A multi-disciplinary designer’s journey in field recording, sound design, and music.

New Zealand: Meet Mr. Mutters, the Wacky Weka

Posted: February 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, nature recording
weka

Meet Mr. Mutters.

[This is the last in my series of recordings from New Zealand, recorded December 2009 – January 2010. Thanks to every wonderful soul I met along the way, and for readers who have helped with identifying certain sounds.]

While on the Queen Charlotte Track, two DOC rangers were sitting under a tree and said that this weka – an endemic, flightless bird somewhat similar to a peahen – was acting super weird, talking to himself non-stop for no reason. I proved that the best way to silence a vocalizing creature was to point a mic at it…they had a good laugh when that actually did happen. Never fails. *Sigh*…

Eventually, though, the weka I dubbed Mr. Mutters started up again, and I got a stream of avian obscenities from him. He was tasting a canvas camping chair at the time. Brainpower not keeping up with curiosity.

But check out the really strange, squeaky chatter this guy was making. Pitch it down a few octaves and it sounds like some of the other talking-to-themselves dudes who hang around my office.

The Wacky Weka by noisejockey
[Zoom H2 recorder]

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New Zealand: Portage Bay Birdsong

Posted: February 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, nature recording, sound design
Portage Bay on the Queen Charlotte Sound, South Island, New Zealand.

Portage Bay on the Queen Charlotte Sound, South Island, New Zealand.

This will be the first of several posts that highlight some interesting sounds that I gathered from the South Island of New Zealand, from December 2009 to January 2010. Big thanks to Tim Prebble and others for offering advice!

I walked the 71km Queen Charlotte Track with my photo gear and my beat-up Zoom H2, and gathered quite a bit of sound over the 3.5 days I spent hiking. The last morning I awoke early to this unusual dawn chorus of birds…the more I listen to it, it might just be a handful of birds or even just one loud one, with echos coming off the walls of the surrounding hills. It sounded synthesized to me, like an ambient song. Give it a listen below, with some occasional post-rain water drips falling from the trees. (While this is unprocessed, I applied some spectral processing to it and it sounded like it came out of Avatar…may share that later on…)

[UPDATE: Reader Tom Williams from Devon, UK correctly identified this as the call of the tui. Thanks, Tom!]

Dawn Chorus at Portage Bay by noisejockey
[Zoom H2 recorder]

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Whistling Wind from Where?!?

Posted: February 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, sound design
Look cold? Good. It was!

Look cold? Good. It was!

This Mordor-looking photo shows Mono Pass in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. 12,000′/3,657m high, we crossed it in August, but we still got snowed, rained, and hailed on, and the winds were definitely in the 40mph range. A forbidding place, an intense day, and freakin’ cold to boot.

I remember the sound of the wind, especially, howling in my ears but also sometimes between spaces between rocks. Very distinctive, almost like the wind that you hear in movies.

I had to travel almost halfway around the world to a cute cottage in a summery, temperate rainforest to actually record wind that sounded like that.

Staying at a lodge along New Zealand’s Queen Charlotte Track on the South Island, a huge southerly wind kicked up around dusk and made this great whistling sound through our bedroom windows. What luck! Rather than be outside in an actual gale, I could position my recorder right near the sound source – tiny gaps between the windows – while having the windows themselves completely protect the microphones from the wind itself. I changed the perspective of the recording a few times, so rather than futz with it all to match or mess with a multitrack edit for this post, I just crossfaded to silence between each wind gust. You’ll get the idea.

So, just goes to show you: What you record, when, and where, can sometimes have little to do with the mental images one gets from the sounds recorded…which is why I included the photo above and not the nice real picture of tree ferns and sunshine!

Whistling Wind by noisejockey
[Zoom H2 recorder]

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