The Rabbit Family And A Love Letter to Animal Bells

Last week I released The Rabbit Family over at Rabbit Ears Audio, which has prompted a bit of self-reflection. I started this little blog back in 2007 and it is still chugging along. Somewhere along the way it spawned a small business, Rabbit Ears Audio. Both of these sites are very much a labor of love and are creative outlets which I feel lucky to have. I started this blog in order to push myself out the door with my gear more frequently. I later started Rabbit Ears Audio in order to work on my craft with a deliberate purpose.

Rabbit Ears Audio’s primary focus is building collections that are not only useful, but off the beaten path. I run this business in gaps, among numerous other responsibilities, and when I launch a new collection in Rabbit Ears Audio’s growing library, I want it to count. Some of the collections have instant “sex appeal,” like Rockets, Jet Turbines[1], or Antique Engines. And then there are the collections with considerably less sex appeal like Typewriters and Animal Bells.

It is the less sexy ones I seem to love the most. I’ve written a fair amount about my love of typewriters. Animal Bells, however, is the true hidden gem in the Rabbit Family. I’ll never forget the sessions for Animal Bells:

For weeks my pal John Loranger kept sending me pictures of all of these crazy looking animal bells made of everything from brass to oddly shaped gourds. I kept asking him where these photos were coming from, but he just kept teasing me with more photos. When I saw a cow bell big enough to crush the neck of even the strongest Swiss cow, I harassed him until he gave it up.

It turned out that John and his family rented a vacation home, and the house showcases an insane private collection.[2] I tracked down the owner of the house, and made arrangements to record the entire collection over a weekend.

The location wasn’t too far from the home of another old friend, whom I dragged along to perform the bells. He performed the hell of out of those animal bells. Some of the actions include:

  • Short Rattles
  • Medium Rattles
  • Long Rattles
  • Repeated Rattles
  • Animal Meander

My favorite move is the animal meander. I’ll never forget coaching my old friend to “be the goat,” or to “trot like a sheep!”[3] We were on the floor in hysterics many times during those sessions.

I love those animal bells. There is not a ton of “sexy” there, but there is a whole lot of raw power.[4] They might not be flying off the shelves every day, but when you need a goat bell … you need a goat bell.

I’m often asked about the financials of REA, and whether or not running this little business is worth it. I’m never really sure how to answer those questions. I’m sure if I calculated the cost of my time and ran the numbers it wouldn’t make sense on paper, but it has never been about a balance sheet. All I know is that I have a collection of content that is as sexy and just as unsexy as it gets. It has been fun so far.

Lets hope the Rabbit Family keeps growing.

  1. Who doesn’t love a Jet Bike and a Jet Cart?  ↩
  2. I love collectors and gearheads. The guy who owned the place was both. He had a crazy collection of animal bells and crazy audiophile gear. It was meant to be.  ↩
  3. Do sheep trot?  ↩
  4. Iggy knows what I’m talking about. There were also times where I felt as if we were working on the set of “Altered States.”  ↩

RC Jets Revisited

Getting out in the field and making recordings brings many joyful moments and surprises. I’m sure most would assume it is the wonderful sound I get to record that brings the most joy, but there are many other factors at play. It might seem odd, but I love research. I love searching for interesting sources to record, and digging for “unfound sounds.” I also tend to meet rather special people when I’m on the hunt for unusual material.[1]

REA_011 introduced me to a group of truly wonderful people: Soviet aircraft collectors, jet power enthusiasts, and radio controlled plane hobbyists. One of the most generous people I met while recording for the library was Roxbury Model Airplane Club’s Bob Karasiewicz.

My prior field sessions (San Diego, Brooklyn) were not only fun, they were also useful learning experiences. I was able to gather a tremendous amount of background about the variety of RC jets’ turbines and how the planes’ body types changed the pitch of the pass bys. Despite this wealth of new information and audio samples, I wanted to expand those sound files with additional material.

When I reached out to Bob, he had the turbine I was looking for and his plane had a different body type than the others I’d recorded, so I was really curious to hear what it sounded like. When I arrived Bob was all set up and ready to go.

Bob was incredibly generous with his time and explained every step of the flight process and which parts of the plane generate the most interesting sound. Because of his plane’s unusual shape, the pitches of the pass bys shifted dramatically during turns:

The straight pass bys were also quite nice:

As well as the take off:

So much of what I do relies on the generosity of others and their willingness to share what they love. I’ve learned that passion is driven by special people and their dedication is to be respected. My best moments on gigs are when an individual realizes I’m just as passionate about recording sound as they are about their obsession. Not only have I walked away from these experiences with wonderful recordings, but I’ve also learned a vast amount as well.

  1. Some of my recent favorites: Cambridge Typewriter, Jet Bike, New Years Steam  ↩

Switches Switches Switches!

Lately I been flipping tons of switches, pressing lots of buttons, and turning lots of knobs. In other words, I’ve been hard at work on another Rabbit Ears Audio SFX Library. I started thinking about actuating things many months ago when I recorded the Mi–24 Hind. The switches on that helicopter were full of so much character that they set me off on a switch-and-button journey:

To date my research has taken me to old radios and electronics:

old aircraft:

I’m particularly fond of the latch on the emergency exit of the KC–135:

I don’t yet have a release date for this collection, and it is very much a work in progress. I’m still actively researching the content as I record and find new sources. Don’t hesitate to reach out if there are particular switches, buttons, or actuators that you are looking for … or if there is a recording location/source that you know of that would be perfect for this library.

Recording Geek Note: Rig consists of Schoeps CMC5′s setup for MS, with the MK4 as the mid. It was all tracked to a Sound Devices 744T at 24/192 with a Cooper CS–104 as a front end.

Model Jet Plane

I’m still knee deep in propulsion sounds these days as I work on the next Rabbit Ears Audio Library. A recent recording session took me to the garage of a model jet airplane enthusiast. These planes might be small, but they pack a loud punch. Hobbyists who build these planes work with real jet turbines that are built to scale.

I performed a number of stationary runs of the turbine from several perspectives. This little turbine easily hit 115db at the exhaust, and I have no idea what kind of SPL it was outputting at the intake of the engine. IT WAS LOUD.

Here is the exhaust:

And the same take from the perspective of the air intake:

The intake has a much higher pitched whine to it, which I kind of dig. The SPL was so intense at the intake that I actually had to set that channel to line level to get useful material. I placed a DPA 4060 right in front of the intake, fed it phantom, but dropped it to line level. This can be a decent alternative to using inline pads.

I’m continuing to flesh out this collection and it continues to be ridiculous amounts of fun.

Recording Geek Note: Rig consists of Schoeps CMC5′s setup for MS, with the MK4 as the mid on the exaust and a DPA 4060 on the intake. It was all tracked to a Sound Devices 744T at 24/192.

Crazy Switches

I recently released a sound effects library which features recordings of the Soviet-era Mi-24 Hind Attack Helicopter. While everything about that experience was thrilling and ridiculously fun, I want to focus on something very specific on the blog.

If you want to read all of about the crazy helicopter experience in total you can do so over Rabbit Ears Audio.

One of my favorite days of recording the Hind was the day we spent recording the switches and the electrical system on the aircraft. All of the switches in the cockpit sounded much bigger than they were. They sounded like they were built to last.

Among the more unique switches were the breaker switches. The aircraft had quite a number of break switches and there was one large switch where all of the breakers could be switched on a once.

When we set out to record this aircraft I was concerned that we wouldn’t have enough time to get all of the switches done, and boy am I glad that we managed it. The interior of HIND is filled with such character. And don’t forget about the inverters on this bad boy:

Recording Geek Note: Rig consists of Schoeps CMC5′s setup for MS, with the MK4 as the mid. It was all tracked to a Sound Devices 744T at 24/96. The inverter was recorded with an MKH 8060.