Sound in nature often comes from every direction. It usually encompasses a 360º horizon of distant sounds, to which can be added closer sources above; birds in flight or calling in the tree canopy overhead. So it can be conceived of simplistically as a dome of sound, only in certain circumstances presenting anything from the ground below.

Turning this into a left-right stereo field for a soundscape recording is not as straightforward as it may seem, and many rigs have been tried and championed by various recordists. The one I’ve been using over the last decade is a Crown SASS, modified to hold a pair of Sennheiser MKH20 omni-directional microphones. It does a pretty spectacular job, yet recently I’ve been curious to explore a different approach.

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When we visited Nagarhole in 2002, we faced considerable difficulties in making any sound recordings at all. Firstly, we had to seek permissions from the Chief Wildlife Warden of Karnataka State in Bangalore, necessitating a week-long journey to obtain the required documents. Nagarahole is a Project Tiger reserve, and access to the forest was restricted by curfews. We also had to request special dispensation to enter the park in the early hours to capture the special sounds of predawn. On one occasion we were allowed to remain after dark. We were required to stay near our vehicle, with the constant attendance of a local village guide, who always seemed to be smoking and coughing up the residue.

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All our recordings are made in pristine habitats, and occasionally we encounter rare or threatened critters. We had the privilege of hearing and recording the calls of a pair of Sooty Owls (Tyto tenebricosa).

This clip is from our first album ‘Tall Forest‘ – and was recorded in late summer in the mountain Ash forests of eastern Victoria, Australia.

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North America ticks all the boxes when it comes to trees – they have the tallest, oldest and biggest!

The Coastal Redwood, the tallest living thing on earth towers skywards (110+ metres) leaving you feeling ant-like, among the ferns. The Bristlecone Pine, the oldest living thing on earth, approx 5000 years old, endures a harsh climate of altitude, wind and snow.

Then there is the Giant Sequoia, which can grow as wide 50 meters around and reach up to 90 metres. They are gigantic and monumental in presence – and how their ‘cinnamon’ bark glows in the afternoon light.

Andrew in the presence of giants

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Traveling to the Mojave Desert was a pilgrimage of sorts for me. I am a desert lover and the idea of camping out under a desert sky and sleeping under Joshua trees had been living in my imagination for years, actually, decades. I can’t remember the first time I heard about Joshua Trees and the Mojave Desert, but I do know that the combination of these mythical trees and starry nights resonated deeply in my imaginings.

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Have you ever done internet dating? We haven’t, but sometimes it felt as if we were; setting forth across north America for three months to meet some of our nature sound recording colleagues.

In all, we met over a dozen professionals who, each in their own way, share our deep passion for recording the soundscapes of nature. Most we only knew from talking online or by phone. But with an optimistic sense that we would have a nice connection in person, we’d turn up on their doorstep with a “Hi, we’re here!”. Continue Reading »

When we describe birdsong as ‘nature’s music’, we often mean it more poetically than technically. The reason I think is that our music is based around scales and melodies – that is what we think of as musical.

When we hear a bird singing ‘musically’, it is usually a species who’s singing is in a recognisable scale – Australia’s Pied Butcherbirds or India’s Malabar Whistling Thrushes come to mind.

But these species are soloists. In the Solomon Islands, for the first time, we encountered a community of birds singing in a musical scale.

White-capped Monarch, monarcha richardsii

The White-capped Monarch, Monarcha richardsii

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Our mornings begin early – 4am early!

We are ready to go by 4.20am and meet up with Twomey (pronounced Too-mee), our local guide and companion while on Tetepare island. We walk one and a half kilometres along the shoreline, passing small estuaries, swamps, mangroves and limestone outcrops, before heading into the rainforest.

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We have just returned from 23 days walking the Larapinta Trail, which snakes its way for 223km – up ridge and down gorge – through the Macdonnell Ranges in arid central Australia.

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A chorus of insects on the night air – it is one of those sounds that has lulled humans to sleep for millennia (in warmer latitudes anyway!). A nocturnal choir, singing us to rest.

But whilst it may seem to our ears like just a collection of bugs buzzing, a healthy nocturnal insect chorus is sonically complex, and shows evolution at work.

Insects choruses are among the most highly structured soundscapes on the planet. One of the best place to hear these rich and diverse symphonies is the dry savannahs of East Africa.

This is where we recorded our album; “An African Night“.

I would like to show you the structure of the insect symphony on this recording, because I find it fascinating Continue Reading »

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