Samoa field recording 5 – Rain

Rain has so much character, but you sometimes only really appreciate it when you are away from your usual environment. Rain in Wellington tends to be either light & mildly chilly when its Northerly, or icy cold when its from the South. Rain in Wellington does not make you throw open the windows or go for walk, it makes you put a jersey on & shelter inside…. Up north in Auckland the climate is far more humid, and when I lived there one of the things I loved most with regards to weather was when the humidity finally broke & the rain came – it was a pleasure to sit outside, under a balconey & enjoy the presence of rain & good friends…

But these rains are but a shadow of the gorgeous rain experienced in Samoa. There rain has a very distinct character, and a distinct envelope. The climate will already be very humid & rain brings with it huge relief. Locals often do not even bother to shelter from it, as they know half an hour later they will be dry again – Samoa really is winterless, and I suspect will be where I escape from New Zealand’s winter in future. But rain in Samoa does not arrive unannounced. I was told many stories of an approaching torrential rain storm sounding ‘like a freight train’ and I heard that distinctive approaching rain sound only once on the last trip & it’s true. I at first did a double take: there are no motorways near here! Then a big warm gust of wind pushes past you and within 30 seconds the rain starts.

It starts with sparse, random great big warm spots of rain but within a minute turns into the densest shower you have ever been in. Of course as with wind, rain is defined sonically by that which it falls upon. If you shelter indoors, say a fale with a tin roof, the percussive nature of the rain starting ramps rapidly from intermittent drops to the densest white noise you’ve ever heard. Check the shape of these waveforms, recorded under a shelter in the park beside Robert Louis Stevensons mansion near Apia, the duration of this screenshot is approximately 2 minutes:

Samoa Rain waveforms

Samoa Rain waveforms

In the film that I’m working on O Le Tulafale (The Orator) rain arrives three times, and each time it has both literal and metaphorical significance. Accordingly recording rain while I was in Samoa was on the top of my list, but I needn’t had feared of a drought – we arrived at the end of the rainy season and rain was not in short supply. After 3 days of off and on rain I started to fear the reverse problem, but there is one thing you can be sure of on a small island nation, NZ included; the weather is always changeable. And that close to the equator it is never cold. But I was very glad I bothered to pack a little travellers brolly, and had those two rain covers for my gear…. It would be very frustrating to lose some serious technology to the elements, just because you weren’t properly prepared.

A brief description of this video: it was very hot, 35 degrees Celcius & we set off to a plantation – first a 20 minute drive over a very bumpy road then a 15-20 minute walk through bush. You can see in the video how much of a track there was (i.e. none) – I was following Tusi (director of the film) who was following Samu. After about ten minutes I was ready to stop: why go further? the ambience hasn’t changed much…. But with 20kg of gear on my back I was doing well to keep up with them both, and they weren’t meandering. When we arrived at the shelter (a tin roof supported by four stakes) and the rain started I suddenly realised why they had been hurrying: it was about to bucket down! The sound in the video is about 2% of the experience, apologies but I am keeping my best efforts for the film not my little tourist videos! I recorded five different rain storms while I was in Samoa, each in a different location…. But the experience of recording this particular one is permanently imprinted in my psyche….

3 Responses to Samoa field recording 5 – Rain

  1. Miles B. says:

    How’d you record the rain while avoiding the sound of the rain hitting your shelter? Or was it just not a problem?

    • tim says:

      I wanted the sound of rain on the shelter (for the film) but the two very directional mics (MKH70 and MKH816) also got me individual elements with minimal rain on roof – seperate dripping etc… I also went recording a few other times in the rain in open bush and roadside with a small brolly. I found if I held the brolly as far above my head as possible I could avoid the sound of rain hitting it (especially with the directional mics) and capture the rain hitting plants, puddles etc…

  2. Pingback: Music of Sound » Sound for The Orator

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