Recording in the Rain
Join sound artist Mac and Dunescapes Engagement Officer Andy for a blog post and an audio walk through the dunes at Perranporth in Cornwall.
Mac Dunlop, sound artist and the first recipient of our arts funding grant
Andy Nelson, Dynamic Dunescapes Engagement Officer, Cornwall Wildlife Trust
Use the audio player below to listen to Mac and Andy's walk through the dunes, or click here to listen to it on Soundcloud.
A blog from Mac, 'Recording in the Rain'
I saw some beautiful spider webs highlighted by water droplets, weighing heavy and straining at their rigging in the damp breeze. My first thought was "How can I make a sound of that"? Of course there isn't necessarily a sound that can be recorded of that, but that doesn't mean its impossible. Composers like Gustav Holst imagined the sound of planets, if not entire solar systems. Tchaikovsky tried to recreate epic battles with nothing but the instruments of an orchestra... okay, he did include a few cannons. These aren't the actual sounds though, just as the sound effects you hear on radio, or in films often isn't the actual sound. Try closing your eyes and slowly crumpling a piece of paper - you might find the sound of a crackling fire comes to mind. Or clapping coconut halves together can make the sound of a horse's hooves (famously in Monty Python's "The Holy Grail").
The professionals whose job it is to make up sounds that fit a movie or radio play are called "Foley artists". The term comes from a person named Foley who was one of the first people to come up with the idea when talking movies first came about in Hollywood. Instead of recording sound and film at the same time - which proved quite tricky what with bulky microphones and so on - the film was shot first and all the sound added later. The film "Singing in the Rain" is set in that era between silent film and sound. Another notorious use of fake sounds is nature documentaries, (sorry Mr. Attenborough, the public has a right to know!)
Anyway, I found myself back in the car, at the Upton car park, soaked and listening to what I had tried to record on the dunes. I heard some walkers coming so though I would record the sound of walking, maybe getting in the car, driving off over the grass and gravel (that's a nice sound when you listen closely; car tyres twisting onto gravel). I turned the record button on but forgot I still had the line connected to the car stereo. Which accidentally made the car into a primitive sort of synthesiser, echoing and feeding back the sound as I moved the microphone around trying to make it stop. A happy accident? So, I played around with recorded the real thing along with the echoes and earth hum buzzing of the car stereo at the same time. Was the recording of people passing by any more 'real' than the electronic feedback sounds that the recording was making?
Hearing birdsong in the distance, I kept playing around, trying to see what I could do with that and the car speakers. It was a rainy day, not much good for field recording, but all the same, I was very happy in my own little car bubble, recording the dunes' unique nature and the built environment of my own little car bubble.
Heather at Perranporth vibrant in the autumn sun, photographed by Mac Dunlop
About the Author
Mac is a composer, producer, and performer based in Cornwall, UK. His recent albums include, Viral Nature, Petrichor, and Somewhere Nearby. A new album 'MDQ' will be released in October 2021on the Belgian based Off Records Label. His music ranges in style from experimental ambient to modern classical and jazz. He features on BBC Sounds, Resonance FM, and Cornwall's Source FM as well as other independent music and sound art broadcasters.