Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Regional Arts Fellowship - Field Report 5 [USA/NSW]

Included in this post is a look at some creative outcomes for my 2017/18 fellowship activities in USA and Regional NSW => Mentorship with Doug Quin and residency at Syracuse University, residency at Important Records HQ including a visit to local studio to see an ultra-rare Emu Modular, and giving workshops and working in the field/studio in regional NSW. I've included a number of soundcloud links giving excerpts of some the material I was able to record.

This is the fifth and final post on my Create NSW Regional Arts Fellowship, you can check out the first post on a week spent with Chris Watson here, the second post on my Moog Sound Lab UK Residency here, the third post on my EMS Stockholm Residency here and fourth post with host of activities including working with Chris Watson, Jez riley French, Aphex Twin and a bunch of other stuff here.. During the fellowship I kept folks updated with pictures/tweets live through my twitter account, so you can also have a look back through those tweets too :) 

Artist Residency at Syracuse University, New York State, USA including a Mentorship with renowned field recordist / Assoc Prof Doug Quin => 

During this visit I conducted a workshop, gave a lecture, and went out on field trips with Doug for environmental sound recording. In case you were wondering, yes this is the same Syracuse University that Lou Reed went to, and was later an Alumni. I was hoping they'd have Metal Machine Music playing on loop throughout the uni but no.. !

The first place Doug took me to was Stoney Pond State Forest, Madison County, New York, not too far from Syracuse. Doug took along his Ambient ASF-1 mkII hydrophone and Sound Devices 722 recorder, and we had a look around to spot some good locations for a longer session later. We returned twice, for the evening and morning frog chorus. You can hear the morning frog chorus further down this page. Pictures by Doug and myself.

Take note of the trousers in the socks, vital to keep the nasty biting bugs out, of which there were many!!

Before we got started Doug was very quick to point out the Poison Ivy!! =>

There was a lot of bird activity, so Doug showed me this great little bird ID app called Song Sleuth made by Wildlife Acoustics =>

A short hike later and we were at Stoney Pond to scout for some good locations =>

I also gave a lecture and sound design workshop at Syracuse University to Doug's students =>

I love recording rain and thunderstorms so I kept my eye on the weather forecast. I got lucky, so I quickly made a little setup to record a rainstorm through the flyscreen window in my room at Doug & Peggy's with my FEL clippy EM172 mics =>

I was keen to get some environmental sounds of the city, so Doug came up with a really interesting spot, the interchange of I-81 & I-690. This interchange is rumoured to be scheduled for demolition after being operational for 60 years, but now in a severe state of deterioration.. You can read an interesting piece about this structure by photographer Shane Lavalette and poet Arthur R. Flowers, Jr. 

We set up the Zoom F8 with Doug's Sennheiser MKH 30 & MKH 40 as a Mid-Side system and my 2x JrF C-Series pro contact mics via HOSA MIT-129 xformers for a 4 track recording.

I spotted this little parking meter underneath the interchange, so it was also a good opportunity to try out the electromagnetic induction coil pick-ups I recently got from Jez. According to Jez's site these are useful "for picking up electronic signals / sounds ie. the internal sounds of a laptop, lightbulbs, recorders, household gadgets etc etc."  Jez also states : "whilst most other coils on the open market have certain limitations placed upon them, these adapted coils can detect a wider range of sounds". I managed to get some ear-piercing harsh digital noise from this little meter =>

Back at home-base I got a couple of Doug's recommendations for low cost microphones. The Rode i-XY for iPhone and the Soundman OKM II binaural mics =>

Later in the week we went to record the 
Stoney Pond dawn and evening chorus. We took out my Zoom F8 and I used Doug's Schoeps Colette series CMC microphones (cardioid coincident pair) on a tripod, with my FEL Communications Clippy XLR EM172 Omni Microphone, Matched Stereo Pair also attached to make a 4 track recording. Doug took his Soundfield mic & Sound Devices 722 recorder =>

Back in Doug's office I spotted these interesting items: Variations I score & the book Silence 
by John Cage both signed with a personal note, and CD cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles signed by George Martin ! =>

I asked Doug if there were any train lines nearby and he took me out on a little field trip a short drive east of Syracuse, to the village of Minoa. We took my Zoom F8 and Doug's Sennheiser MKH 30 & MKH 40 setup as a Mid-Side system, and Doug recorded on his little hand held Nagra LINO and we managed to record a very long freight train =>

Doug showed me this great old vintage Prophet 2000 sampler that he used to play live to process and manipulate field recordings =>

We also took a field trip to Stone Quarry Hill Art Park to record the frogs. We were accompanied on this trip by Doug's colleage Edward Ruchalski. I took the Zoom F8 and Jez's hydrophones. We fished around a few places with our hydrophones, and a great lesson I learned is that its sometimes best to keep the hydrophone close to the bank in order to pickup more wildlife =>

Ed brought along this interesting little setup: Aquarian H2a-XLR hydrophone hooked up to a Zoom H2 recorder via a Zoom U22 audio interface to provide phantom power =>

Syracuse University is also home to the legendary Belfer Audio Archive and Preservation Laboratory. I was lucky enough to get a guided visit by Doug and James S Abbot of the entire facility, including their recording studio. A staggering amount of recording/recorded history, and a working studio and preservation lab all in one building! =>

The Belfer audio archives =>

Belfer preservation studio and equipment =>

Belfer recording studio =>

During my mentorship with Doug I got an email from Oli Warwick requesting a skype interview about my work and Regional Arts Fellowship for the The Wire magazine. This was a great opportunity for wider coverage/promotion, and Doug gave me his office for the time I needed to do it. The interview appeared in Issue 403, which also featured reviews by Claire Sawers of my Entr'acte dual CD releases FLD RCDR / MCRTNL =>

Residency at Important Records HQ =>

The last leg of my USA trip was a visit to John Brien's Important Records in Groveland, Mass. where I was provided with a nice little studio setup consisting of Serge/STS system, EML Electrocomp 101, EMS Synthi A and SCI Prophet 5 to hookup with my own gear. A great little setup, and also really useful to be spending time working with a Serge system again. Pictures by myself and John Brien =>

John took me out to his friend Tom Eaton's studio called Universal Noise Storage in Newburyport. A great studio space, and I had a chance to look over the gear there. They also let me have a look at this amazing Emu Modular, which also has a couple of ancient PAiA modules too. Not much is known about this modular, it might have been a prototype or more likely a custom home build using Emu PCBs.. currently not working but hopefully it will be getting restored at some point.. =>

Couldn't resist getting John to take a few pix of me posing with it!! =>

John got out some Harry Bertoia sculptures for me to record, so I hooked up the Zoom F8 and a pair of  Jez's C-series pro contact mics =>

Table Tonal II built by the Bertoia Foundation =>

Table Tonal built by the Bertoia Foundation =>

The other 2 sculptures I got to work with are by Harry's son Val Bertoia =>

Making a multi-track recording from the fish tank using Jez's hydrophones and electromagnetic induction coil-pickups =>

Wagga Ham Shack tape =>

John suggested we do a tape of something interesting/unusual from my archive, which I had with me on my portable hard drive. We got chatting and I mentioned a mix I'd done of Radio Ham sounds + some cellular automata sequenced synth, for a Wired Lab project. John was keen to hear it as his grandfather was a ham, so I dug it out and he had a listen. It went down well, so John said we'd do that as a tape release on his Cassauna imprint. John got to work duplicating the tapes and doing the covers while I was in the studio working. I took a few snaps of him making the tape below. Here are the tape details =>


SAUNA42   C66

Limited Edition Cassette

Preview an excerpt on this Important Records mix [12:15 - 20:50] =>

"Edition of 50 packaged in handmade, letterpress printed sleeves.

Wagga Ham Shack is an extensive, ambient recording of The Wired Lab's Global Communications Radio Club installation held at the Wagga Wagga Fusion Multicultural Festival in Oct. 2015. The incredible analog/digital sounds of short wave radio Ham's mix with David Burraston's accompanying synthesizer work to create an incredibly useful ambient environment."

Regional NSW activities =>

After my overseas trip I returned to Regional NSW to continue with the final stage of my activities which included presenting workshops, live performance and working in the field/studio.

Wild Lab - Kosciuszko =>

I was able to work with Chris Watson again, as co-facilitator for Wild Lab - Kosciuszko, organised by The Wired LabThis four-day intensive field recording masterclass explored audio documentation in a range of natural habitats via various recording techniques and technologies, through to the application of these sounds in fields spanning the arts, film/screen, environmental sciences, gaming, VR, music and sound design. This was extremely useful for me to get first hand mentorship on setting up a very high level workshop, from identifying locations, to assisting participants with developing new skills.  

Masterclass participants developed and honed skills in the areas of:

* Field recording in a range of environments, from caves to the various bush, plain and alpine habitats within Kosciuszko National Park.
* Technical operation of various location recording equipment in day and night time conditions.
* Microphone techniques with contact microphones, hydrophones and parabolic reflectors.
* Acoustic monitoring techniques for environmental science research.
* Spatial audio recording techniques with spaced stereo microphones, surround sound arrays. Along with Ambisonic techniques using 2x Soundfield ST450’s, Schoeps double mid-side arrays and Sennheiser mid-side systems.
* Decoding techniques.
* Exploration and demonstration of surround sound playback and multi-channel systems

Each day participants explored the Kosciusko National Park and surrounds including: exclusive access to the network of caves within the Yarrangobilly precinct and also wilderness exploration of Kosciusko National Park via guided hiking excursions.

Before the masterclass Chris and I went to Yarrangobilly precinct, accompanied by his son Lewis, and our guide John Dunn. We travelled around looking for suitable locations, and created an itinerary for Wild Lab. Pictures by myself, Chris Watson and Alex Watson [and a few others here and there :]

Masterclass accomodation was in the historic Yarrangobilly Caves House 1917 section =>

Our first job was having a look through the various caves on site, to get a feel for the acoustic as well as any logistic issues.

Jersey Cave =>

Jillabenan Cave =>

South Glory Cave =>

We checked out the Hydro Electric system on site, which had a great engine room! =>

Out of Yarrangobilly precinct we headed up to the Kiandra Historical Gold Mining Site on Snowy Mountains Highway, and a few places nearby, we also spotted some wild brumbies =>

John Dunn was keen to take us out to Long Plain Road, which had only just re-opened following the winter closure period. This is quite a large area and importantly has a large hut that we could use as a base when we would be running the workshop. Within close proximity to Long Plain Hut were bush, waterways and also a very large series of electricity pylons spanning the plain, providing lots of interesting opportunities for recording during the workshop =>

The Wild Lab workshop began with taking the participants on a soundwalk, which lasted about an hour, traversing much of the 
Yarrangobilly precinct =>

After the soundwalk there was an intensive session on technology conducted by Chris & myself =>

George Bradford [Yarrangobilly Caves Manager] took the participants on an eco tour, giving us behind the scenes access to the technology & sounds that keeps the precinct running. This was a really interesting tour, and allowed everyone to listen to sonic environments and record parts they found interesting.

Hydro electric plant =>

Water heating setup in basement of the house =>

Eco Sewage Plant =>

I particularly liked the sound of this, and made an acoustic recording on my Zoom F8 using matched stereo pair of FEL Communications Clippy XLR EM172 omni microphones and Jez's C-series contact mics =>

A big part of the workshop was the access to the 2x SoundField ST450 mk2 microphones that we had on loan from SoundField =>

Recording swallows at the entrance to South Glory cave in the early morning =>

Welcome to Country with Shane Herrington and Talea Bulger =>

Also be sure to check out this video of Shane on youtube =>

Long Plain recording session at the pylons =>

Setting up for an ambisonic recording at the pylon with one of the SoundField ST450 mk2 microphone that we had on loan from SoundField =>

Kiandra Historical Gold Mining Site and surrounds =>

The last session of the workshop was recording tadpoles in Bullocks Hill Swamp at dusk. This was particularly challenging both in terms of getting to the location which was over very difficult terrain, but also because we had to be in and out before last light!! =>

Wagga Wagga Art Gallery Workshop & performance on March 17th =>

I gave a Sound Design workshop at Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, followed by a live outdoor performance. The workshop encompassed all manner of sound design techniques from outdoor field recording around the lagoon with microphones and hydrophones, a soundwalk, sound synthesizers and editing audio on computer. I also got an interview at local radio station 2AAA-FM. Following the workshop I did a live performance with a small modular setup and a laptop computer. My set was based around a live mix of field recordings from Kosciuszko National Park with accompanying synthesizer.  Pictures by myself and Linda Elliot.

Museum of Riverina Workshops at Wagga Wagga Botanic Gardens April 17 & 19 =>

I presented two days of Field Recording workshops at the Museum of the Riverina Botanic Gardens site. Its a real gem of a location, just on the outskirts of Wagga Wagga, and you can read more about the site here

A few weeks before these workshops I did a recon trip to make a plan for our itinerary. It is such a huge and varied site we would only have time to cover some of it. The Museum of the Riverina has a building on the outskirts of the site, which is where we would be doing the editing of our recorded material. I decided on a soundwalk from that building to the aviary, which gave us a good variation of sonic activity en-route, as well as some guaranteed activity to record and some dry cover in the unlikely event of rain.. =>

Pictures from the two days of workshops =>

+ some pictures provided by John Riddell from the museum =>

Artist talk at Eastern Riverina Arts April 17 =>

I was kindly invited by Scott Howie of Eastern Riverina Arts to give an artists talk on my Fellowship. This was a great opportunity to look back on the Fellowship and draw some conclusions, and also to get questions from those attending. The topics discussed included making contacts with record labels, impact on my arts practice/process and improving/expanding my networking skills. There were also some tasty nibbles, and complimentary refreshments courtesy of the Tumut River Brewing Company helped the conversation flow very nicely =>

Working in my Regional NSW based studio/workshop => 

I've spent time in the studio building some custom gear, working on Rainwire [Processed] for Important Records, mixing down my Moog Sound Lab UK sessions, and going over some of the Fellowship source material for a Soundcloud playlist [see the bottom of this post for the full playlist or open it in a separate window here].  

A big change in my practice has been moving from Apple's Logic Pro X to REAPER 5 for my digital audio editing needs. I've been a long term Logic user, since the 90's when it was originally created by Emagic, but I've been more and more disillusioned/frustrated with what Apple have done to the program as they've happily taken my money! During my mentorship Jez riley French recommended I try out REAPER, so I spent quite a bit of time learning the program and produced most of the Soundcloud playlist with it. I can't recommend this program highly enough!! There are also a great selection of tutorial videos on their site by Kenny Gioia, great to get you going quick, and easy to refer to when you need to figure something out. Here is the REAPER 5 intro vid which should whet your appetite =>

My earlier residencies at EMS Stockholm in February and in May/June have been great for getting me some hands on experience with Roberta Settels historic diode/transformer ring modulator, and the studios Serge modular. 

I've been doing some more research on the diode/transformer ring modulator method, and below are a bunch of pictures from my regional home studio/workshop. This research has also been of great benefit for my Z-DSP cartridge programming, as well as my own custom modular synths for processing field recordings. I've been working with a variety of components, from the ultra-rare chunky military COIL C-161 to tiny little Jaycar transformers, and trying a selection of different diodes for the 'ring' section. Also in the pictures you can see some simple breadboarded op-amp circuits I've been using for frequency doubling, and peak & trough/min & max functions / comparators inspired by the Serge modular =>

I also did a number of experiments using standard off the shelf LED's in the diode section, which have proved to sound great, as well as glowing at varying levels depending on signal flow!! I had a nice little setup for these tests, with an Intellijel CycleboxII, Tiptop Z-DSP and ALM Akemie's Castle and recorded the ring modulator output direct from the transformer into the Zoom F8 =>

Here is an overview of the components I used for these ring mods, most of these can be bought very cheaply!!  
VIGORTRONIX  VTX-101-1604  Audio Transformer, 600 ohm, 600 ohm 
VIGORTRONIX  VTX-101-007  Audio Transformer, Encapsulated, 600 ohm, 600 ohm. 
OEP (OXFORD ELECTRICAL PRODUCTS)  Z1604  Audio Transformer, 600 ohm, 600 ohm 
Standard Winding Company Signal Corps COIL C-161 - these are pretty hard to find though!
Jaycar MM2534 3kohm Centre Tap to 3k ohm Coupling Transformer
Altronics M0709 600 Ohm / 600 Ohm Bridging Input Transformer

The diodes are relatively easy to locate so I'll just list the part codes :
BAT 46/48

During my first EMS residency I was alerted to the 73-75.com Serge Paperface reissue project and got two ordered for my workshop. This is a great low cost way to get into classic Serge modular "People's Synthesizer" systems. These are quite simple, low cost designs and I mentioned a little about these, and the Serge/CGS circuits, at my Unsound Adelaide talk Modular Mortgage + you can hear them on my recent NYZ album PPLZ SYNF on Psøma Psi PhiI also chatted with Matthew Allum from ALM about this system, who had also got one to build.  Using my magical voodoo synth powers I managed to convince him to part with it so I could get a studio system going quickly. There are still a few little bits to finish off, but its around 90% functional and will keep me going while I build the ones in the workshop part time over the longer term. The current Serge modules I've built run out of Sistema lunch boxes, see the Modular Mortgage page for pictures of those. Here are some pics of the one Matthew sent over and a little synth sequence made using the oscillator, a negative slew and envelope generator =>


The Cirklon that Richard D James gave me decided to display this weird message one day..  a little while after I bought and installed the CV/Gate output expander. So I did a firmware upgrade and it sorted it out nicely =>

I also exchanged a few emails with Ian Fenton of Frozen Reeds about the Cirklon and Serge. He mentioned he had a spare kit for converting the Cirklon CV/Gate outs to 4mm banana format as used by the Serge, and kindly sent it over! Thanks Ian!! It's a nice little kit and once its built will save a whole lot of crocodile clips.. =>

There's also another Rainwire [Processed] recording I made on Richard's Fairlight to listen to on soundcloud. This one is a drone/looping based piece =>


Regional NSW Field Recording Trips =>

Below are some pictures and sounds of various field recording trips I've been undertaking in Regional NSW. This included trips to do recording, as well checking out the locations for future recording and workshop sessions

Adelong Falls Gold Mill Ruins =>

The Wired Lab, Muttama =>

I setup some contact mic recordings with JrF C-series on one of my long wire installations at The Wired Lab, the Beverly Wires, consisting of two spans built in 2014. This is a landscape-scale installation using salvaged railway bridge timbers from a neighbouring shire for the upright posts, and each span is approx 250m. I used these recordings in the mix at the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery performance =>

The far end of the western Beverly Wire looking back to where the two spans meet. You can just make out the UTE in the distance =>

I made a simultaneous 4 track recording of a farm dam environment using 2 acoustic and 2 hydrophone tracks mixed to stereo. Zoom F8, FEL Communications Clippy XLR EM172 Omni Microphone, Matched Stereo Pair, Aquarian H2a-XLR hydrophone x2, REAPER 5. Recorded April 2018 at The Wired Lab, Muttama, NSW =>

I was able to record the classic sound of crows in paddocks at The Wired Lab. Zoom F8, FEL Communications Clippy XLR EM172 Omni Microphone, Matched Stereo Pair, REAPER 5. Recorded April 2018 at The Wired Lab, Muttama, NSW =>

Another long-term goal of mine is making recordings of Sulphur-crested cockatoo's and I got lucky in paddocks at The Wired Lab. Zoom F8, FEL Communications Clippy XLR EM172 Omni Microphone, Matched Stereo Pair, REAPER 5. Recorded April 2018 at The Wired Lab, Muttama, NSW.

The Sulphur-crested cockatoo is an incredible bird, and unusual because its very loud shriek is known to have a chaotic acoustic structure, which has always made them extra interesting! Those recorded here were some distance away, with the odd flyover, and many other local birds are heard in the foreground.

See Neville Fletcher's freely available classic papers for more info on the chaotic nature of its shrieking :

".. produces an immensely loud shriek that can be shown by analysis to be actually a chaotic oscillation of its syringeal valve"
Acoustic systems in biology: from insects to elephants. N.H. Fletcher Acoustics Australia 33, 83-88 (2005)

A class of chaotic bird calls? N.H. Fletcher J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 108, 821-826 (2000)


Below is a recording of morning ambience at Pioneer Park Nature Reserve, Cootamundra. Zoom F8, 2x FEL Clippy XLR EM172 omni mics, REAPER 5. This recording was made around 10am, April 5th 2018, at Pioneer Park [lower summit approx 415 feet above sea level]. Pioneer Park is a nature reserve on the outskirts of Cootamundra. A unique location with an abundance of flora and fauna, it is situated to the south west, rising to about 490 feet above sea level. It looks down on the town and has expansive 360 degree views far out to the ranges. The main railway line passes at the bottom, on either side it is flanked by a flour mill and a quarry, all can be heard on this recording.

Another area of local interest is Bethungra Dam Reserve, which is supposed to contain a host of aquatic life. I went on a trip to make simultaneous 6 track recording using:
Zoom F8 
2x Aquarian H2a-XLR hydrophones
2x Jez riley French D-Series hydrophones [via MIT-129 xformers]
2x FEL Clippy XLR EM172 omni mics

Recorded April 2018 at Bethungra Dam, NSW, Australia =>


That wraps it up for this final Fellowship post. Its been an awesome experience, with lots of new knowledge gained, as well as new connections formed and new friends too! You can also hear a playlist of the above clips and more recordings from my Fellowship on my Soundcloud here =>


Doug Quin & Peggy Droz for legendary hospitality!
Edward Ruchalski
Lorne Covington
James S Abbott
Oli Warwick and staff at The Wire magazine
Claire Sawers
John Brien [Important Records] & family for legendary hospitality!
Tom Eaton
Richard D James + Stas [thanks for posting my boots back!] 
Jez riley French
Ben Poulton / Zoviet France
Dave Crittle at Retrovox in Wagga Wagga 
Chris & Maggie Watson & family, especially Alex for all the lugging and setting up!
John Dunn
George Bradford [Yarrangobilly Caves Manager] and the staff at Yarrangobilly Caves precinct
Shane Herrington
Talea Bulger
Sarah Last at The Wired Lab
Mary Last
Ryan Burke at Soundfield for loan of mic's for Wild Lab
Deb Sloss at Studio Connections Australia for loan of Genelec's for Wild Lab
Stephen Payne, Linda Elliot and staff at Wagga Wagga Art Gallery
Tim Kurylowicz, John Riddell and staff at Museum of the Riverina, Wagga Wagga
Matthew Allum [ALM Busy Circuits]
Ian Fenton at Frozen Reeds
Chris Clepper at Tiptop Audio
Brian Grainger at Psoma Psi Phi
Anthony Locke & Tom Knapp at .MEDS
Scott Howie and staff at Eastern Riverina Arts
Create NSW 

This Regional Arts Fellowship is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW.