record the machines and chat (via Daniella's translation) to the owners/operators and - to meet the shepherd who watches over the sheep that roam over the land of Pollinaria. These two elements are some of the most key connections I have (self) discovered during this short stay and I am very lucky that A) The flour mill is active during this week as it not the typical milling time and B) that Gaetano has been able to contact the shepherd and arrange a simpatico of time and place. 

As the focus of this collaboration between Interferenze and Pollinaria is on the two areas of cultivation - Wheat and Honey - I was a little unsure as to why I was so bent on collecting the sounds and speaking with the shepherd… Perhaps I shouldn't be chasing this element? I keep asking myself 'why is it relevant' and 'why do I feel it's so important?' This would be the moment my peripheral vision opens up and the view converts from mono to stereo. After much pondering I reached the conclusion that the shepherd is a quintessential example of the work-traditions of the people of Abruzzo's parents, grand parents great-grand parents etc, being carried on over to the 'NOW'. These practices' profits are not the highest - their purpose is based on the act of participating in life and contributing to the community - not on exploiting all opportunities to make the most amount of cash possible. The rewards from this work are not always monies - sometimes it's trade or barter - for 'favours' like borrowing equipment or lending a helping hand. These trades are more often than not - not an official agreement - just a friendly conversation and subsequent agreement between  neighbours.

The role of the shepherd (as per the wheat farmers and bee keepers in Abruzzo) is - in my opinion - in the middle of transition - from a working role within a community - purely a position to be filled (so-to-speak), to an act not unlike a ritual…… Perhaps not as formal - definitely not as formal but just as revered and with similar complex worth that supersedes a  superficial currency evaluation.. Hmmm .. More thoughts to come on this I'm sure....

The visit to the flour mill was quite an eye opener… Partly owned by the World Wildlife Fund, it is found within the Natural Reserve of Lago di Penne. Sounds terrible doesn't it - a flour mill in a national park… Well it was absolutely beautiful. The 'factory' part of the mill was housed in a small cylindrical building which contained the noise of the machines remarkably well. I experienced no general 'sky drone' you usually associate with factories and the modest size of it meant it was not overbearing in its surroundings. Once again - the purpose of the mill goes well beyond the act of mass production for high profit. All of the produce they handle is organic and comes from the local farmers and cultivators. To begin to understand the people of these regions you really need to look at the efforts they make to sustain a healthy and balanced lifestyle both physically and mentally - with themselves, each other and their surrounding environments.

To read more on the WWF's involvement please have a look HERE 

:: The flour mill - exterior::

:: The flour mill - interior ::

I spent about an hour recording the machines. Using contact and general room microphones I captured their various drones and mechanisms… I only wish I had more time…. I was able to exercise one favourite method of mine that rarely gets used. The process involves using microphones to capture the sounds of the machine and its various tones as heard in the room - but all in one take. The simplest way to explain it is to say that you are moving the microphone across/around/within the machines as they function - changing the resonances, tones and frequencies that are captured, live - as you are recording. Shifting the microphones as you hear the tones shift - waving them around and moving them over the body of a motor - composing live in a sense… It's a liberating way to record… Very meditative and instinctual. It encourages you to listen intently to the sounds as they shift through the changing positions of the microphone - and then react automatically, moving the mic to sculpt the recording as per a composition… It's by no means - a method used by 'the professionals' but it's one that demands you to be in tune with exactly - what you are capturing sonically...  An excellent way to hone your skills and explore a microphones capabilities...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Day two at Pollinaria

:: Ground floor @ Pollinaria ::

Tuesday 17th June.

With such short time the recording has well and truly begun. The wet weather is a typical hindrance - it seems every country I have visited in the last two years - my recordings have included rain - no matter what time of the year it is. Water is a wonderful sound to record but it would be nice to have the choice - and that is a little harder than usual to master this time round. 

Last night I 'warmed-up' by recording some of the creaking doors of the farmhouse. Ground floor of the building is a fantastic space whose inner architecture is not dissimilar to a miniature representation of le abbey Noirlac and the acoustics leave you with the same sensation of 'other-worldliness'. Natural acoustics and creaks are like treats to me so it was nice to find them here and begin the sound collection with them. This time round I indulged my typical desire to go against the textbook recommendation of recording technique - close mic'ing the door extremely so, with a hyper-cardioid. I am pretty chuffed with the result - a hyper-surreal sensation of listening through a microscope to the point that the original sound - as authentic as it is, is completely unrecognisable and bizarre. Your instinct to identify the sound swings from assurity (Oh yes - that's a door) to sheer doubt and questioning as the sound's envelope progresses (what the hell is that?)

This morning was the dawn chorus with Daniella. We started a little later than usual as the sky was so overcast that even the birds were slow to get started. The nearby valley is an excellent haven for birds and shelter from the noise of nearby roads and I think the best recording will be the very first.

:: Bean recording - contact mics ::
The afternoon was spent in the closest shed where giant bags of black beans used for fertilising the soil, and wheat seed for planting are to be found. Cue, the contact mic's and we had some very textural rolling rumbles created as I moved my hands through the beans. Taking the microphones in hand, I'd plunge them deep into the bags and then pull-back - yoiking them out just as quickly. The timbrel shift linked to the speed of the hands was not unlike a doppler effect and made me think of breathing…

:: Recording Daniela making pasta ::
Night time was spent drinking vino rosso with Gaetano and further discussing the project. After a few glasses, Daniella decides we MUST record the sounds of making pasta, to then be eaten for dinner. Out with the contact mic's again and she goes to work. It is a beautiful thing to see. 'Oh no! I am not a stereotype!', she promises me as she cooks away - her hands moving deftly in movements she seems well practised in. "Not all Italians cook pasta", she promises. I understand, but as a visiting auzzie, I would like to let myself continue imagining that perhaps in some parts of Italy, they do….  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Welcome to Pollinaria

:: Window view, first morning ::
Monday 16th June. Day one @ Pollinaria:

From Birmingham I've headed to Italy, the Abruzzo region, to begin a joint residency at Pollinaria, that will complete at the annual Interferenze festival, Fortore region. The work that I will do over the next two weeks is part of a collaboration between Pollinaria (Gaetano Carboni) and Interferenze (Leandro Pisano), whose focus is on sound as the medium and rural regeneration as the context. I have the privilege of being the first artist invited for the initiation of this joint project and I am truly honoured to do so. My understanding is that this collaboration between the two entities will continue well into the future and aid the cultural, economic and community regeneration of these specific regions in rural Italy.

The first day has been a bit of a blur. I arrived late last night in the dark and had no visual on where I might find myself…. I have come prepared for the beginning of a hot Italian summer but woke - to the sounds of rain and wind. I look out my window to see where I am and find myself surrounded by rolling hills and unbelievably picturesque Italian countryside framed by sheer dark mountains rising in the background. No this is not a dream, this is Pollinaria, a property that supports the working ideal of the 'young' landowners and cultivators such as Gaetano Carboni, to be found in growing numbers,in rural Italy.

During my stay I will be collecting recordings specific to this pocket of the world. As regions whose economy is primarily agricultural they both produce a variety of nourishments for the body. Delights such as olive oil, grapes and fresh fruit and veg all come from these inland mountainous areas. The project I will undertake will focus on two points of simpatico between Fortore and Abruzzo - these are Wheat and Honey.

My morning was spent talking at length with locally born photographer, Daniella D'Arielli. She will be my 'touchstone' (so-to-speak) to the area, helping me understand its community, lifestyle and the ethos behind Pollinaria. She will also make sure I do not get myself into trouble on early morning recording expeditions, keeping me well clear of wild boars and giant wasp looking things that scare the absolute crap out of me!

:: Found in my camera bag during first night of recording ::
Late afternoon comes and we are joined by Gaetano. We discuss the ideas that have been sparked during the morning with Daniella. While I arrived with a clear starting point for my work, after speaking with Daniella I begin to comprehend the broader ideals behind this growing movement of rural regeneration - particularly in relation to working relations with the land and the beasts and bugs to be found there. There is an intrinsic connection between human and nature, to be observed in the work of those who choose to live by the land, in these areas. The key word to this ideal is 'Choose', as in this century, with growing mass consumption and produce, these young 'farmers', have chosen - not only to continue working the land as per their relations before them, but - as importantly - to counteract the notion of mass produce - and return to farming the unique grains and region-specific produce, as per their grandparents…

It is a romantic and powerful ideal. This seems to be the essence of the purpose to the work I will undertake….


This work is made possible by the generous support of the Ian Potter Cultural Trust

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Field recording Vs Compositional agenda

:: Jonty Harrison, the dome room @ Birmingham ::
I consciously decided not to bring any completed material to the University of Birmingham - the idea being - to have a 'clean slate', on which to work. Having made that decision, the night before departure my cowardice got the best of me and I dragged and dropped onto my harddrive, the piece I have been working on of late - that uses the collection of recordings I gathered whilst in North Northumberland. On meeting with Dr Scott Wilson and Professor Harrison, they both asked me, 'what I had to play to them'. 

I didn't see that one coming... 
Why on earth did I not see this coming...?

So over half a day I took my 40 minute - stereo composition, broke it apart, sliced sections of it - removing chunks and re-assembling the remains - spilling it over 8 speakers + 2 subs to be presented the following morning. Little did I know, what discussions this selection of work would stimulate nor the internal debate and realisations/retaliations it would spark in my own head.

To provide context to the piece - it was created with the intent of maintaining (as much as I felt possible) the original slabs of long recordings and to honour the technical and spiritual practice of the field recordist. During my time with Chris Watson and the independent residency that followed, I found myself focussing on long engaged recordings. I say engaged to mean - the ones during which you stand there, imitating stone or trying to dissipate into air so as not to be participatory, whilst guiding a boompole and/or actively monitoring your levels. Typical recording times from this expedition were between 10 to 30 minutes. The longest was over an hour. 

In light of the understanding of the extreme sonic processing and compositional techniques exercised by those who create(control) in the electroacoustic domain - you could say that presenting such an uncontrolled (in comparison) piece was inadvertently provocative....  (another great gift of mine - yes I am being sarcastic...) While I wouldn't do the same again, the exercise rang with a resonance that was as frustrating as it was - enlightening. It was a perfect metaphor for the point I find myself at in my work development. The questions Professor Harrison asked me of my own work consisted of ones I often ask myself - the many unresolved inner conflicts I have about the ideals behind each piece - the aspects that can be considered contradictory or hypocritical - the constant debate that rages in my head - between concerns of  nature and the awe of technology.... The wish to capture and present more 'pure' field recordings and the desire to carve sound into my own making with the tools of composition and absolute control....

Does my work pertain the concerns of acoustic ecology and perhaps an awe at the natural world as is?
Is there a gentle obsession with control, the manipulation of sound and the technology that facilitates?

I believe so..

And these two polar ideals that I am trying to resolve in sonic composition, have come to loggerheads...

This intensive is made possible by the generous support of the Ian Potter Cultural Trust.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Diskery....

:: The Diskery, Birmingham 2014 ::

This morning I successfully managed to detach myself from all luminous screens and venture into Birmingham city centre. On my journey home I somehow eventuated at another sonic Aladdin's Cave. Initially I couldn't believe my luck. After a stunted moment of realisation I pretty much ran through the door - just incase it disappeared before I could get there. The sight was one for sore eyes. On leaving my home town (Adelaide), there were two record stores that I use to frequent - one had a die-hard cult following with the 'younger' music lovers - selling old and new vinyl - with a renowned electronic section that rivalled no other I have come across ever since. The other, was not unlike The Diskery - perhaps less popular musics such as the 'Big Hit' material from any decade. On a quick return to Adelaide about three years later - both stores had folded - I would say the surge in digital would have played a part.

:: Jimmy chats to a regular (which is almost everyone who walks through the door) ::

The photos I took of The Diskery don't really do the place justice. The sheer amount of the collection has reached the point of climbing the walls and spilling across the ceilings. Fortunately, I arrived just before a big rush - when I had to compete with a number of hatted, caned and elderly gentlemen, for the attentions of the two in house experts - Jimmy and Liam. Lovely, lovely people - Liam has been working at The Diskery for 42 years, whilst Jimmy, is going on 47. Entering the store is like entering their home and their love of music (all types) and phenomenal knowledge becomes apparent with each enquiry - no matter how trivial.

My find for the day was the record, 'FIREWORKS! JVC presents the Spectacular Sound of CD-4'. As a rule, I don't let myself buy records when I am travelling - particularly heavy and prone to bending they don't make for good travel companions but in this instance, I thought an exception could be made. As I have come to Birmingham as a student, who works with field recordings in multichannel, it only seems fitting that on seeing a CD-4 record containing sounds of fireworks  - it should be mine. CD-4 is one of the many attempts at commercial release of multichannel recordings on hardcopy media. To be honest - I don't know much about it but a quick wikki tells me it was introduced as early as 1972 (!) I can't wait to get home and try it out - A/B it with my own quad work - should be vEry entertaining! I'd like to also better comprehend its technology - it's fascinating to learn about the many multichannel formats we have tried and old technology in hardcopy appears quite appealing to me at the moment.......

If you would like to hear more about Liam and Jimmy at The Diskery - you can view a clip on youtube HERE - or drop by and say hello at 99 Bromsgrove St.

Friday, June 6, 2014

University of Birmingham: Visiting Student

:: 'Old Joe', University of Birmingham, 2014 ::
Walking up the stairs to the foyer entrance of the Bramall music building at the University of Birmingham, I couldn't help but think, 'Not in Kansas anymore....'. For two weeks I will be a visiting student at their Music Department with direct focus on the electroacoustic section, under the supervision of Dr Scott Wilson (Supercollider extraordinare). As the home to the renowned BEAST system, multichannel works (live and static) are well catered for - with a number of sound studios available for post-grads, in a variety of multichannel configurations. My timing is at a point of change in the department, as Professor Jonty Harrison is on the cusp of retirement from his position as director of BEAST - none-the-less, a small cross section of the international electroacoustic and acousmatic community can be found tucked away in these  culdesacs of sound and measured thought. 

The downfall of coming all the way from Australia for such a visit, is the unrealistic expectation that on entering this inspiring and accomplished institution, all my previous compositional 'road-blocks', will be solved. Of course - it takes only a matter of hours to consciously acknowledge 1 - the previously unvoiced expectation and 2 - the fact that these technical and creative hurdles are still as present as I am..... Unfortunately, I can't leave them - along with my unwatered plants, behind in Australia. Unfortunately, I cannot kill them with neglect...... 

The upfalls of this journey start with the stripping away of your comfort zone of excuses that you have oh-so-craftily propped up around you to mask these greater areas needing your address - leaving your (lack-of) accomplishments raw and exposed, under the scrutiny of your own scathing eye.... In more congenial wording - 'It is very clear, the areas that I wish to improve in my work'. Having had a two year hiatus from live performance and a strong focus on compositions whereby the field recording is the primary intent - I now need to switch my gaze back to more 'gestural' composition - that constructs its own agenda via creative control and execution.

Enough of my ranting - having spent the last three-and-a-bit days in the studio - only to CREATE more problems than I intended to fix, I am truly beginning to understand the value of knowing that you know nothing... Now that I (think) I know what I do not know, I will begin again, from (almost) scratch, and see where these works develop. At this stage my focus is on purely software/midi capability. Sound diffusion on multichannel/custom systems - the most effective/flexible (to my ear) way to do so and Sonic processing - particularly in live performance via midi control. Any plans for collecting field recordings in Birmingham will have to wait until Italy and the Interferenze festival, along with the indulgence of creative composition.....

More details to come ~

This intensive is made possible by the generous support of the Ian Potter Cultural Trust.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Hydrophone Test #2

:: Hydrophone cable connected to Neutrik NA2MBNC adapter ::
The part 'B' of an earlier test I did with the Teledyne Reson TC 4033 hydrophones. Again - long overdue but well worth the wait. As a quick recap - the first test entailed doing a small series of recordings with the hydrophones in a controlled environment (my bathtub), using Raimund Specht of Avisoft's preamps #42003, recording onto my trusty Sound Devices. I won't go into more detail as if you want to know more tech specs etc. please have a look at the original blog entry - it's all in there!

For these final test-recordings I set-up exactly as per Test #1, with the only variable being the exchange of the #42003 preamps for 2 x Neutrik NA2MBNC adapters (see image above) and the input gain db's. Water was at the same level/temperature. The sounds I recorded  entailed pouring water into the bathtub using the same jug and with the exact same technique as last time. Ideally, I would have done these tests using four inputs and the two setups - recording simultaneously each event as it occurred but this was not possible purely because of gear access. I was lucky enough to have two of the hydrophones but not four.... The next best method would have been to record both tests one after the other, with no delay in-between - but unfortunately I did not have the adapters at the time of the first test - nor did I know that I would want to further explore the hydrophone's sound quality in this method - not until I had completed Test #1. So here we are with the next best thing - me attempting to mimic in every way - the original methods the only (conscious) variables being the controlled gain level on the 788T and the preamp-swapped-for-adapter. 

Hope this makes sense......

After Test #1 I was concerned with a slight humm that was coming through on my recordings - particularly when the input gain was above 38db. After assuming it was from the preamp, I decided to try the recordings with a simple adapter and compare the two results. I knew from the off-set that gain levels on the 788T would need to be a lot higher - ultimately driving their preamps a lot harder. You could say I was really testing the preamps.... Avisoft Vs Sound Devices....

Key differences between the preamps and the adapters include the fact that unlike the preamps, the adapters do not have a high-pass cutoff controlled by a rotary pot, nor do they amplify the sound in any way. Their function is purely as a port adapter, from BNC to XLR so as to connect into the recording device. By using a simple adapter (as opposed to a cable) not only is it most likely cheaper, but it retains the quality of the signal conducted by the high-quality hydrophone cable - right up to the recording device.

All were recorded one following the other, in the exact same conditions with the only variable between them being the gain on the 788T. You'll notice that the starting gain level is 20db more, than Test #1... Other than converting files to MP3 @ 320kbps for the audio players I have left them completely untouched.

Gain: 54.7

Gain: 58

Gain: 62

Gain: 66.4

Gain: 68.5

SUMMARY: The sound quality facilitated by the Avisoft preamps becomes abundantly clear when comparing the recording results. These preamps ensure that the delicate details of low frequencies are well presented and preserved as can be best experienced when listening to the bubbles rising through the water. The general recording level is also quite adequate. Louder levels are possible but with the compromise of the humm (this may be able to be reduced in post-record editing). In comparison - using only the adapters acted almost as a lowcut at around 160Hz. In addition to this loss of lower frequencies the general level of the recorded sound was well below what the 788T's preamps could managed to successfully boost without a noticeable and destructive hiss of noise interference coming through. Even when keeping the 788T's gain at low levels so as to try to avoid increasing the noise floor, the recorded sound was almost too low to be useful. I will say that the higher frequencies of the recordings that were gathered using the adapters (as opposed to the preamps) were noticeably more crisp - but still - just too low. If I was recording very loud sounds of the range >700hz then the adapter-setup might suffice.... Ideally though - I would suggest the TC 4033 teamed with Raimund Specht's #42003 preamps - which I have a new level of respect for.

THANKS: To the helpful people of Teledyne Reson - particularly Tom Mortensen and Brian Burge who so patiently answered all my questions. To Raimund Specht of Avisoft for taking the time to put together such useful pieces of speciality recording equipment and again - for helping me nut out all my answers...

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ian Potter Cultural Trust 2014

Plans for 2014 are well on their way. I have been fortunate enough to be a recipient of the Ian Potter Cultural Trust's grant, which will enable me to achieve three projects for the year. 

The first will be as visiting scholar to the University of Birmingham, where I will focus on their BEAST and electroacoustic studies departments. I am looking forward to meeting Professor Jonty Harrison (on the cusp of his retirement from his position at the University) and aim to spend this (unfortunately) brief time further researching work methods in acousmatic and electroacoustic composition.

The following two sections will involve joint residencies and attendance at two events in rural Italy. The first will be within Pollinaria in Civitella Casanova, Abruzzo, to be followed by the Interferenze new arts festival - curated, directed and founded by Leandro Pisano. It is expected that these two projects will entail a considerable amount of research, skill sharing (amongst participating artists) and engagement with local communities and environment. A natural osmosis between the two will be encouraged. I will provide more detail as plans progress but already - am becoming aware of the intrinsic bond between community and land. As a township built on inland mountains, agriculture is the base of their economy - with organic methods that support local 'genetic patrimony', being majority. I am inspired by the thought that these methods of working with the land, as established in the past, are still very much alive, respected and valued as part of daily life for both present and future generations.

Many thanks to the Ian Potter Foundation for providing such an opportunity for emerging artists. Support such as this makes possible the achievements that propel us into the (inter)national community and our mid career.....

Saturday, March 1, 2014

North East England: Sonic Postcard NEE04

:: NEE04 - Blowhole, Howick area 12th November 2013. Water - and fragile booming ::

Recording Technical Specifications:
Recording device: Sound Devices 788T
Microphones: DPA 4060 (stereo pair)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

North East England: Sonic Postcard NEE03

:: NEE03 - Caris Clocks, Alnwick Town 15th Nov, 2013. General clock-ticking ambience and gentle chimes ::

Recording Technical Specifications:
Recording device: Sound Devices 788T
Microphones: DPA 4060 (stereo pair) and DPA4017
Multichannel recording and mixdown

Recording taken within Caris Clocks, Alnwick. Time keeper is 4th generation clock repairer, Gordon Caris. His son is 5th generation. Lovely sounds of ticking, a few gentle chimes. Clocks are irregular with their times (they are in for repairs...) so chiming is a bit erratic.

Many-thanks to Gordon for accommodating that which was so unfamiliar......

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Hydrophone Test #1

:: Hydrophone Test #1 ::

For almost three weeks now I've had a pair of the much coveted Teledyne Reson TC 4033 hydrophones sitting on my studio floor and waiting to be tested. Today was the day where I woke to find basic getting-by essentials had been caught up with for the time being, (food; check, money; check, cleanliness-factor; check-ish-will-do-for-now-hey-it's-the-weekend-I-don't-need-to-shower/change-for-anyone-today-anyway), so I was finally allowed to get back to my real work.......

I think it's safe to say that at a certain point in a field recordists practice they get their hands on a hydrophone and the less-known world of auditory sensation begins to reveal itself. If you are like me, this experience never leaves you only providing more fuel to the fire of your sonic-gathering obsession. 

And so begins the hunt for your very own hydrophone.

My hunt began in 2009 when on attendance at a 'Chris Watson' masterclass at the Wired lab I experienced the DPA 8011 and my world was changed forever. These hydrophones were ceased from production in 2011 (? there abouts) - which despite the fact this was not really relevant to me (there was no way I could afford such high quality equipment anyway) - still saddened me in that there seemed to be a gap in (almost) affordable, high quality hydrophone technology, that needed to be filled.  

**A word of advice: The final 'kit' that I have been fortunate enough to be able to access for testing took quite a bit of research and phonecalls to far-away lands. If you have technical questions about such specialised gear then calling the company direct is the way to go. While Australian distributors may do their best to help it's not safe to assume they know ALL the answers. After some confusion I made the direct call to discover that the hydrophones I was originally envisioning purchasing would require an additional two hardware modules (small boxes but...) and connecting cables in order to function. The Australian sales person I spoke was not aware that this was the case.

Item #1 & #2 - hydrophones: The TC 4033. 
:: TC4033 ::
While it is still a long-term, once-in-a-lifetime investment that means you won't be eating for a few years (let's not forget you typically want TWO of them for stereo...). Their price is less than that the DPA 8011 was and the sound quality (while not as crisp) is still miles above the other truly affordable, domestic/high quality models that I have had the pleasure of experimenting with. Unlike Teledyne Reson's pricier-but-impressive TC 4032 model, the TC 4033 does not have an inbuilt preamp that requires 9V power. TR do sell preamps that can be used with the TC 4033 BUT, these also require 9v power (an external battery box) and more money to purchase them with....

Item #3 & #4 - preamps: Avisoft's Charge amplifier and high pass filter #42003
:: Avisoft's preamp #42003 ::
As a solution to the loss of recording level I decided to try Raimund Specht's (Avisoft) pre amps. The #42003 model runs off the phantom power of your recording unit and connects in via BNC and out via XLR. Unfortunately there is not a stereo module so I used two of them (as per the image). On looking at the modules in person there were two aspects I was not too sold on. The first is the fact that there is no setting to completely bypass the high-pass filter - you have to use it no matter what (and I typically do not like to use any filters on original field recordings). Second, the high-pass settings on the rotary knob were marked by an attached sticker that was very much like a slightly heavier-than-usual piece of paper. As these preamps work with hydrophones it's safe to assume there will be water around. It would only take one wet hand touching the label for it to start to deteriorate and the general wear and tear of moving your portable recording kit around would only assist this process.  I'd much prefer the industry standard of engraving the numbers into the module itself. 

Item #5 - recording device: Sound Devices 788T
:: Sound Devices 788T with Avisoft's 42003 preamps ::
-With fresh firmware update and recording at 24bit/96K, my favourite recording tool..............................

The following are three sample recordings for you. All were recorded one following the other, in the exact same conditions (see top image) with the only variable being the gain on the 788T. Other than converting files to MP3 @ 320kbps for the audio players I have left them completely untouched.

Gain: 34.7
Preamp high pass cut-off: 10Hz

Gain: 38
Preamp high pass cut-off: 10Hz

Gain: 42
Preamp high pass cut-off: 10Hz

SUMMARY: I'm very happy with the frequency response of the hydrophones. The few affordable models I have tested often lack responses below 100Hz so I am glad to hear there is nice depth to these recordings and a sharp crispness to the high's. The preamps were very handy in that they solved two problems that arose from these hydrophones. First is the problem of recording level - the boost was wonderful and the second, was the conversion from BNC to XLR. They achieved both of these things whilst also being powered by phantom power - whereas other preamps required an external power box to drive them. As handy as this was - I am a bit concerned about the humm that comes through. This becomes more apparent as the gain increases on the 788T. I normally record general ambience at a gain of about 50 so that fact that the humm was well and truly present at 42 was noted. Having said that though - the next step will be for me to try the hydrophones with an impedance transformer (no preamp at all) and see how they perform. I'm hoping that as I have the quality preamps in the 788T that I may be able to get as much level as with Avisoft's preamps but without the humm.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Field Reporter: 2013 in retrospective

   :: Images courtesy of 'The Field Reporter ::

The online journal, "The Field Reporter" (David Valez), is publishing a series of articles as a 2013 retrospect. First three have been released on their website and include

Part II: 'In praise of movement'. Patrick Farmer.

Well worth a read and a listen!