REA_009 Antique Engines

A new Rabbit Ears Audio Library, REA_009 Antique Engines, is heading towards release and should be completed it about 2 weeks. Here’s a little tease:

This new collection features stationary antique engines (both steam and gas) that were used for DC power generation. At the turn of the century before electricity was widely available, these engines were used to provide power to water plants, factories, farms, and just about anything that needed power. The engines could also be found driving pumps or heavy machinery to keep a mill or a oil rig running.

I have a soft spot for the stationary steam engines. These older engines chuff, hiss, and groan in spectacular ways. If you close your eyes you might even mistake some of the engines for steam trains.

I spent a significant amount of time recording these crazy contraptions and have grown to adore not only the sounds of the machines, but also the folks who operate and maintain them. In many ways, it is a meeting of the minds when the operators of these engines realize that I am just as obsessive about field recording as they were about their engines.

My interests in these recordings stretch beyond their usefulness to sound editors, but also to their historical value. On of my previous libraries Metal Machines opened up a world of machinery used to repair old trains; it also provided a window into the work of impassioned engineers who are doing everything they can to keep their craft alive. During these shoots I spent most of my time recording the machines, but I also made an effort to document some interviews with the operators, who were, for the most part, not young men. I’m not sure how long some of these engines will continue to be restored and be functional, but I hope that it will be some time before they disappear.

New Years Steam Whistles Part 2

If you haven’t read Part 1 yet please do. Before the the Steam Whistles were up and running the Pratt calliope calliope was hooked up to a small sequencer and it was warming up for its big performance when we arrived:

We even got a little teaser of its big finale:

As you can hear this Calliope was either hard to tune, or just needed a bit more practice. Sousa is probably rolling over in his grave right now.

I was not completely prepared for the SPL that thing put out, so sadly there were a few times where both the Schoeps and the Sound Devices recorder got pushed a little too hard. I wish I could have positioned myself further away, but crowds had already started to gather and I wanted to try and minimize the background. In the end it is still a nice document of the final hours of 2011.

Recording Geek Note: The calliope were recorded with Schoeps CMC5′s setup for MS with an MK4 as the Mid. It was all tracked to a Sound Devices 744T at 24/192. I was a little too close.

Happy New Year!

New Years Steam Whistles Part 1

This is one of those “only in New York” experiences. Every year on New Year’s Eve, Conrad Milster sets up steam whistles on the campus of the Pratt Institute in order to announce the new year in style. Conrad has been the Chief Engineer of the Pratt Institute since 1958 and runs the school’s historic steam power plant.

At this point in time the plant is a museum, but Conrad’s love for antique machinery hasn’t waned. If you visit the Pratt Institute, Conrad will happily walk you through the machinery and the history of the plant.

New Years is very special for Conrad. Starting early in the day, Conrad runs pipes out from the power plant’s boiler and starts attaching the whistles. This year many guest collectors brought their whistles to share in the fun.

Some of these whistles came from old factories, some are from boats, some from trains, and others were newly fabricated.

Recording Geek Note: The whistles were recorded with Schoeps CMC5′s setup for MS with an MK4 as the Mid. It was all tracked to a Sound Devices 744T at 24/192. Believe it or not, I didn’t use a pad, but the gain was set “0”. These things were loud!

There was also a Steam Calliope, but that will have to wait until part 2 of this post.

Special thanks go to Conrad Milster and Alex Noyes. You can read more about Conrad here and here.

Steam Pipes

It’s Fall in New York City, which means most landlords, if they’re not deadbeats, have turned the heat on.  My apartment features several steam pipes that seem to enjoy vocalizing this time of year.  I’m not sure if they are alerting the others to prey or mates in the area, but they seem to have quite a call and response going around the apartment.  Everyday these guys are making new sounds: tonight they were in a gurgling, tapping kind of mood.  I’m hoping that this post might attract David Attenborough to check out the phenomenon.

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