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Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

tag: field-recording

This Is What It Sounds Like When Dunes Groan

George Vlad files a report from Namibia

George Vlad reports from the desert of Namibia, where he recorded this hour of what sand dunes sound like. He identifies the locations as Dune 45 and the Skeleton Coast, and explains that the audio was taped both above- and belowground. The extended length of the document suits Vlad’s experience, which he says involves the ears adjusting over time to the environment and recognizing detail that at first is invisible:

“Spend a little time letting your ears become accustomed to the sparse soundscape though. After a few hours you’ll start hearing more and more detail where previously there seemed to be none. There’s a constant low frequency energy caused by the movement of air and sometimes by the sand dune itself resonating. The wind ebbs and flows at various speeds, occasionally spraying sand on to the hard crust of the sand dune. The insects flying by offer a sense of scale and immediacy.”

Two thirds of the recording was accomplished with microphones designed for use underwater, what are called hydrophones, here pushed deep into the sand. The result is, as he notes, often “abstract,” the wind muted at the surface, and the audio less immediately identifiable. Where above there is air and texture, below there is an ever-threatening churn, what Vlad likens to a “groan.” On his website,, he explains that these are a subset of audio captured at almost a dozen sites around the country.

Audio posted at George Vlad’s YouTube channel. He’s based in Guildford, England.

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Fire or Ice, Peace or Limbo

Just what did Patricia Wolf capture?

Patricia Wolf ventured out into the cold of Portland, Oregon, where she lives, and brought some of it back with her. She then located a choice minute and a half, set it to fade in, so as not to shock the listener with a bright hard start, and then to fade out, so as to bring it to a natural-seeming close, and then she uploaded it to her SoundCloud account under the title “Snow Falling on Rough Horsetail and Dead Oak Leaves,” which is as evocative as could be.

Without the title, the crackles might suggest fire. If you’ve settled in for the day, removed from pandemic-era life, the fire or ice of the sound — either one — might provide some comfort, a different background sound ported to the confines of your own home. If, however, you’re suffering the brutal winter that parts of the world are, especially if you’ve lost heat, then the sense of fire could be a mocking illusion, and the sense of ice a cruel reminder of what lurks on the other side of the wall.

In other words, this, to me, placid rendering, this gentle document, might harbor other meanings for other ears. For even nature is a blank slate, framed not just by Wolf’s microphone and editing choices (I must have played it 20 times before I took note of the bird cawing at the beginning), but by our own experiences and circumstances, as well.

Track originally posted at More from Wolf at

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Leaking Pipe Abandoned Courtyard

The title of a new collection of field recordings

The Free to Use Sounds account on Bandcamp is packed with what it sounds like: field recordings for use, royalty-free. One of the most recent sets, Leaking Pipe Abandoned Courtyard (that’s the title on the digital cover, while the entry itself bears the more prosaic Abandoned Courtyard Ambience! Leaking Water Pipe & Church Bells) has seven tracks, dripping atmosphere.

All but two are of a length between two and five minutes, featuring undisturbed continuity of the title sounds. The additional pair, both brief, at around 30 seconds each, include the sounds of church bells. While the audio sets a scene, the accompanying notes lend specific detail. The tracks were recorded in Malta in the courtyard of a tall, largely unused apartment complex: “High ceilings, huge corridor doors and if you walk up and down the stairway it already creates this natural haunting reverb.”

The dripping here doesn’t suggest water torture; quite the contrary, it’s soothing, comforting. The two tracks with the church bells are especially beautiful, the combination of the natural and man-made, both speaking in different ways of the heavens opening up.

The set is at More at and

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Current Favorites: Interior Landscapes, Live Tape Drones

Heavy rotation, lightly annotated

A weekly(ish) answer to the question “What have you been listening to lately?” It’s lightly annotated because I don’t like re-posting material without providing some context. I hope to write more about some of these in the future, but didn’t want to delay sharing them. (This weekly feature was previously titled Current Listens. The name’s been updated for clarity’s sake.)

▰ Matt Madden’s three-minute “Tme No Radar on Emit” is a mix of atmospheres, most of them misty and somber, artfully so. A repeated line hints at a foghorn’s signal, some white noise at rough weather. That it’s guitar and a ventilator, according to Madden’s own description, just adds to the sense of being transported.

▰ Listen as a dense drone emerges from Femi Fleming’s January 25 live tape performance. What begins as ringing and mottled grows turbulent and orchestral as time passes.

Live Ateliers Claus captures a pair of rangy performances by Gaël Segalen. A French sound artist, Segalen, who also goes by IhearU, is heard here moving between hyperreal urban noise, Fourth World rhythms, and dramatically processed field recordings.

▰ A set of field recordings by Jeremy Hegge from a summer journey during 2019, one that took him from Chongqing, China, to Hong Kong, to Xinjiang, to Kazakhstan. The tracks are labeled by time of day (morning, afternoon, night), helping to set the context for insects, frogs, and street noise.

Also tagged , , , / / Comments: 3 ] Andorian Opera, Email Overload

From the past week

I do this manually each week, collating the tweets I made at that I want to keep track of. For the most part, this means ones I initiated, not ones in which I directly responded to someone. I sometimes tweak them a bit here. It’s usually personally informative to revisit the previous week of thinking out loud, and yow what a week this has been.

▰ Someone likes an old tweet of yours, so you check the date, and it’s 2010, and you’re like, “How long have I been doing this?” (June 2007)

▰ “Andorians have the best singers. Their antennae increase resonance. This particular soprano was discovered on the street corner. If you hear her live, in the right hall, you can hear four layers of overtones.” (Hostage-scene dialog from Star Trek: Discovery, which I’m digging)

▰ Yes, I’m enjoying Joe Country, the sixth book in Mick Herron’s Slough Horses series. After much drama between the two in the past, this sliver of a scene is all that a main character and his granddad share in the book. (Well, so far. There’s always memories. And intrigue.)

▰ 2020: I’ll vote for anyone who abolishes Daylight Savings Time.

2021: I’ll vote for anyone who abolishes autoplay.

▰ First Tuesday of the new year, the noon void as barren as ever. The Tuesday noon Outdoor Public Warning System siren, a true soundmark of San Francisco, is on a two-year hiatus as of December 10, 2019. Here’s what it used to sound like:

▰ I can only imagine what it would have taken to earn a 24-hour suspension.

▰ Deep breaths. Deep. Today was numbing.

▰ Listening to Albert Collins very loud. Typing. Clearing my mind. What a day. (Trying to sort out the next song to [try to] learn in guitar class.)

▰ For my family’s sake, I am announcing that I am throwing out this moldy apple that’s in my fridge. It’s been moldy for weeks (actually a little over a month — OK, four years) but today I’ve decided it’s too moldy. I can no longer abide by its moldiness. Enough is enough.

▰ Very happy that the first Disquiet Junto track in the first project of the new year was by a first-time participant.

▰ Latest from an occasional series on why I haven’t replied to a given email about an upcoming album:

▰ Best rendition of 4’33” yet

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