Cijin Island Recording Trip

December 31, 2013 — Leave a comment

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I’ve had a string of “boring” recordings lately–meat & potato type of stuff–so I thought it was time for someplace a little more interesting. Not too far from me there’s an island known as Cijing (旗津). It’s basically a long strip of land just barely detached from the mainland. It’s essentially what makes Kaohsiung Port a port. I wasn’t sure what I would discover, but thought harbor sounds would be on the menu.

To get to the island you can either take a short trip on a ferry or drive via underwater tunnel. I opted for the tunnel, but planned to take the ferry on the way back. (scooters can go on the ferry) After exiting the tunnel I started up the coast towards the populated area. It’s all shipping-related businesses near the tunnel. Eventually I happened upon a row of windmills located in none-other-than “Windmill Park” (旗津區風車公園). I thought a windmill would be a great thing to record!2013-12-27_15.00.14_web

I tried my best to record this row of seven windmills, but there was too much activity going on around the area: namely tourists and a maintenance worker watering the grass. In the end, the recording didn’t turn out so great; the windmills didn’t make enough distinctive sounds. What I could get was washed out by the sound of the ocean, maybe 20 meters away. Luckily though, there were three larger windmills off to the north. And those suckers were making some great sounds!

This particular windmill allowed you to get right up under the blades. I hadn’t really thought it dangerous at the time, but a park employee quickly told me otherwise. He didn’t shoo me away though. So my gear could stay.

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It doesn’t look like it in this shot, but the gear is really under the blades. Later I moved 15 meters or so back for a different perspective. Here’s a short clip of what it sounds right beneath the blades, as shown in the picture above.

Recording Chain

SPS200>Tascam DR680 (Busman Mod)

Processing

SurroundZone Plugin A-Format>Stereo MP3

One thing I would like to comment on at this point. I’m really missing the Harpex plugin!!! SurroundZone just doesn’t sound nearly as good. Once I figure out how to come up with the $800+ (and justify the purchase to my wife!) I’ll be a happy man. But until then…

After the windmill recording I rode on up to my next destination, Cihou Fort and Lighthouse. (旗後砲台 & 旗後燈塔) This is one of those places a tourist must go to. But as a local, one of those places you somehow just never made it to. I figured if someone thought that location offered a good enough vantage point of the area to build a fort, then it must offer a decent soundscape of the city and harbor traffic.

Cihou Fort is located on Cihou “mountain”. Seems more of a large hill to me. It’s at the top of the island and overlooks everything. A short walk took me to the top…

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…and revealed what certainly looked to built in 1719.

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Despite it looking cool, I really hoped it sounded cool. And I wasn’t disappointed. Once I managed to walk to the top of the fort, I could hear everything: the harbor, beach, city, everything. It’s really nice. Here’s a shot from up there…

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At this point it was too early to try and record anything up there. Just too many people. So I headed up to the lighthouse, hoping when I came back there would be fewer people making noise.

On my way up, I see this…

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Thankfully I wasn’t in a mood to stride that day.

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After a short walk I made it to the lighthouse. The lighthouse itself isn’t worth a picture. It’s very small and modern, paling in comparison to its taller brothers. But the view and soundscape of the area are something else entirely. It’s a bit higher than the fort and offers a more complete view of the harbor. This is the only shot I got…

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Of course there are too many people around to get a clean recording, so this is more like a scouting mission. The lighthouse turns away visitors just before dark, so I’m thinking I can give them a call to see if I can stay 20 minutes or so after closing the next time I come.

Noise

At this point in the post, I want to talk a little bit about unwanted noise. In urban areas you’re obviously going to have it coming from all directions and ALWAYS when you least need it. That’s where a shotgun comes in handy (both the mic and the gun!) It’s hard to get angry when you’re in a public place (tourist destination no less) and people mess up an otherwise great recording attempt. Most people probably don’t even realize what the equipment is. It’s kind of funny though. When someone is lining up to take a picture, everyone seems to stop and wait for him to finish his shot. Polite courtesy. But when recording, everyone seems to do just the opposite. I’ve plenty of times heard, “Oh look, that guy’s recording.” – and they stand there talking about it, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they’re screwing up the recording.

Unfortunately with recording ambience with an ambisonic mic, I can’t have the luxury of a directional mic. I set up and get what I get. So I wanted to share with you a few clips of some of the most common “unwanted sounds” I often run into here in Taiwan.

I find that I always run into these things when recording. And they always start the moment I hit the record button. It never fails. :)

The first is some old person singing karaoke. The older generation in Taiwan love to sing their karaoke outdoors. To help facilitate this, they use the cheapest PA system they can find and crank it as loud as they can. Gotta love it.

The second is quite unique to Taiwan…the garbage truck. Or rather, the song most of them play to let you know it’s time to make a mad dash out of your house to throw in your garbage. The song is Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska’s “A Maiden’s Prayer”. I posted another example of the dreaded garbage truck HERE. More on Taiwan garbage trucks here if you’re interested—–>Taiwan Garbage Trucks: Classical Music Accompanies Collection

The third is also lovingly found in rural areas as well…dogs. Stray dogs are all over the island. Well, they’re more like “half-stray” dogs, as people tend to feed them and treat them like a pet…that can never go into their house. The problem is, they always want to bark while I’m recording. One will bark for some reason, prompting another one to bark at him, and another to bark at that one, etc. It’s usually a large chain reaction that can literally go on for an hour. (Yes, I waited around for an hour once hoping they would stop. ugh…)

As I was walking back to the fort, I remembered seeing a man-made tunnel off to the side of the path. Here’s what I looked like when I left the tunnel…

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For some reason I’m drawn to places like this…especially when it’s dark. Ok, wasn’t dark when I went in, but it was later. Most people (here at least) would look at that and think “ghost” or something. Well great, let’s find a ghost!

Turns out it’s an old artillery battery overlooking the beach. I explored what I could, but some tunnels were intentionally blocked off. Here’s some of what I saw…

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and how it actually looked like without the flash…

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Why not grab a recording!?

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I’m not sure how useful the recording will be. But I like recording unusual places. At this time of day remnants of the karaoke guy and daily life were seeping in. I think I’ll go up there really late one night and try again. If you don’t hear from me again one day, you know where to look. :p

Here’s a sound clip of the old artillery battery. I’m adding this hoping the sound can help pull you into the pictures a bit more. It really was pretty cool. Also, you can hear at the end what I believe to be a small bat. I saw one fly by at some point. Likely a lot of them in there…

Recording Chain

SPS200>Tascam DR680 (Busman Mod)

Processing

SurroundZone Plugin A-Format>Stereo MP3

In the end I couldn’t get a good recording from the fort due to the dogs’ barking (3rd example from the “Noise” recordings above) and embarrassingly something I ate the day before didn’t agree with me, so I had to shoot straight for home! Luckily I did manage a few decent recordings out of the trip; nothing terribly interesting, but useful to someone.

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Glenn

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