Beneath the Pond at Gorman Nature Center

I’ve hiked about the grounds of Gorman Nature Center quite a few times since coming back to Ohio, mostly with my dog walking faithfully beside, (unless she spots a rabbit). It’s minutes from my home, and one of the nicest natural locations in town. Last evening I made a solo trip at sunset to record the underwater sounds of the center’s front pond. Dropping two evenly spaced hydrophones off the wooden dock, I could hear many more sounds than what I heard when I tried this same experiment earlier this year. I had considered the pond dead back in the spring. I was wrong.

State Route 42 is a mere 930-feet away from the pond and my recording location. To record using regular microphones – which I’ve done at Gorman’s back pond – would have been a frustratingly short exercise with the amount of traffic that motors past on a Friday evening.

Satellite view of Gorman Nature Center and my recording location.

The mp3 excerpt below is from 47-minute recording starting at dusk, using two Aquarian H2A XLR mics, a Sound Devices Mixpre-D and a Sony PCM M10 recorder capturing at 96kHz/24 bit. I compressed it slightly. My panoramic pond image is from nearly this same time last year. I chose not to photograph last night as any movement along the dock creates loud, unwelcome sounds that easily transfer down to the microphones.

 

How Fish Hear Fireworks

To be honest, I am not really sure how fish hear fireworks. If you’re curious, which I hope by the end of this post you will be, you should take a look.

I had wanted to hear and record fireworks and boat traffic on a lake from an underwater perspective for a while. There are three man-made reservoirs within minutes of my home. Pontoon boats, jet skies and fishing boats zigzag back and forth creating plenty of undesirable noise. With a pair of hydrophones and a friend’s access to a private dock, I drove out this past Memorial Day weekend to Charles Mill Lake in north central Ohio. I recorded fireworks here last year. The long, decaying echoes the blasts create are tremendous. I wondered if they could be heard underwater as well.

The rickety wooden dock screeches and bends from every footstep taken and each wave that passes by it. I stretched out microphone cables along its entire length in order to get the best stereo separation possible. I then set up a recorder to capture above-water sound, and took a wobbly seat to watch the show.

As anticipated, the sound of fireworks underwater is not all that different than what we hear as we’re being bit by mosquitos above water. Somewhat muffled, but still loud. It’s got to be frightfully, if not painfully loud down there for fish and other aquatic life as fireworks blast above their heads.

On a larger scale, there was a scientific paper put out not too many years ago postulating that the sound of the world’s oceans were louder in the 1800’s than they are now due to whale noise. The planet had more whales then of course. The sound of a lightning strike heard underwater, or the sounds of pistol shrimp eating are also extremely loud. But these are natural sounds. Sounds that fit into the acoustical slots animals evolved with. On the contrary, the machine noise our boats and our ships and our oil exploration rigs make has become, to the detriment of marine life, the dominant sound in our oceans.

What you hear in the sound excerpt below, taken from the original 17-minute recording, is a mix of two recordings capturing the finale simultaneously. I then synced both in post, with an abrupt dropout of the above-water recording 15 seconds in. I then bring the ambient sound back up toward the end where you can faintly hear a happy boating crowd cheering and honking their horns in approval. (See screenshot below).

 

For further reading on the subject of noise pollution in the world’s oceans:

P.S.

Since writing this blog post, I have had several email exchanges with Michael Stocker, director of Ocean Conservation Research, and author of Hear Where We Are: Sound Ecology, And Sense Of Place. Looking into the phenomenology of sound perception is the cornerstone of his work as he puts it. He has been kind enough to share some of his concepts with me.

“Fish hearing is not calibrated to human hearing”, says Stocker. “There is ample reason to believe that fishes sensitivity to impulse sounds might be greater than their sensitivity to continuous sounds. But it is good to establish some relativistic benchmark,” he added. I wondered if an impulse sound such as a firework, or a sonar blast, or a lightning strike, or an underwater pile driver, would disturb a fish more than the continuous noise of shipping lane traffic or an already-established offshore wind turbine, sort of like how some humans get used to the train noise out their bedroom window. “It is a bit more complicated than this, said Stocker. But in an environment where visibility is often really limited, and where everything from lightening strikes to earthquakes can be heard for thousands of miles, and the most pernicious or most valuable sound needs to be heard equally well in crashing and calm seas, volume is not necessarily the most important perceptual characteristic. So from a phenomenological as well as a physiological standpoint, signal rise time is much more important than amplitude. There is no clear evidence of “habituation” in the cognitive sense, but adaptation may include the ability to sort out signals in the time domain where amplitude or frequency characteristics might otherwise mask important sounds.”

Stocker goes on to write, “There is a 65dB attenuation at the air/water boundary layer, but that doesn’t mean that it calibrates out to how fish hear the noise because water transmits sound intensity much better than air.” Ultimately he says it comes down to two things; how much energy is in the system (some math involved) and what the fish hear (some speculation on our part). “Because while we know some fish hearing thresholds, we only know these in the pressure domain, not particle velocity. And my suspicions are that fishes may be much more sensitive to coherent sounds that we understand.”

Now to sort through everything he said, examine his book links, and find more scientific work on the subject. Hydrophones definitely open up a whole new world of listening, and thinking.

Also, an Italian pyrotechnics company has produced a silent firework that in theory could prevent the stressful and disorienting effects the loud bangs have on everything from your family dog, to a special-needs child, to that lowly fish in the sea. See a link to a story about this here.

And as a side geek note, if you’re interested in how I sync my two recorders, I purchased a D-Day cricket at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans a couple of years ago specifically for this purpose. The sound it makes is loud and quick, better than a handclap. It allows me to easily see spikes on my waveforms to match the tracks. William Hurt used one to great effect in the show Goliath.

Observing the Sound of an Observatory

I picked up a book at the library the other day entitled American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World. The book tells the story of the 1878 total solar eclipse seen most vividly in the western United States, and the eclipse chasers that aimed to dominate the world of astronomy in the latter part of the nineteenth century. With another total solar eclipse fast approaching on August 21 tracing some of the same path, I thought it fitting to read. This author and his subject matter have a lot of company with other books written about the upcoming eclipse.

Unfortunately for me, the eclipse will not be observable in Ohio. Nevertheless, I have a first-class amateur astronomical observatory right down the road from my home, and on a whim, I made a telephone call last week to see if I could record the sound of the dome spinning. The voice on the other end was Dan Everly, Warren Rupp Observatory’s Night Sky Coordinator, who said I could come right then and there if I hurried.

The first thing one sees after driving up a winding, tree-covered road and out into a clearing is the observatory’s silver 30-foot diameter dome. Underneath sits “Big Blue,” a 36-inch, f/6.3 mirror, Newtonian telescope placed there in 1985 and weighing over 7,500 pounds. Dan was there waiting. And since he’s obviously into science, I could tell right away he was into the idea of capturing sounds. There was no, “Are you done yet?” Instead, after I recorded the sound of the dome’s slot opening, and the dome spinning, Dan offered up other sounds to record. Bonus.

Dan was a machinist’s mate in the Navy. The Top Watch in the engine room, where, to the astonishment of his subordinates, learned to distinguish the sound of 47-different pumps and spot their ailments. “Every pump had its own song,” he said. He also enjoys the rhythmic sound of the telescope’s clock drive in action. “When you’re here late a night, and that’s running, it’s really soothing.” The farthest astronomical object he has seen with his own eyes and Big Blue’s help was a quasar 7.2 billion light years away. “Halfway to the Big Bang,” he added. “I walked around for a day with my mouth hanging open.”

Light pollution is the source of much consternation and gnashing of teeth for astronomers. And wherever there is light pollution, there is usually a good deal of sound pollution to make things worse. I asked about the close proximity of the interstate and the Wal-Mart nearby. Do those lights cause a problem here? Or how about the nearby ski-resort with its nighttime runs? Dan declared that on a clear night, the area is dark enough that the Milky Way is visible. I hadn’t seen the Milky Way since living in Wyoming, and I was skeptical it could be seen here.

I came back to the observatory last evening for the Richland Astronomical Society’s monthly stargazing event to see if Dan was right, and that I could in fact sneak a peak at the Milky Way. The evening turned into a surprisingly clear night compared to the rainy weather we have experienced this week. The moon, in its Waxing Gibbous phase, took center stage. Jupiter and four of its moons also filled the sights of many of the telescopes near the dome. And the Milky Way was indeed visible. Not spectacular due to the moon’s brightness, but it was out there for all to see if you knew where to look.

Setting up a tripod-mounted camera, I snaked around from member to member, brushing them with the red glow of a LED flashlight, painting with light to create long time exposures. A hit or miss process that gave me the images shown here.

In the recording below, you’ll hear the sound of a clock drive throughout the recording. In reality, you’d only hear this when the telescope is moving. But I made it a bed for the other sounds to lie in. You’ll also hear the sound of Dan moving and raising the forklift that elevates night sky viewers 18-feet above the mirror. You’ll hear the sound of the dome’s slot opening and closing. The sound of the dome rotating is a mixture of sound captured with contact microphones clamped onto opposite sides of the dome interior, and sound captured with a Sony PCM D100 placed directly in the center, the “sweet spot” of the dome, where one’s voice could be heard reflecting from every direction. Mixing the two recordings, made simultaneously, gives the sound a bit more low-end grumble. I placed two contact microphones on the $10,000 worm gear that slowly drives the telescope, keeping it in sync with earth’s orbit. Driving the scope places a greater demand on the gear. This made for a gritty sound.

If you’re in the area, the Richland Astronomical Society hosts public viewings on the first Saturday of each month (unless otherwise noted), March through November with viewings being weather-dependent. Pepper club members with your newbie astronomy questions. They seem eager to share their knowledge and their telescopes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Grass Is Always Greener

 

The grass is always greener. So are the trees and the sky. Everything for that matter is green when you use a piece of welder’s glass as a long time exposure photography filter. I made mine years ago, used it once then put it away, waiting for the opportunity and patience to try it again. On a sound recording trip this past weekend to Daughmer Bur Oak Prairie Savannah State Nature Preserve near Bucyrus, Ohio, I brought it back out in the middle of a sunny afternoon to create long, streaking cloud formations the likes of which one can only achieve with dark neutral density filters.

Daughmer Prairie Savannah panorama, Bucyrus, Ohio, May 6, 2017. Photo by Richard Alan Hannon

 

Daughmer Bur Oak Prairie is one of the few remaining examples of tall grass prairie and oak tree savanna in the nation. Standing under these giant Bur oaks is like standing in the footsteps of history. So my motivation for attempting a long exposure was to evoke the passage of time. Whether I succeeded or not is up to the viewer. The 35-acre prairie has never been plowed according to scholars that have studied the site. Many of the gnarly, giant trees towering over it are in excess of 250-years-old, meager seedlings during the time when Native people outnumbered whites that would eventually turn the adjacent prairie into farmland.

The gnarly bark of a mature Bur Oak tree at Daughmer Bur Oak Prairie Savannah State Nature Preserve. Photo by Richard Alan Hannon

 

A welder’s glass filter is the poor-man’s neutral density filter compared to the factory-made and understandably superior alternative, and there are a plethora of how-to videos and written tutorials on the web explaining how to make them, thereby saving you some cash for other useless gadgets. Some photographers use rubber bands to hold the glass in place. My version uses what amounts to a 10-stop, green welder’s glass purchased for around $5 at a local welder’s supply store, an 82mm filter  that I smashed the glass out of, a 49-82mm step-up ring compatible with my Fuji X100 lens, and an unsightly amount of hot glue. Building it this way ensured a light-tight seal. Rubber bands didn’t seem adequate. That said, I’ve had to re-apply the glue after once leaving the filter in a hot trunk. Lesson learned. I also glued the filter near the side of the glass, thinking I could go to any glasscutter who would cut the glass into a square. No one in town would touch it as the glass is tempered. Another lesson learned.

 

Next, in order to create silky-smooth waterscapes, I’d like to try the filter out on a substantial waterfall. Or perhaps up at Marblehead lighthouse, where Lake Erie waters crash against the rocks surrounding the lighthouse.

Long exposure photographs are not the type of images I create all the time, so a small investment is a lot easier on the pocketbook. Nevertheless, it’s very interesting to see the end results.

If you go to Daughmer, take along a tripod (of course). Equally important, I’d recommend some serious bug spray with tick repellant. Although the Crawford Parks District keeps a well-maintained mowed trail that snakes around the trees, ticks this year are tiny monsters just waiting for you to sit in the grass for several minutes. If you’re allergic to poison ivy, be aware that it surrounds many of the trees. But have a good time. It’s a great place to experience a unique landscape.

Photo note: the main landscape image above was shot at 90-seconds at f8, 200 ISO.

Amish Wagon Ride

Amish Wagon Ride

posted in: Amish, field recording, Ohio | 0

I hitched a ride not too long ago aboard an Amish gentleman’s flatbed wagon. Pulled by his draft horses Queen, age 5, and Nell, age 10, we started down a long gravel driveway, the metal wheels of the wagon, absent of rubber and I believe any sort of shock absorber, soaking up every ounce of vibration. Out next to asphalt, potholed roads that took us on a 14-minute ride complete with vehicles whizzing past (I was way more concerned about the zooming trucks then my Amish friend was), to his son’s new home north of Mansfield, Ohio. His son, the oldest of 13 and with a new bride, is now on his own to make a life on his new farm.

The excerpt you hear below is from when we encountered a pack of leaping, vocal country dogs bent on defending their “territory” as we drove past. I held on tight as I was sure that the harassing dogs would make the horses bolt and we’d be off to the races. But to their credit, Queen and Nell stayed the course without a care in the world for the pestering canine trio.

When we arrived at our destination, Mr. Yoder asked me what I thought of the recording, particularly inquiring as to how the dogs sounded. I am grateful for his hospitality. This is the second time he has been more than kind with my “English” curiosity. And I am impressed with his knack of what makes good audio.

Recording note: Sony PCM D100 with internal mics on their wide mode. My Rycote Portable Recorder Kit saved the day on the bumpy ride.

Spiraling Staircase of Sound

I’ve written before about my fascination with using contact microphones on metal objects. The sounds gathered are oftentimes so unique and unexpected that for me, it’s an instant thrill upon pressing record and listening through my headphones. I was never a photographer that got into infrared photography. I’ve seen many fine examples, and I appreciate what the photographer is going for, but it was never my thing. When I stop to think about it however, recording with contact mics, or hydrophones for underwater recording for that matter, is sort of the same as photographing in the infrared. It’s about hearing something that we normally do not experience. Being attuned to this has been ear opening. I find myself searching out resonant structures that I would normally dismiss. So when my wife recently brought home the visitors guide for nearby Knox County, and I saw pictured on the cover the Rastin Observation Tower, located inside Ariel-Foundation Park in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, I knew it would be the perfect structure to “listen to” and record with a pair of contact microphones. The shiny year-old tower is a galvanized steel spiral staircase that twists halfway up a 280-foot reinforced poured concrete, brick-lined smokestack built in 1951. A spectacle in itself being the tallest structure in the land, it is one of the few remaining ruins of what was once the sprawling 60-acre Pittsburg Plate Glass manufacturing plant No. 11 (PPG Industries) built in 1907. The plant flourished in the prosperous automobile glass and sheet glass -making industry until its closure in 1979.

I contacted the foundation’s executive director who enthusiastically granted my peculiar request to record on site. It’s always better to ask permission when attaching small microphones with long cords to structures that people walk upon. After parking at the base of the tower, I instantly realized that it was way taller than it looks in the travel guide. Climbing 224 steps with recording gear, even the stripped-down travel kit that I use, was not going to be fun. Making matters worse was witnessing young children blow right past me on their way to the top.

The climb was worth it, huffing and puffing notwithstanding. The view is pretty special, and the sound I captured by placing microphones on opposite sides of the tower was not at all what I expected. The 5-10 mile per hour winds unfortunately did little to make the tower “sing.” Footsteps on the other hand, made the tower come alive. Booming sounds created as enthusiastic, vocal children ran down steps shouting to their friends and parents below. Softer sounds heard as the elderly slowly, but victoriously labored to the top. High-pitched sounds emanating through metal as jewelry on the hands of tourists tapped a railing, and broom-like swooshing sounds heard as clothing worn by teenagers visibly afraid of heights brushed alongside metal as they clung to the inner railing clutching their cell phone with one hand and their friend’s shoulder with the other.

As was the case when I recorded the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge earlier this year, my microphones and I received a variety of looks. Everything from people keeping their head’s down while quickly climbing past, to curious people stopping to ask me what I was up to. When someone seemed really interested, I explained and offered a chance to listen through headphones. A few said, “wow.” One child went on to explain my recording process to his friend. Two friends opted to press their own ears up to the metal after listening through the headphones. If I can get young kids interested in listening to things around them in a new way, then I know I’m doing something right.

Recording note: I used two Barcus Berry contact mics with their well-matched preamps, running into a Sound Devices Mixpre-D, then into a Sony PCM M10 recorder capturing a WAV file at 96 kHZ/24-bit. The mp3 excerpt you hear below is from a 51-minute recording. I recorded for just shy of two hours, but chose to edit out the sound of a swarm of wasps that invaded and attacked my left microphone for unknown reasons, producing an unnatural scratching sound. I also edited out much, but not all, of the reverberant, and unintelligible talking I captured through the microphones occasionally, leaving only a few human voice sounds in the final mix. The sound waves of a person’s voice transmit through metal just like any other sound wave. Too much of it became a distraction on the recording.

 

Further reading:

http://www.arielfoundationpark.org

https://chasingsmokestacks.com/2013/03/18/pittsburgh-plate-glass-company-mount-vernon-oh/

http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pittsburgh-plate-glass-company

http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/ppg-industries-inc-history/

 

Sounds of South Bass Island

posted in: field recording, Ohio | 0

I spent this past Labor Day tooling around on a golf cart all around South Bass Island in Lake Erie, grateful for the opportunity offered me by my brother-in-law and older sister. Being in full command of the cart, my sister had us circling the island starting at the ferry landing, then to a remote beach, through downtown Put-In-Bay, over to Perry’s Monument, a 352-foot-high column commemorating Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s victory in the battle for Lake Erie during the War of 1812, back downtown past fancy yachts and polished vintage automobiles, and then back to the ferry, crowded with passengers leaving after their long holiday weekend.

I recorded the sounds of the ferry, condensed here from a 21 minute ride, the sound of the remote beach where small waves hit a stretch of high ground both from the left and right, and the sounds from a small airport on the island. This is by no means all the sounds the island has on display, but being with family, it would have been rude to have spent all my time alone recording.

It was a beautiful blue-sky day up at the lake. Fall will come soon. Tourists will have taken the last ferryboat to the mainland, and a windy winter will set it. Perhaps then the sounds of South Bass Island will turn from tourist to tranquility. It would be nice to find out.

Recording note: To keep things light, I used only my Sony PCM D100 for the trip, either in wide stereo mode, or with a pair of Luhd microphones that I rigged into a DIY binaural setup, which worked quite well for capturing the sound on the ferry from the rear of the boat. I did not bring headphones thinking I was going to use the Luhd mics exclusively. Big mistake. I should at least take a pair of ear buds. The mp3 clip you hear below is a condensed version of my day, originally recorded at 96/24.

What Cornstalks Blowing in the Wind Sound Like Through Contact Microphones


Knee high by the fourth of July. Anyone who grew up in Ohio knows what this means. The age-old expression refers to what the height of a healthy, well-nourished cornstalk should be come Independence Day in order to produce a bountiful fall harvest. I have been keeping an eye on the cornfields since being back in Ohio. It’s impossible not to around here. And I knew that when the corn was as tall as it was going to be (right around now), and a breeze was blowing, the stalks would make an interesting noise when they rubbed together. I hoped they would make an even more interesting sound using contact microphones. From where I sat yesterday on the edge of a Mennonite farmer’s field, I was not disappointed. Sitting at length in a stinky, operating cattle farm was a different story.

The sound is not what I expected, but then I didn’t have any expectations, better to be not disappointed if there was no sound at all. I’ve never attached contact mics to living things. But the stalks are somewhat hollow, so I hoped they would resonate.

Yesterday saw wind gusts coming out of the north in the late afternoon at around 14 miles per hour. I drove north toward the Amish farms I have been to and recorded at before, and stopped at a farm just off a busy road full of semi trucks going faster than they should. The farm is currently selling pumpkins the size of coffee tables for $10. A young lady in a light brown dress came running out the door to see what I looking to buy. I instead asked for the head of the household, introduced myself and asked to record his cornstalks. He didn’t question that request one bit, which was sort of surprising. The Mennonites are hip to strange recording requests.

I chose to set up at the edge of the field as I could see the wind affected the outermost stalks the most. Makes sense I guess. Plus this meant I didn’t have to walk into a field full of snakes and other critters. I laid out my two mics as far apart as the cords would allow, and used gaffer’s tape to attach them to the stalks, being careful to make sure no part of the leaf was touching the mic or the cord since that sound would not be true to the recording.

What you hear below is an excerpt from a half-hour recording. It sounds best with headphones as you can hear a breeze hit one stalk, and then moments later come down the row to hit the other.

Recording note: Two Barcus Berry contact microphones with their well-matched preamps where used, coming into a Mixpre-D (limiter on), and then out to a Sony PCM M10 recorder at 96/24.

The Sound of Poverty Point

posted in: field recording, Louisiana | 0

In August 2015, with an imaginative hope of listening to and recording a time long since vanished, I visited Poverty Point State Historic Site, a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) World Heritage site, in northeast Louisiana. In 2014, it became the 22nd such site in the United States, with the likes of the Grand Canyon, the Everglades, Mesa Verde and Olympic national parks.

Constructed by a society of hunter fisher-gatherers more than 3,000 years ago, the location consists of a series of earthworks, concentric half-circle-shaped ridges and mounds built with stone and minerals from as far as 800 miles away. It is believed to have been the largest settlement of its kind in North America at the time, and is now one of the most important archeological sites on the continent.

Poverty Point map. Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa) - Self made, using the following files: orientation map Louisiana highway sign The map contents are based on the follwowing informations: aerial image Google map a map of the site another map of the site oblique view (artists impression) informations from the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism Many thanks to h-stt who provided me with all these links! This map is the result from a map request to the Kartenwünsche in the Kartenwerkstatt.
Poverty Point map. Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa) – Self made, using the following files: orientation map Louisiana highway sign The map contents are based on the follwowing informations: aerial image Google map a map of the site another map of the site oblique view (artists impression) informations from the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism Many thanks to h-stt who provided me with all these links!

In addition to fish bones, artifacts gathered at the complex indicate that the Poverty Point people were prolific traders, and while walking around and on top of the site’s two largest mounds, A and B, I could imagine that if I was alive during this period, at this spot, the natural sounds I heard would have been accompanied by the sounds of a busy society. Archeologists have concluded that the mounds at Poverty Point were not burial mounds, common during this period throughout the country. Some scholars therefore infer that the mounds were a display of power and wealth to impress neighbors in the Lower Mississippi Valley traveling to the area.

After meeting with the park manager and given a lay of the land, I was greeted by an evening thunderstorm that rolled into the area. I recorded a few thunderclaps near Mound A before retreating to the visitor center shelter to continue. The bus stop-like shelter near the mound offered limited protection from the horizontal rain and lightning coming down. To be struck by lightning on the backside of an ancient mound with no one in site, that could be bad.

After the storm broke, I took the steps to the observation area atop Mound A, 72-feet above the surrounding land according to an informational sign posted at its base. With such a commanding view, I assumed this would be a great place to record. However, the constant low hum of a store generator over a mile away proved me wrong. This was definitely not something early inhabitants heard. Running out of light and feeling a bit frustrated, I drove over to Mound B.

Mound B is only 20-feet in height. It was originally a perfect conical form, but excavations in 1955 altered its shape. I set up microphones behind the mound this time, using it to block the faint sound of the still-going generator and occasional roadway noise. This position brought me up close to the crickets and other critters in the woods only 20-yards away.

Park management expressed concern that my tripod legs could possibly damage the ground. I therefore used a set of tripod shoes purchased for a previous photography shoot at Great Sand Dunes National Park. These worked great in preventing my tripod from sinking in the sand, and were enough to appease Poverty Point staff. It is always good to produce a solution to what could have been a setback.

Being named a World Heritage site, Poverty Point is now on the worldwide stage, recognized for something other than cotton fields for the 19th century plantation from which it gets its name. To be fair, the State of Louisiana had been, and still is, a superb steward of the site, even before this recognition.

It was quite a feeling to be more or less alone on such ancient ground, where a people so beyond my comprehension worked and lived before me. I hope the audio recording below gives the listener a possible sense of what a person may have heard all those years ago.

Recording note: The 3-minute mp3 excerpt heard below is a mix of a 17:35 mix recorded with two low-noise Audio Technica 3032 omnidirectional microphones in a DIY baffled omni mount, recorded to a Sony PCM M10 recorder at 96 kHz/24 bit, with a Sound Devices Mixpre-D at the front end.

Goodbye Lake Wobegon

posted in: Ohio, Photojournalism | 0

Garrison Keillor, host of Minnesota Public Radio’s A Prairie Home Companion, orated his last radio show this past weekend, capping a 42-year career. I had the good fortune to see him in June 1997 as he and his traveling troupe performed at Blossom Music Center, an outdoor amphitheater located in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

My wife and mother-in-law took me to see him. I had been to Blossom a few times before. Sting put on a fantastic concert there. I have to admit that before I met my wife, I had never heard of his radio show, which is kind of a throwback to old-time radio shows of the 1930’s and 40’s. Classic rock stations in central Ohio failed to air his program. She turned me onto NPR and Garrison Keillor’s show and books. This served us well in the cold Wyoming winters, and our listening has not diminished.

While my wife was finding a place to sit on the lawn, I made arrangements to photograph Keillor’s rehearsal. His producer was most accommodating. I have sat on these negatives for years, but hearing on the radio Keillor’s last show live from the Hollywood Bowl Saturday evening, and then looking through the fine photojournalism of former colleague Leila Navidi, who covered a couple of shows during his final season, I wanted to get the pictures out there.

Time has flown since 1997. Keillor’s voice is softer now, his hair all gray. But his delivery is still spot on, and his talent will be missed.

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