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This post is a simple one. Just a recording of the sea from the beach at Killiney Co. Dublin. No processing or manipulation of any kind. It was quite a windy day and the waves were animated. There was a thick, almost opaque fog creeping in off the horizon. Maybe two other people on the entire beach. I sat at the far end and pressed record and listened.

Soon i’ll be leaving Ireland and taking up residence in the city of Edinburgh for at least two years. It occurred to me that perhaps my collecting of field recordings is a way of gathering memories, the sounds of familiar places before embarking on something new. When I listened back to this recording I could vividly recall the entire setting and revisit my state of mind in those moments. So that is all, the sea, nothing more, nothing less.

 

The Sea

waterfall

It is true to say that most sounds we hear are made up of many different frequencies and in my experience natural sounds contain a multitude. This was the case with recordings I made recently up in Glendalough Co.  Wicklow. I captured the sounds of the famous waterfall and also a particularly animated, bubbling stream that ran off it.  Even while recording I found myself tuning into the many different notes rippling out of the waters. Each time I go out to do some field recordings the experience becomes more meditative and immersive. It’s a unique way to experience a certain place by taking time out to really listen to it.

Later I took these recordings and used a technique I had recently learned to emphasise the notes within using EQ. It’s quite a simple process but basically it allows you to make a playable instrument from any source audio file. By applying an EQ to the water recordings I picked the note A3 which is found at 220 Hz and boosted this frequency using a notch filter until the note began to ring out. To further accentuate this I applied another notch at 110 Hz and 440 Hz. This gave me an octave below and above A3. I then duplicated this EQ to raise the volume of the boosted frequencies so I could now clearly hear a note emerging from the water. I then bounced this audio out and re sampled it, setting the root note of the sampler to A3. This new sound was now spread across the keyboard and I could play back the sound of the stream like a kind of water organ. I used the same technique with the waterfall recordings to create a hissing pad sound.  Below is an example of this technique. Every sound here is created using the water recordings as source. It still needs some refining but I can see many possibilities in this process.

Water music 1

 

 

djouce

 

Djouce Woods in Wicklow is a place I have known since childhood. My parents brought my brother and I there many times when we were younger as they believed in the benefits of engaging with our natural environments. It’s hard to explain but I feel a connection with this forest and each time I go there I feel slightly better. After a walk my mind is clearer and I feel I have gained some perspective. The natural world is always there waiting, growing, dying away, rejuvenating itself. It will be here when we are gone (hopefully). Lately I have been re-visiting Djouce with my parents, my brother and my niece and nephew. Oisin and Fiadh are approaching fours years of age and I can see how much they enjoy being out among nature too. I believe they are now establishing their own connection to this environment and that it will be a lasting one.

I brought my handheld recorder on our last walk and captured some sounds; the forest ambience, voices, birds high up in the trees. Later I mixed these recordings to create a subtle 5 minute piece of audio. This relates to a recent article I had discovered about the practice of field recording and how it can be a  form of composition. We choose which sounds to record while out on location, how we record them, and later can sequence these recordings in a linear way if we wish. Nothing much happens in this piece. It’s just some of the sounds that occurred while I was there but personally I am becoming more appreciative of simplicity and how sound in it’s raw form can sometimes be enough.

Sounds of Djouce 1

howth

 

Two days ago I caught the DART to the seaside town of Howth. I’d forgotten what it was like out there as it had been years since I visited. It’s a pretty town with a large harbour, multicoloured painted houses and a cliff walk. The horizon in Howth bears an Island and great stretches of ocean. There’s a plaque on the wall of a bungalow claiming W.B Yeats lived there for some time. In 1890 he published an essay in a London magazine called The Leisure Hour stating ‘At Howth, for instance, ten miles from Dublin, there is a ‘fairies path’, whereon a great colony of otherworld creatures travel nightly from the hill to the sea and home again’. Now it seems the place is inhabited daily by tourists. I wanted to record some sounds from this place and it was a task to keep away from the chatter of visiting rotarians taking selfies. I picked a few of the recordings to include here.

 

20 seconds in you can hear the feint clamour of a bell from the town. To my ear this recording is peaceful and quite evocative.

More waves…

There is something very seaside about the accordion…

I applied some processing to water sloshing among the rocks. Some interesting patterns of resonance occurred….

Nice crunching sound from this very Irish beach…

Re-pitched seagulls with reverb. Quite haunting…

The simple ambience of the harbour…

A passing boat heads out of the harbour…

heart howth

 

To conclude, there is something quite meditative about travelling somewhere with the purpose of collecting sounds and as I listened back to the recordings I was instantly transported back to those moments of capturing. This excursion will be one of many and I hope to hone my skills in field recording as this new obsession develops.