Cape Cod National Seashore

Today I traveled to the Cape Cod National Seashore for the first of my field recording experiences. From where I live, it took me approximately three hours to drive there and after a little bit of searching, I found a lovely area to set up my towel and capture some audio.

The Cape Cod National Seashore has more than forty miles of beach area. Indeed, it’s much busier during the summer. Other than a few people walking, I had the area to myself. The weather was beautiful, albeit quite windy at times. I knew that would present some challenges when recording.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m using the Zoom H6 recorder to capture most of the sounds. I like it because I’m familiar with the product and appreciate that the new version comes with an MS (Mid-Side) configuration, an XY stereo pattern, and an additional hypercardioid shotgun microphone (purchased separately). I recorded everything at 44.1/24 and used the windscreen with all of the mounted capsules.

In total, I recorded about forty minutes of audio. I experimented with each of the capsules and walked around the shore to find an ideal spot for recording. Since the wind was brisk at times, I turned on the 20 dB pad on each of the recordings and made sure that the input gain was set to a modest level.

There are moments where the MS capsule sounds terrific in close proximity to the source. It’s a robust microphone and quite sensitive. I liked it and felt that it tended to keep the sound accurate and without too much added coloration. I recorded from about fifty yards away and about five feet from the water with this capsule. In both cases it performed beautifully. Both versions in the playlist are up close to the water–although one is taken from about 10 feet away. You should be able to hear the clarity in each and pick out the two versions.

The XY stereo capsule is very solid. It captures a nice picture of the landscape and has a slightly “warmer” or “duller” sound (depending on how you classify it).  For a composite sonic “picture” of the landscape, I might prefer this one as it’s balanced and easy to use. It doesn’t have quite the clarity of the MS capsule, but I found it quite pleasing nonetheless.  I also recorded from some distance back (50-60 yards I’d say) and up close. The recording in the playlist is back away from the water to provide some variety.

The shotgun microphone records a mono signal and seems to add just a bit of brightness or high end to the recorded signal. I didn’t find it distracting when recording. That microphone serves a particular purpose and I enjoyed walking with it close to the water. At some points I was just a couple of feet from the waves and it recorded them clearly. The sample in the playlist is up close.

I’ve been anxious to get out into the field for some time. After returning I imported some of the tracks (13 total) into my DAW and edited some short samples of a few of the more interesting recordings. They are uploaded to SoundCloud and embedded as a playlist below. The recordings are generally clean although you will hear some of the wind and peripheral landscape in the background.

To be frank, I’m not 100% sure how everything will evolve over the next year to 18 months. I have no doubt I’ll use many of these sounds in a creative way. At first, I wanted to get out there and work with the technology and get used to everything. I was both anxious and excited to get going and look forward to sharing more insights and perspectives in the next few weeks. This blog will document what I hope to be a new area of creative exploration. I have much to learn and a lot to improve on, both with the technical production and the scholarship applications (musical and traditional). I invite you to bookmark this page and “tune in” from time to time. I promise to be forthright and respectful in the presentation throughout.

As an aside, the audio has very little treatment other than fades and a bit of leveling to ensure consistency. No equalization or delay-based effects. It’s the real sound of the microphones and largely left alone. My hope is to start with that as a baseline approach for listening analysis. Thank you for visiting!

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