On 18th February 2013 I took out with me a large and a small set of cheap bamboo chimes and three sets of quality metal wind chimes, to my regular field recording location for wind chimes - the Teign Gorge, Drewsteignton, Devon, UK. This time, however, a brisk and fairly cold south-easterly wind drove me away from spots that would have been suitable on previous occasions, and this time eventually I settled for Hunter's Tor, a south-running rather rocky crest and spur that bounds the north side of the west end of the Teign Gorge. This was about half the height from the valley bottom as compared with my previous recording spots here, and a result of this was that my recordings here got more bird sound, which was an improvement.
However, the spot still turned out not to be ideal, in that, for a start, the recording was picking up some unwanted sounds from the fringing countryside. A distant cockerel belonging to one of the farm cottages down among the woods out to the west (straight ahead in the recording) kept crowing, and there was some power saw activity at times far away to the south. For the most part I removed parts of my recordings here in which the power saw was audible, though I think there is still a trace of it buried in a few of the noisier parts where the chimes were very active. As for the cockerel, although I didn't really want it, I had little option but to accept it as 'part of the scenery'. Also, the wind gusts were sometimes a bit too strong against the recorder, so that, despite its windshield, the microphone wind noise did become a bit more intrusive than I would have chosen - albeit quite briefly and still just about within my own 'acceptable' range.
I hung the chimes on small low branches of a particular well situated stunted tree, and had the recorder facing west, so that the fairly distant rushing sound of the River Teign well below was to the left. However, that sound is also combined with a general distant rushing sound of wind in the trees on the valley slopes - which is why its volume does vary during the recordings.
This recording is of ALL the chimes I brought out, so this is quite a 'symphony'! I set up both large and small sets of bamboo chimes to be closest to the recorder, with the Woodstock Chimes of Pluto (tuned to a bright and 'happy' pentatonic scale) a little behind and to their right, and the Music of the Spheres Gypsy Soprano and Mezzo chimes (tuned to an Eastern European Gypsy scale) placed rather further back on account of their more forceful and penetrating tone. The interaction of the two scales produces an intriguing effect, which seems to radically change the nature of both scales and produce a sound different from either.
This is a 5-minute excerpt from the 76 minutes full recording.
Although this recording, played back on my hi-fi system does sound to me extremely beautiful and engaging, with very detailed and often very delicate sound, the balance between the metal and bamboo chimes is not quite as I originally intended. That is because, for logistical reasons, I had to accept the bamboo chimes being just a bit more 'forward' in the sound stage than I had intended, so they come out at times a bit more aggressively in the recording than I originally intended. If I had moved the recorder further back in order to improve the balance, it would have had to be placed on the other side of the track (see photo below), and I was already aware that my first recording of this session, with the recorder in exactly that position, must have suffered because of the recorder's greater wind exposure there. I couldn't change the positions of the chimes in order to adjust the balance, because I was already using the five really workable hanging points (i.e. that were in reach for me!), and those, being on tree branches, were naturally non-adjustable.
However, having said that, on further listenings to this recording on my hi-fi system I am impressed by an exquisite beauty about this whole 'symphonic' show, and regard it as a wonderful partial serendipity - such as authentic field recordings are inclined to bring. I had succeeded nicely in my intent to have a slightly more distant perspective on the Gypsy chimes, and I have succeeded in getting the Pluto chimes well balanced with them. The forwardness of the bamboo chimes actually works out very nicely, emphasizing a certain distance from and remoteness of the metal chimes. I find myself focusing sometimes on the bamboo sound, full of whole-tone scale and tritone colour, and sometimes on the metal, so gaining more variety of experience from the nearly 76-minute full recording. Also, that confounded cockerel, which got my goat so much while I was making the recording, is only just audible and thus not at all the problem that I thought it would be. And additionally, my re-listening leaves me wondering where the supposedly over-strong wind gusts were, for actually, in my books, I could hardly have got a better and more satisfying range of wind and chimes sound at this particular spot!
As to why the full recording is so long - that was not intended, and was a result of a most silly and frustrating little confusion. It is actually two consecutive recordings there, joined together. I had recorded about 45 minutes of all the chimes, and my intention was then to record the same minus the Chimes of Pluto - which combination would have sounded very different. However, after I'd pressed the recorder's Stop button, I was dismayed to see that the last recording was file number 1 - because I had started off with a recording of the bamboo chimes only, prior to that one, and so the apparent implication was that the supposedly just completed recording had actually never happened. I therefore assumed that when I thought I was starting the recording of all the chimes, I must have done something silly like pressing Stop instead of Pause. And so, mentally effing and blinding and gnashing and wailing, I set to, repeating the recording, because a reasonably long recording of the whole ensemble was the top priority.
-- But then, as that recording neared completion I remembered a pertinent little point I'd clean forgotten about in the heat of my surprise at seeing file number 1 as being the last recording. I'd actually come out with two of the recorders, and I'd made the first recording on No. 1, after which that recorder's battery level indicator started flashing, and as my fingers were painfully cold I chose to change over to No. 2 recorder, just to avoid messing around changing batteries. So, of course my second recording was indeed file number 1 - on recorder No. 2! So, what I lost was not the original full ensemble one but the opportunity for recording the whole lot minus the Pluto chimes (I had to move on then as I was getting too cold).
This photo shows my high-level recording studio for this particular day - on Hunter's Tor, while this recording was taking place. The sets of chimes visible are the bamboo chimes, Chimes of Pluto (right, silvery), and Gypsy Chimes (Soprano, left, and Mezzo) beyond (with the black tubes).
Recording made with a Sony PCM-M10 on a Velbon Mini Tripod, using the built-in microphones covered with a Rode Dead Kitten windshield. I have used a graphic EQ profile in Audacity to compensate for the slight muffling of the sound caused by the windshield. I caution that the wind noise in the microphones is bound to sound too intrusive when this recording is played back through speakers / headphones that are prone to boominess; good quality hi-fi speakers with extended and flat bass response are really needed for any of these recordings really to sound right. Please note that the volume level of this recording has been carefully adjusted for listening purposes, and ALL my recordings so far are meant to be listened to with a volume setting that would give a realistic level for playback of CLASSICAL music (a large but not exceptional symphony orchestra). If you have the right volume setting, you should not need to change that setting from one recording of mine to another.
(Later note: This recording - with better sound than here - is on one of my commercial CDs, and can be found in my e-Store.)
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