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In recent years I have spent several nights in Skeiðarársandur to record the changes in the ecosystem.
Skeiðarársandur is a huge broad sandy wasteland along Iceland’s south-eastern coast, between the Vatnajökull icecap and the sea. It is a wonderful place to record deep natural silence in a huge open flat landscape.
For hundreds of years Skeiðarársandur has been a barren desert. but recently with shrinking glaciers and smaller glacial rivers, Birch, moss and other flora have occupied the northeast part of the sand. That means the soundscape on Skeiðarársandur will change in the future which will be interesting to record regularly in the coming years.
I have usually stayed at the same spot near a traditional sheep pen because structures like that are attractive for birds like Snow bunting, Northern wheatear and Rock ptarmigan.
I was very excited when I went to this spot on the 9th of June 2020. Because of COVID, there were almost no tourists in Iceland and therefore far less traffic.  So I was hoping for a beautifully quiet night there. I was not disappointed either. It was calm so the silence was deep. I could hear the Atlantic ocean surf among the coastline 20-30km away, which sounds slightly like low frequency rumble in the background of this recording. I could not see any bird but bird songs came from every direction, clearly far away. During the night the glacier rumbled several times in Skaftafell national park like a thunder in the distance. Once a ship engine noise was audible out of the coastline which sounds pretty spooky. It sounds more coming from the sky rather than from the coastline in the horizon, which was probably a reflection from different temperature layers in the atmosphere.
Anyway the ship engine is not audible in the following recording, but maybe in another blog.
The microphone rig was on the top of the sheep pen wall, not far away from the place which I think Northern wheatear has had a nest every year since I started to record this place. (Listen to recording since mid May 2016)
Luckily the Northern wheatear was not far away. This time the bird was not as angry about the hairy microphones as when I first brought the microphones in this place. The bird just sang for me for almost one hour and here comes part of it.

  (mp3 256kbps / 67,7Mb)

Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at low level.
If the media player doesn’t start to play, please reload this individual blog in new tab or frame

Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Lewitt LCT540s (IRT Cross)
Pix: Canon EOS-R 

Weather:  Calm to 5m/sek, clear sky, 3 to 7°C
Location:  63.969925, -17.160018

 

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It sounds a bit stupid to record silence. But if the equipment can capture something in the silence you can not hear with your bare ears, then it can be very interesting. For instance, you never know what you will see when you look into the deep space with telescope. You never know what you will hear in the silence with a low noise microphone.
I will not define all my views of different silence, but for sure, silence is never completely quiet and it is my favourite recording material.
Best time to get „silence“ is normally during the night in calm weather after sunny day (like this one). In such moments temperature waves are also calm or in layers, so sound can travel long distances without being disturbed. Noise from one car can travel up to 30 km in open field and if you hear it with your bare ears it will be clearly audible through most quality recording gear today. Amplifying sound with low noise microphone, works like a telescope. It drags weak sound far away closer to your ears. In places where you need to hold your breath to hear probably only your heart beat, it can be a very busy place in your headphones.
But there is also other kind of silence. It is on hot sunny days when wind blows and the air is very unstable. Sound normally does not travel long distances in such circumstances.
One of these days was 18th of July 2016 on the World Listening Day. I was traveling on Kjölur, west highland route in Iceland. The sun was shining all day and the wind was blowing from the south. I took of the main rode and followed a track into Kjalhraun lava field. My plan was to find the mysterious Beinahóll (Bone hill) and the field where Reynistaðabræður (Reynisstada brothers) and almost 200 sheeps lost their lives in a insane weather in September 1780. It is still possible to find bones on this field so for a long time I have bin interested in this tragic story.
But the track through the lava was too ruff for my car so I kept on by food.
Many times for almost three decades it has been my plan to find this place while travelling by bike over Kjölur. I never did it because I was always wearing a green jacket and for superstitions reasons it has been told dangerous.
This time I did not find Beinahól. Instead I started recording the silence in the lava.
The weather was a typical sunny „midday silence“, where the thermal heat from the sun makes the air unstable so sound waves did not travel long distances.
This was one of these days I did not hear any plains or car traffic, even though Kjölur main route was not far away. When I held my breath, I only did hear weak bird song in the distance and some flies around. Because the mics are located close to the ground, you will also hear the wind wipe the ruff lava surface.
This recording is captured with MKH20 microphones and SD744 recorder. Gain was set at 56dB and HPF 80Hz. In post the gain was again raised about 25dB. Below 20Hz and above 10Khz the freq. was pulled down by 25dB.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at low level. Hold your breath while listening 🙂

(256Kbps / 46Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices 744
Mics Sennheiser MKH20 (AB40 setup)
Pics. EOS-M
Weather. Sunny, about 18°C, calm up to 3 m/s in gusts
Recording location: 64.77883, -19.42805

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