Somehow I find myself with a microphone at the beach a lot. I don’t particularly tend to relax much on beaches at all, but still end up visiting them often. And it might be the biggest cliche in nature sound recording, but don’t we all love that sound of waves lapsing onto a shore? Besides, the sea never sounds the same. Weather conditions of course have a great impact, and so do the time of day, ebb and flow and naturally whether it’s a sandy, rocky or pebbled beach.
I own a pair of Sennheiser MKH8040’s and though they are stunning sounding mics, they do have an irritating fault and that is that they add a huge bed of noise to the ultrasonic frequency range. This becomes annoying, or even a problem when pitching down my recordings – something I do a lot when designing sounds.
Enter the pair of Schoeps CCM 4’s, which are a direct competitor for size and quality to the 8040’s. I’d rented these for a weekend in Summer 2014 to try and see for myself what the fuss is all about, as Schoeps mics have an almost mythical air to them, supposedly sounding like angels pissing in your ears if you are to believe the halleluja-ing Schoeps owners on internet forums. Whether this is due to simply them needing to justify the astronomical cost of these mics or if there’s really something special about them was what I was curious to find out.
In Summer 2014 I’d finally bit the bullet and bought a Telinga Universal MK2 parabolic dish reflector, a piece of equipment that I’d been umm’ing and ah’ing about for years. Though a bit pricey in my opinion, this is a well-built, lightweight parabolic with the added benefits of it allowing you to use your microphone of choice and its relative portability due to the dish itself being foldable.
I’m using an MKH8040 in the Telinga, guaranteeing a flat frequency response, high sensitivity & low noise. It being a cardioid mic it is relatively susceptible to handling noise, so some practice is required using this in a parabolic as a lot of this kind of recording is handheld whilst tracking your subject (like flying birds for instance). The above sound file is an example of tracked recording, as these are the calls of common terns that were flying over my head and around me, at distances ranging from ~20 to 5 meters from the mic. They seemed to be playing a game of chase with each other, which I don’t know if it’s a mating ritual or simply them having fun.
In June 2014 I took my hydrophones to a likely looking lake and started fishing for sound. It already being past the explosion of life that is spring I wasn’t sure if I’d encounter much pond dwelling activity underneath the surface, but it turned out I did not need to worry. As soon as I threw the mics in the water, a previously hidden world of sonic richness came to the fore, full of surprising little clicks, squeaks and screeches originating from water beetles and plants.
Headphones are recommended to appreciate all the subtle and quiet detail in the following recordings.
The almost creature-like pitch bending whine that you can hear in the left channel from the start of this recording is a plant letting off gas – a plant farting, yes. A fancier way of putting it is that this is somewhat ‘the sound of photosynthesis’, as oxygen is released as a waste product during the photosynthesis procedure.