Japan Field Trip – The gentle art of perseverence

Whenever I go out recording ambiences there are two primary factors that concern me: the wanted and the unwanted. I might find the perfect beautiful sounding location only to have it completely ruined by a single unwanted element. Sometimes those unwanted elements are provided by nature eg wind or rain and sometimes they are human. A few times i’ve been out recording beaches and had my recording opportunity blown by some complete dick person who turns up with their wet bike and proceeds to race around making a whiny noise for an indefinte amount of time. At times like that I secretly wish to switch over to a weapons recording session: “ground to sea mortar recording, take one!”
In these situations sometimes it can be a battle of the wills – how long are you prepared to wait for the unwanted noise to go away? Can you out last them? I had this very situation when I was recording in Japan a number of times, but no better example exists than this one. We’d tried recording at a number of locations in Onamichi but were thwarted by people every time. So we headed up into the hills, following the navi into what looked like pristine bush. I suddenly noticed a gravel road that wasn’t even on the navi, so we drove down there a kilometre or more but at the end of the road could see a couple of vans parked away in the bush…. Hmmmmm wonder what they are up to? All seemed quiet, so I reversed out & went back to an earlier clearing we passed, parked & got out to have a listen. Wow!!! Incredibly beautiful birds, insects and even a pair of crows were calling out…. So I quickly set up my gear…


I hit record, and within 20 seconds I hear this sound – a sound a bit like a tiny chainsaw… I immediately jumped to the worst conclusions – someone was going to proceed to use their chainsaw continuously for the next 3 hours, or race their dirt bike, or whatever it was.. and totally ruin any chance of getting clean sound. But then this came into sight:

ARG!!! So thats what those people in the vans were up to – messing with their remote control aeroplane! I started having my weapons fantasy & could imagine the beautiful silence just after the rifle shot… but then I thought about it a bit longer and came to two conclusions: first, those little planes have little fuel tanks & will only fly for a few minutes…. second, I’ve actually needed the sound of a remote control aeroplane before so best I keep recording!

Sure enough within 3 minutes the plane flew away back to where the vans were parked & all was beautifully quiet again. Hit record for a new set of files and recorded these beautiful sounds:

The crow is very recognisable but the other bird with the almost backwards sound of a pure tone ramping to a short song I think is the Japanese Bush Warbler heard mostly from Spring onwards…


This isn’t my video but it beautifully shows the bird in action:

“Due to the lack of a diaphragm and vocal cords, the birds perform breathe with a fixed lung like mechanism of the bellows, and vibrates at least equal to or more than one pair of muscles which adhered to the tracheal ampulla to make a FM sound.”


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