BASEbot

BASEbot is a salon-format listening event, a place for ear-minded people to gather, listen, and share work.

We typically invite someone to present their listening and soundscape-oriented work in front of an audience in an intimate setting. We discuss, we talk shop, we meet one another. We record the presentations and share them here.

If you’d like to hear about future events, join our email list or like our Facebook page.

For the record, the name is in homage to dorkbot, people doing strange things with electricity.

Cheryl Leonard recording Glaciers in Antarctica

In 2009, Composer, performer, improviser, recordist and instrument builder Cheryl Leonard travelled to Palmer Station, Antarctica in search of sounds and music. She returned with a wealth of recordings, stories, and materials for building musical instruments. Cheryl shared her work at BASEbot on Feb 21, 2010.

In her own words, Cheryl “creates experimental music using amplified natural objects as instruments.” If you want to get the drift, just imagine improvising a windswept landscape using a penguin bone screwed to driftwood, a contact mic, and a loop of light cotton rope. Or bowed limpet shells. Or evoking a flow of brash ice with resonant stones worn smooth by century after century of nesting penguins.

I encourage you to check out Cheryl’s Antarctic Trip Blog. She’s a fantastic storyteller, and there are a lot of great photos. Being a blog, the first page is the most recent, meaning it’s about the gigs after the trip rather than the trip. So you might start with the First post and work your way forward.

Also see my BASEbot 005 photo set on Flickr.

Cheryl’s main website is www.allwaysnorth.com She’s got an an Antarctic field recordings CD called Chattermarks available for sale there. (or on iTunes)

Thanks to Dan and Sharon for hosting us!

-jeremiah

On Saturday Nov 13, 2010, BASE hosts the next in our series of BASEbot listening salons, featuring recordist, sound designer, and musician

Rudy Trubitt

who will present work focusing on sonic surprises and unexpected events.

BASEbot 006 will be held

SATURDAY, November 13th, 2010
2:30 pm doors, starting promptly at 3
FREE
~an hour of formal presentations followed by Q&A and mingling. Bring sounds to share!

at

Dan Dugan Sound Design
290 Napoleon Street Studio E
San Francisco, CA 94124

http://www.dandugan.com/Directions_to_DDSD.html


Please come LISTEN and Expect The Unexpected!

Sometimes what you planned to record isn’t nearly as interesting as what’s happening behind you. Sound Designer Rudy Trubitt brings an assortment of sonic suprises to Basebot November 13, 2010.

Rounding out the evening’s entertainment will be the multi-channel presentation of “Exciting and Unexpected Cleaning Events,” (see below) a work premiered at the 2005 San Francisco Tape music festival and not heard since.

Attendees are encouraged to bring recordings of their own surprised recordings preferably in wav, aiff or higher quality mp3 formats on CD-R, DVD-R, or USB drive or your own iPod or other player (no more than a couple minutes in length, please).

EXCITING AND UNEXPLAINED CLEANING EVENTS…

is an original field recording made in a confined space with 10 individual microphones. Minimal editing and signal processing were applied to create the finished work. Recorded by Die Elektrischen and Rudy Trubitt with immeasurable help from Bruce Koball,

In December 2004, NASA engineers monitoring the Mars Rover “Opportunity” noticed a suprising increase in the power output from the planetary explorer’s solar panels. The only explanation was something (or someone) had swept accumulated dust from the Rover. “These exciting and unexplained cleaning events have kept Opportunity in really great shape,” the London-based New Scientist magazine quoted NASA rover team leader Jim Erickson as saying.

About Rudy Trubitt

Rudy began playing and recording music in 1975. He is involved with music recording, editing and mastering, sound effects work and multimedia audio production. He is also a professional musician and long-time member of the very popular rock band for kids, The Sippy Cups. He has written five books and hundreds of magazine articles on sound and music production and has taught classes at BAVC and SF State University College of Extended Learning.

Rudy’s website
http://www.trubitt.com/

The Sippy Cups website
http://www.thesippycups.com/


More on BASE and BASEbot

Bay Area Sound Ecology is an interdisciplinary forum centered around listening and the soundscape.  We create projects and events to promote sound-environment awareness, making and encouraging opportunities for ear-opening sonic encounters.

BASEbot is a meeting place for ear-minded people, an experiment in bringing people together around listening and the soundscape. At each event we invite someone to present their work with sound in front of an audience in an intimate setting. We discuss, we talk shop, we meet one another. Our plans always include some “open floor” time during which attendees can share short excerpts of work.

Learn more on our website at http://www.basoundecology.org/

More on Acoustic Ecology, the ASAE, and WFAE

BASE is the Northern California chapter of the ASAE, The American Society for Acoustic Ecology, the US chapter of the World Forum on Acoustic Ecology.

The World Forum for Acoustic Ecology (WFAE), founded in 1993, is an international association of affiliated organizations and individuals, who share a common concern for and interest in the world’s soundscapes. Our members represent a multi-disciplinary spectrum of individuals engaged in the study of the social, cultural and ecological aspects of the sonic environment.

http://www.acousticecology.org/asae/

http://interact.uoregon.edu/MediaLit/wfae/home/

Questions?

Please write BASE co-chair Jeremiah Moore at jmoore@northstation.net

On Sunday Feb 21, 2010, BASE hosted BASEbot 005

featuring recordist, composer and instrument builder

Cheryl Leonard

who presented work from her recent trip to Antartica on a grant from the National Science Foundation.

BASEbot 005

SUNDAY, February 21st, 2010
2:30 pm doors, starting promptly at 3
~an hour of formal presentations followed by Q&A and mingling.

at

Dan Dugan Sound Design
290 Napoleon Street Studio E
San Francisco, CA 94124

http://www.dandugan.com/Directions_to_DDSD.html

Please come LISTEN as

Recordist, composer and instrument builder Cheryl Leonard will present field recordings from Antarctica, excerpts of works composed from those recordings, and a short musical instrument demo followed by a Q&A.

If there is sufficient interest and time, afterward there will be an open-salon listening and discussion period – providing an opportunty to play your short (under five minute) sound excerpts and to discuss ideas or works in progress. We will provide a CD player and minijack hookup for iPods and the like.

Cheryl will have copies of her new Antarctic field recordings cd available for purchase for the special discount price of $10. She’s also open to trading copies for other BASEbot people’s cds of their field recordings, sound art, and/or experimental music

The event will be recorded and made available via our forthcoming podcast.

About Cheryl Leonard

Cheryl Leonard is a composer who visited Palmer Station in January 2009 on an Antarctic Artists and Writers grant from the National Science Foundation. During her month on the ice she explored the local islands and glaciers, searching out and recording natural soundscapes. The Antarctic Peninsula in the austral summer is full of wildlife, icebergs, melting glaciers, and fascinating sounds.

Glass shards and pinecones, glaciers, boxspring mattresses, a flock of accordions, circular saw blades, viola, the erhu, hyenas and whales and elk, Cheryl E. Leonard’s music finds its raw materials just about anywhere. From these diverse sources come works that embrace the spectrum of musical possibilities: improvised to composed, acoustic to electronic, diaphanous to bombastic, notes to noise. Many of Leonard’s works explore subtle textures and intricacies in sounds not generally considered musical. These investigations often include the creation of instruments, primarily from found natural materials. Her interests include: developing site-specific compositions and instruments, guerrilla performance, and collaborating across artistic disciplines.

Cheryl Leonard’s website:
http://www.allwaysnorth.com/

Her fascinating antarctic blog:
http://www.musicfromtheice.blogspot.com/

Nature sound recordist Gordon Hempton shares some of his beautiful recordings, and discusses his One Square Inch of Silence project, including his recent book.

Gordon Hempton requires no introduction for many in the recording world – his recording work speaks for itself, and he’s been at it for a long time.  He’s got a book out on natural quiet and his journey of advocacy, co-written with John Grossman.  It’s called One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World.  More info at onesquareinch.org/book

Gordon discusses the sounds of his back yard, and his journey toward becoming a natural quiet advocate.

@ 7:38 – recording: Coyote duet recording from Gordon’s back yard
@ 10:03 – on John Muir
@ 12:31 – Human noise intrusions into the story of the book coming to be
@ 17:30 – Establishment of One Square Inch (OSI) and effects
@ 20:57 – recording:  24-hours of Dawn Chorus compressed into One Minute
@ 25:22 – John Muir as a sound recordist (in text).  History of Muir and Hempton
@ 28:18 – recordings: Waters of the Muir world
@ 30:10 – recordings: Three waterfalls of Yosemite

At about 34 minutes a discussion ensues, topics including John Muir, hydrophones, the human-listening perspective, Ann Kroeber on the sound of space (and contact mics), the acoustics of Gordon’s backyard, binaural equipment, recording as a listening practice.

More discussion:
@ 51:57 – Finding good locations to record in nature.  Being still.
@ 2:00:21 – Not being eaten by the wildlife.  Noise and legislation.  Mark Twain and Mississippi songbirds.
@ 2:07:56 – recording: an amazing Sage Grouse recording.
@ 2:10:23 – recording: Dawn on the Mississippi River – a beautiful tour through the first minutes of the dawn chorus as the birds organize themselves acoustically.

On Friday April 17th 2009 we were honored to host listener, recordist and self-avowed acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton – the Sound Tracker – for a BASEbot listening salon.

Gordon is on tour with his new book One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World co-written with John Grossman and published by Simon and Schuster.  Gordon spoke at length about his journey into becoming an outspoken advocate of natural quiet, from following in the footsteps of John Muir to creating the One Square Inch of Silence project in the Olympic National Forest.

We heard some wonderful recordings, notably a beautiful coyote duet recorded in Gordon’s backyard and an unearthly Sage Grouse mating ritual.  You can listen for yourself in our podcast.

We discussed the act of recording as a state of active and still receptivity – akin to meditation in many ways – and the physical and mental discipline required.  The ways in which the recordist’s sphere of awareness expands to include more and more of the world around – the margins, the periphery – and the things you notice while in that state to which you’d otherwise be oblivious.

After, I find myself thinking of how our culture has so reduced the likelihood of entering that state, a state any other animal probably spends a good deal of time: simply observing.  Which ties back to the idea we discussed last summer with the folks from NYSAE of listening itself as a potentially radical act amidst industrialized consumer society.  To simply quiet onesself and listen.

The event was our most conversational salon to-date – a great success.  Thanks to Gordon for coming, to Aaron for inviting him, and to Dan and Sharon for hosting us in their home – and just before the big NAB conference at that.

-Jeremiah Moore, San Francisco 2009

Gordon Hempton is an acoustic ecologist and Emmy Award-winning sound recordist who has provided audio services to Microsoft, Discovery, National Public Radio, and other organizations, and who has been profiled by major media including CBS News Sunday Morning, NPR, and People. He lives in Joyce, Washington.

Links

http://onesquareinch.org/ – website dedicated to the One Square Inch of Silence project

http://onesquareinch.org/book/ – Links for buying the book

http://soundtracker.com/ – Gordon Hempton’s site, where you can buy his recordings

Ideas

During discussion at the meeting, a couple of ideas came up for possible future events:

  • A technical salon in which we DO focus on gear and techinique for once, topics being things like field recording technique, fieldwork habits and ideas, recorders, microphones, windscreens, editing technology etc.  Perhaps we could work with the Nature Sounds Society on a DIY Microphone Windscreen workshop.
  • A conversational BASEbot salon organized around, for lack of a better term, “the zen of recording.”

Anyone interested in the above, please chime in via email or the mailing list.

Sound Designer James LeBrecht shares a few of his most favorite and most personally meaningful sound recordings.

Here’s the setup:  Jim is sitting in the center of Dan Dugan’s control panel, with Pro Tools behind him and faders for a quadrophonic monitoring system.  On and off, he talks and plays sounds which he’s gathered for the occasion.  About twenty people sit, listen and discuss.

We start with sounds from an exhibit installation about hybrid California cultures titled Trading Traditions.  Over the course of an hour and a quarter, we hear among other things Foghorns, quad recordings from San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, a Thanksgiving dinner, and evocative insects and frogs.

Later James talks about upcoming projects, including a documentary he’s mixing on the staging of the opera Doctor Atomic.  There’s a discussion of the sound of air itself clipping.  At around 68 minutes, we go around an mention favorite sounds.

On a technical note:  It was a hot evening in San Francisco and we had a fan running during the presentation.  Traffic can be heard going by the open doorwas going by, and a band down the street was practicing.  This recording documents that soundscape.  Where possible I’ve crossfaded from the room mic to a clean recording of the sounds.

-jeremiah

Jim LeBrecht at BASEbot 3

On May 14th sound designer James LeBrecht presented a selection of favorite sounds he has recorded over the years with a focus on his recent installation for the Oakland Museum exhibit TRADING TRADITIONS: CALIFORNIA’S NEW CULTURES (January 19-April 6, 2008) as well as other recordings both urban and natural.

Award-winning sound designer James LeBrecht has supervised or edited sound for feature films and documentary project that include The Blood of Yingzhou District, Daughter from Danang, Battlefield Earth and The Skulls.

In the exhibition world, James has designed sound for the E3 conventions in Los Angeles, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas. Game credits include work for clients such as EA, MAXIS, TECMO and Midway Studios-Austin.

James has designed and produced sound effects and music for over 100 professional theatrical productions and co-authored the book “Sound and Music for the Theatre: The Art and Technique of Design” with Deena Kaye.

For Basebot, James started with some selections from TRADING TRADITIONS “which vividly depicts how immigrants to the Bay Area don’t just want to fit in, but to remain distinct within the community at large and among other newcomers.” He did the sound design for the exhibit and recorded much of the material that was used. We all listened as he skipped around through the various different clips that he had. One was a round being sung in a church. There was a clip of a multicultural dinner with at least 3 different languages being spoken at various times which was fun to hear. Also interesting was hearing all the different sounds from the dinner table and kitchen as well as a piano being played in the background. He then played a different take on Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue with ethnic instruments from mostly eastern cultures as the orchestra, which was a highlight for me. James also had some great foghorn recordings that he sampled for us.

Some other recordings were of some street scenes late at night in the tenderloin. There was some discussion of technique and equipment. James had purchased a Zoom recorder which led to some talk of the benefits and disadvantages of the Zoom and how it works. We listened to some urban soundscapes he’d recorded in quadrophonic, and discussed the differences between recording in quad and stereo. Someone asked about mixing down from quad to stereo and James talked a bit about his work in film and dealing with this aspect of recording. Dan Dugan remarked on the disappearance of various urban sounds that you don’t hear nowadays such as the Filmore District of the 1960s – more people on the streets in certain neighborhoods before more cars were routed through those streets.

Toward the end of the evening James played some old recordings he did in his mother’s backyard in Maryland. These were summer recordings with evening insect and frog sounds. There was also a thunderstorm clip too that was fantastic. James talked a bit on using PZM mics for certain location recordings, which led to some talk on frequency issues with certain mics. This then led to another discussion of what were people’s favorite sounds. For some, childhood sounds were favorites while others had more specific personal choices. All in all it was a fun evening with interesting sounds and conversation.

– Blair Collins

Links:

James’s Studio:  Berkeley Sound Artists

James’s book with Deena Kaye on Theatrical Sound Design (Amazon Link): Sound and Music for the Theatre: The Art and Technique of Design

Exhibit site from the Oakland Museum of California: Trading Traditions

[editors note:  an audio recording will be available once it’s edited]

Natural sound recordist and sound designer Andrew Roth presents material from his as-yet unreleased work Natural Sounds of Japan. He shares stories behind the recordings, and discusses technique.

Andrew Roth presenting at BASEbot 002Last night saw the second iteration of the BASEbot listening salon, featuring sound recordist and designer Andrew Roth, at Dan Dugan Sound Design in San Francisco. We had a small but wonderfully diverse group – and many good conversations were had.

About Andrew Roth

For more than a decade Andrew Roth has been an active member of The Bay Area sound community. After graduating from Oberlin College in 1995, he took up residence at San Francisco’s Earwax Productions, working on both popular commercial and smaller independent projects ranging from radio to theme parks, television, film, games, and everything in between. In 2001 Andrew founded Natural Sounds, with the dual purpose of continuing his growing post-production business as well as promoting a growing catalogue of natural sound recordings captured during his travels.

The first of these, Natural Sounds of Costa Rica (now in its 7th printing) provides a sampling of the myriad soundscapes of that Central American country. After much delay, he will soon be releasing its follow-up, Natural Sounds of Japan. This new collection covers an even greater variety of aural terrain, tying in the rich cultural and historic fabric of the country, and recorded across the entire archipelago throughout its many distinctive seasons. The goal of all these recordings have been to create as complete a transportive and immersive listening experience as possible.

Andrew’s Presentation

Andrew shared sounds from his work-in-progress Natural Sounds of Japan. The first recording was a rich array of animals from a subtropical island between Japan and Okinawa. A dove’s flutey sound, a melody reminiscent of certain strains in Gagaku, the court music of imperial Japan. Then microphones inside a pipe found jutting out of the ice in the far northern winter capture an unearthly desolate cold beauty. Ice sheets on a frozen-over beach creak like old doors. A bamboo forest, several days dry from rain, emits pointed resonant pops pinks and cracks. It begins to rain and thunder as an enormous boar appears… And then, taking us to Costa Rica, we hear the breathing of an active volcano.

It was fun to hear the sounds in the context of the stories of their recording. What do you do when a wild boar the size of a dinner table – an animal which could kill you in an instant – appears foraging in front of your microphone? In this case, you don’t move, and don’t stop rolling. And how artificial these recordings are: ten minutes either side of the ice recordings is a fisherman chainsawing holes in the sea ice for a group of tourists to scuba dive through – and everywhere planes and traffic are carefully edited out. On recording in Japan, to paraphrase Andrew: “Japan is really good for nature recording because, due to the political situation where there’s always money to build, it’s full of roads into the middle of nowhere.”

We talked technique a bit. Andrew’s finished soundscapes are constructed of layers from wide-spaced omni ambience recordings and mono spot-recordings of individual species. His mixes can be kaleidoscopic at times – wide and full – always something interesting happening. The idea being to build a translation of the original natural-context listening experience into the medium of recordings-heard-on-speakers.

Personally, I was impressed with the beauty of a wide-spaced omni stereo array in capturing the sense of space you experience in the woods – particularly the way a breath of wind moves among trees.

Aaron and I recorded the evening. It’s available on the BASEbot podcast.

-jeremiah moore
jan 31, 2008 sf

An hour-long lecture in two parts from field recordist Chris Watson. Part One defines a personal ontology for recordings, dividing sounds into (sometimes metaphorical) ‘atmospheres,’ ‘habitats,’ and ‘featured species,’ and describes several favorite techniques Chris has used to make those different kinds of recordings. Part Two features an in-depth account of recent work with four-channel surround sound hydrophone recording, both in the open water and buried in shallow sand or mud. Both sections are richly illustrated with favorite old and new and unreleased recordings, in both stereo and four-channel surround. (The presentation was recorded in Stereo, via a single point stereo mic in the room.

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