Cold Weather Pals

Sometimes, we need all need a bit of help. Cold weather and gear often demands lots of it. To date, I have gone recording in Vermont, Upstate NY, Minnesota, and, most recently, in Canada.

In order to find quiet locations I have been poring over maps and air traffic data. After a fair amount of research I settled on Algonquin Park in Northern Ontario. There is limited air traffic over the park and I knew the park wouldn’t be packed with visitors in the dead of winter.

Happily, I have a pal in Toronto, and I was able to talk John Loranger into tagging along on the trip. John picked me up on a Friday from YYZ[1] and we headed out to the semi-frozen north.[2]

The following recording is from a location that was about 300ft from a half frozen lake, and between several large pines.

I love how the distant ice crack and the subtle creaks from the trees add to the sense of cold. After three full days in Algonquin we only heard four planes. I was hoping for a moose to drop by where we were recording, but it wasn’t meant to be.

I have been extremely fortunate to have travel companions while out in the freezing cold. Algonquin is incredibly wild in the winter and most of its roads are left uncleared. We would not have been able to get to most of the locations if it wasn’t for John’s four-wheel drive truck.

I was also recently in Minnesota doing some recording and I would not have been able to do 90% of it without the help of my good friend Rob Byers. We spent days traversing snow-covered roads that were more than a little challenging.

Rob also just received a shipment with a healthy chunk of my gear. He is currently traveling to remote northern Minnesota where he will have to ski to a cabin. Rob was generous enough to suggest that he could do some recording for me while up north. Last week, I packed up my pelican cases and off they went. (thank goodness for insurance). I’m really looking forward to hearing what sounds come back to me.

I’m truly lucky to have great friends and colleagues in cold places these days.[3]

Recording Geek Note: Rig consists of Schoeps CMC5′s with MK4 capsules setup for double ORTF. It was tracked with a Cooper CS 104 feeding a Sound Devices 744T.

  1. I wanted to run into Geddy Lee at the airport but my hopes were dashed.  ↩
  2. There was a thaw the week before and I was concerned that we would run into a lack of snow and ice. Most of the locations were great, but the ice was too unsafe to walk on.  ↩
  3. I’m also truly lucky to have great recording buddies in other locations as well that are always game to lend a hand when I visit their hometowns. I’m grateful for all of their support over the years.  ↩

Winter Creaks

Lately, I’ve been recording way more than I have been editing. I have been traveling all over gathering quiet winter ambiences. I haven’t found much quiet time to actually get to cutting.

It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to find quiet places to record, and when you live in New York you have no choice but to travel at least 3 hours to record anything useful.

It’s one thing to look at a map and find a place you believe will yield clean results. It is another to find that incredibly quiet place. It takes a fair amount of scouting and the willingness to go somewhere and fail. Stumbling upon a quiet environments is pretty damn incredible but can be somewhat unsettling. I wish it wasn’t a shock to my system, and it was more of a normal occurrence, but that is not the reality. In cases where I do find quiet, my mind often plays tricks on me. I often think that I can hear a distant truck or plane when in reality one isn’t there. That sort of noise is so engrained in my daily experience that is hard to believe the noise isn’t always lurking somewhere.

The following recording was made just a few weeks ago in a heavily wooded forest. The temperature was hovering between 0° – 12°F with the winds beginning to kick up.

I love the tone of the wind as the gusts begin the pick up. I also don’t know anyone who can resist the eerie sounds of trees creaking in the wind. The location was so stark and desolate that I was more than a bit creeped out by all of the creaking while hiking into the woods. It takes a lot of self control to keep the image of Dick Halloran driving that snowcat in The Shining out of the old noggin, but it has to be done. No one needs to be paralyzed with that kind of fear.

The recording is one half of a double ORTF setup which I am still putting through its paces. I’m using full-size Schoeps CMC5 bodies on stereo bars, which means there are a few compromises. Instead of using full sized windshields, I have to use Rycote’s smaller ball gag windshields. So far I have been pretty impressed with the results. They manage to hold up to pretty strong winds and get the job done. The only real issue I’ve run into is the rather awkward product name. It makes for interesting discussions while going through airport security.

Recording Geek Note: Rig consists of Schoeps CMC5′s with MK4 capsules setup for double ORTF. It was tracked with a Cooper CS 104 feeding a Sound Devices 744T.

Winter Quiet

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for quiet ambiences. I love being in environments so quiet that they shake you to your core. I’ve been lucky enough to experience quiet on that level a few times in my life and I’m looking for more opportunities.

Winter is upon us in the Northern Hemisphere, which means quiet should be easier to find. I live in New York City, which makes finding quiet ambiences nearly impossible. Finding truly quiet environments without the distant sounds of vehicles or air traffic means a 3 hour drive or more. Those 3 hours only guarantee about 10 to 20 minutes between interference from humans.

I recorded the QUAD ambience below about 2.5 hours to north and west of New York City. The following recording was made around 10:00 PM on a blustery evening:

Even though it was a particularly peaceful night, I still had to work around passing traffic and planes. It looks like I have to drive further out into the wilderness.

If anyone has some good locations for quiet winter ambiences, I’m all ears.

Recording Geek Note: Rig consists of Schoeps CMC5′s setup for double ORTF. It was tracked with a Cooper CS 104 feeding a Sound Devices 744T.

Post Sandy

Last week, I received an incredible response to my Hurricane Sandy post. I spent the evening of the hurricane recording the storm and in the following days I was lucky enough to have power, so I could edit and share some of my experiences.

I’ve received a number of emails thanking me for the post and last Thursday I received an unusual request from Marc Weidenbaum of the disquiet blog. Marc wanted to use some of my storm recordings for his weekly Disquiet Junto, which he explains as follows:

The Disquiet Junto is a group I founded on The purpose of the group is to use constraints to stoke creativity. Each Thursday evening I post a clearly defined compositional assignment, and members of the Junto are to complete the assignment by 11:59pm the following Monday. The initial Junto assignment was made on January 5, 2012, the first Thursday of the new year.

Marc asked to use these two recordings:

And then gave his Junto group the following instructions:

Create an original track that makes a transition from stormy to placid over the course of its duration. Your track should open fiercely and then slowly give way to calm. You can use additional instruments of your choosing, but the original field recordings should serve as source material both for the stormy and for the placid portions of your track. In other words: the calm part of the track should be built in large part from audio of the storm.

You can hear the fruits of the group’s labor over at the Junto Soundcloud group. All of the Sandy specific files will have “[disquiet0044-sandy2012]” in the title.

My favorite contribution to the group comes from two good friends, Stephen Vitiello and Steve Roden.

And for those of you interested in helping storm victims, The American Red Cross is a good place to start.

Hurricane Sandy

This past Monday was a rather hectic day on the East Coast, especially for New York and New Jersey. Hurricane Sandy started to bear down on Sunday night, and by Monday evening it was clear New York City was going to be hit with hurricane grade winds and flooding.

Most New Yorkers spent the day hunkered down in their homes. Although that is how my day started out, there were a few minor differences. I’m guessing most New Yorkers did not have mics zip-tied to their windows like I did.

The wind began to kick up around 3:00 PM and I managed to capture the wind gusting through the alleyway between us and the neighboring building.

As the evening progressed I decided to venture out to see if I could get a sense of the storm from street level. I live on a tree-lined street in Brooklyn; by 6:00 PM you could really hear the trees start shaking.

By 8:00 PM the winds were over 70 MPH and I ventured out one last time. When I stepped outside, leaves were already covering the sidewalks and most of the street. The trees were swaying violently, and by 9:15 PM there was a cacophony of shaking leaves in my headphones.

My block is lined with about 8–10 trees on either side of the street and the recording captured about 4 of them. It is pretty remarkable that only 4 trees produced that (tremendous) sound. One sound that is noticeably absent from the recording is the sound of commercial jets overhead. All of the airports were shut down and, except for the occasional emergency vehicle, it was just the wind and rain.

After some time on the sidewalk it was clear that the storm was getting out of control and it was time to head back inside. That is when I noticed the sounds of the wind slamming my building from within the stairwell.

I still have quite a bit of material to comb through, but the above recordings are what I pulled together after an initial edit.

Recording Geek Note: The recordings from the window were made with a pair of DPA 4060s. The material from the street and stairwell were recorded with an MKH 30/40 MS pair. It was all tracked to a Sound Devices 744T at 24/96.