Tag Archive: field recording

Yosemite’s Frozen Lakes

For all interested in ice sounds: check the blog “music from the ice” by composer Cheryl E Leonard. She recorded some beautiful sounds from frozen lakes in Yosemite National Park and used very similar equipment to my hydrophone recordings of ice sheets. Cheryl also invents astonishing instruments and travelled to Palmer Station in Antarctica, the field recordings of this trip were released on a CD called “Chattermarks“.

Fire and Frost Pattern” is now available in CD and digital download format at the German label Gruenrekorder. The booklet contains extensive liner notes and background information on the sounds presented in both pieces. The download version is coming with a PDF booklet of the same content. The “famous” recording of the dispersion of sound waves in ice sheets is part of the composition “Frost Pattern” of which you can hear exerpts on the Gruenrekorder site along with my volcano recordings at Mt. Yasur on Vanuatu. The pieces have been awarded the Phonurgia Nova Prize in 2008 and “Frost Pattern” received an honorary mention at the 35th Bourges International Competition for Electroacoustic Music and Sound Art. Support came from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, the company of Fielax, Hanna Hartman, Kain Karawahn, Bastiaan Maris and Andreas Oldörp, who gave me some of their ice or fire related sounds or helped me to record them. The photos on the cover and backside of the CD were kindly provided by Murray Fredericks. Deutschlandradio Kultur was the original producer of the twin pieces, the editor Götz Naleppa wrote an introduction for the booklet. To all of them I’m very grateful, not to forget Lasse and Roland at Gruenrekorder and Daniel for his meticulous art work. Thanks a lot! Buy the CD or the download here.

Mount Etna Cable Car


With this track you can travel down Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe, in the cable car called Funivia dell’Etna. It is now replacing the old cable car that was distroyed after the 2001 and 2002 eruptions. I edited this recording to shorten the 15 min. trip down to La Montagnola station. At this day there was a strong wind that one can hear howling in the cabin. The noisy interior is interrupted by the periodic passings of the cable car posts. At the end the cabin comes to a halt before moving into the base station with its loud machinery driving the cables.

The Ear of Dionysius


The Ear of Dionysius is a cave situated in the Parco Archeologico in Syracuse, Sicily. Its S-like inner shape resembles the human ear as the cave winds 65 metres into the mountain and provides phenomenal acoustics. The legend says that Dionysius was able to eavesdrop on the conversations of prisoners inside the cave through the hole on top of the entrance. Because of its shape the cave focusses and amplifies all noises from the outside, even the far away street noises. Inside the cave, swallows are nesting and doves fly in occasionally. I recorded this track at the deep end of the cave in 2007.

Touch Radio 49 features Chris Watson’s Journey to the South as member of the film team for the forthcoming David Attenborough series “The Frozen Planet” (BBC, 2011). When it comes to nature sound recordings Chris Watson’s work is unequalled: the sound quality is superb and the variety of locations he had visited is unrivalled. In this interview for line-up magazine, he provides insight into his technical equipment, working methods and experiences during the recordings in Antarctica. But most entertaining is listening to himself in the touch radio episode where he speaks about the several places that he recorded and what impressions those places left in him. Only the underwater sounds of squeaking ice floes rubbing into each other is worth listening to this 50 minutes of recordings from the remotest locations imaginable.


Spring has finally arrived, but I stumbled over two very interesting adventurers dealing with the sounds of ice that I find worth sharing. Marlin Ledin travelled the snowcovered Apostle Islands of Lake Superior in Northern Wisconsin by bike (!) and did some fantastic ice recordings on his way. And Cheryl E. Leonard reports from her journeys to the Palmer research station in Antarctica where she collected sounds for her musical work. On Saturday she will perform at the Activating the Medium XIII : Ice festival in San Francisco. In her blog some fine ice recordings can be heard, next to recordings of seals, pinguins and other stuff, which has been also released on the CD Chattermarks.

Ice Recordings Updated

Since Tim Prebbles fantastic blog the music of sound pointed to my post about “dispersion of sound waves in ice sheets” and then later sound and music as well as kottke.org linked to the same post, hits on my site here exploded. So thanks to everybody for the nice comments and emails I received! Let me take the opportunity to draw the attention to some other very interesting webpages concerning the sound of ice. First, there is the Audio Live Stream from Antarctica hosted by the German Alfred-Wegener-Institut. You should give it a try even though sometimes the connection doesn’t work. Only the possibility to listen in to what is happening under the ice shelf in Antarctica, to hear seals whistling their electronic sounds and whales clicking is just thrilling. Most of the time there are no ice sounds in the live stream, but occasionally something like this happens (wait for the sound at 40sec to start):

The scientists from the Alfred-Wegener-Institut do not know exactly how and why this sound happened. But it was incredibly loud and could possibly come from strong forces within the ice. I wrote about it here. Subsonic sounds emitted by a huge iceberg were recorded by Christian Müller, a scientist collaborating with the Alfred-Wegener-Institut. The infrasounds of the iceberg were pitched higher into the audible range of the human ear and the term “singing iceberg” was coined. The sound can be heard here. National Geographic wrote about it and Müllers paper is available here. He also gave me the permission to incorporate the sound in my piece frost pattern, along with the other above mentioned ice noises. New Scientist has a video online about research of the University of Chicago with some other subsonic iceberg sounds:

Then there are several other sites on the web that feature ice related sounds. One collection is available for free download from the German label Gruenrekorder, called the sound of snow and ice. Another nice recording – at the edge of the ice – was done by Mike Rooke and can be heard on the sound is art website. Also check Marc Namblards CD chants of frozen lakes at Kalerne, there are some audio excerpts as well. By the way: my ice recordings will be part of the CD release “fire and frost pattern” due to be out at Gruenrekorder in June this year.

In the comments of the ice dispersion post Jason turned my attention to this nice little video with an ice fishing guy experiencing strong breaks in the surface:

Sometimes a multitude of such breaks can cause a lake to “sing” in a certain tone, as is documented in this video:

I should not forget to mention that recording endeavours on the ice or at glaciers and icebergs can be extremely dangerous. I was warned in Greenland when I was trying to do sound recordings of calving glaciers and I saw once how davastating such a bigger incident can be. Flipping icebergs are also a very dangerous threat, look at this (sorry for the stupid music background):

And see what a tsunami caused by a flipping iceberg can do to some poor fishermen in Greenland:

Finally you can ooze your frozen fingers with some tunes played on ice instruments by Norwegian musician Terje Isungset on his myspace site.

Update: also check the fantastic recordings of Yosemite’s frozen lakes by Cheryl E Leonard (15th Feb. 2012)

Listening is Making Sense

The second issue of gruenrekorders field notes is titled “Listening, Documenting” and features a longer essay by my own called “Listening is Making Sense”. There are other texts by Gabi Schaffner, Stefan Militzer, Yannick Dauby, Lin Chi-Wei and an interview with Walter Tilgner. English and German versions of the PDF magazine can be downloaded here.