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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 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!


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

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.

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.


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.

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.