I tried making a few recordings round my house and garden but I knew I needed to do more than that. So I went to University yesterday between 4pm and 5.30pm to collect some recordings by the lake on campus. I decided to go there because there are lots of different birds that gather there and then there are also man-made sounds coming from the road around the lake, the railway and, of course, the sounds from the University. I like the nature sounds mixing with the more man-made sounds and it’s interesting to listen to some of my recordings because the natural sounds are drowned out by, for example, a train going past, only to be quite audible again once it has gone.
I will point out that at this point, I don’t have a windjammer for my mic so there is some noise from that.
This is an excerpt from the first recording I made at the lake. It was collected right by the drain in the lake so the bubbling water you can hear is from that. I think this sound is quite interesting but is quite noisy and unpleasant after a while! I was pleasantly surprised at how clearly the water sounds because it was quite quiet and I thought maybe the mic wouldn’t be sensitive enough. I liked where I was sitting because the road was in front of me, so occasionally you hear a car or bus go past, and the train line was behind me so you also get the sounds of that. Probably the best thing that happened was when a bird flew into the bush directly in front of me and stayed for a while, tweeting. I learned the importance of patience and I pushed myself to keep recording even once I began to feel like it was getting rather monotonous. I thought about turning off the mic but decided to let it run for a little longer and sure enough, a duck landed on the lake with a splash! I don’t think this recording works so well just on its own; I could probably use parts of it for constructing a soundscape, but it’s got too much going on and not enough space in it.
Near The Train Line
I walked further towards the train line for this recording. I think I prefer it to the first one because it’s less busy – the constant sounds are mainly just provided by the birds, with trains and buses providing some interest as they pass by. I also like the occasional rustling of the leaves in the trees and planes in the distance. I only had a very small tripod with me so I held the mic towards the train tracks (you can occasionally hear me move, which I don’t really like). I have a big tripod at my parents’ house so I’m going to try and get hold of that to reduce mic handling noise in future recordings. This recording is much more peaceful and relaxing, and I think it would almost work quite well on its own with a few enhancements.
This is a much shorter excerpt and the recording I took was shorter than all the others too. After I had finished recording near the train line, I heard an alarm coming from the other side of the tracks, I walked over to where it was loudest and stuck my mic in front of the tracks. Its an incredibly irritating sound, so I decided not to subject myself to it for too long, but I think it was worth it – the second train that goes by (from about 2.45) sounds absolutely amazing, I especially like the buzz of the track that continues after the actual train has gone.
Ducks and Feet
I lastly went to the other side of the lake (where the footpath is) and sat opposite a group of ducks. I had seen them go over to people sitting on a bench while I was on the other side of the lake so I hoped they would come over to me too. I put the mic on its tiny tripod on the path and pointed it towards the lake. I managed to get one duck making some noise, and you can also hear their feet faintly slapping against the tarmac path as they walk across. Unfortunately, they didn’t gather round me though – nature is too unpredictable, but that’s part of the fun of field recording! There are several rather loud bouts of wind which ruin it a bit – I really can’t wait to get this windjammer! The thing I didn’t consider was that it was 5pm by this point and there were people leaving the campus to go home – the first footsteps, in fact, belong to the Music Department’s own Professor Allan Moore.
All in all, I feel that I’ve learned quite a lot about field recording, and it’s certainly improved my listening techniques. I started to get very involved in the soundscape around me – when I heard a bird, I would try and figure out where it was, or when I saw a duck flying, I got excited because I knew it might land on the lake and create an interesting sound on my recording. I also feel that I’ve improved my concentration when it comes to active listening – I pushed myself to carry on even after I felt like I should turn the mic off, and usually I was rewarded.