White pine climb with Michael Gatonska

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AndrewJoslin
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White pine climb with Michael Gatonska

Post by AndrewJoslin » Fri Apr 06, 2012 9:11 pm

I met with Michael today to introduce him to rope and harness tree climbing technique. The goal is to enable Michael to do some wind and tree sound recordings in the forest canopy and to prepare him to climb and make recordings for a future NTS event. We hiked in to woods east of Hartford CT and found a fine old white pine in a grove by a small river. As we started setting ropes a dog barked off in the woods which triggered an unusual mid-day Barred Owl duet. After Michael made an impressive 65' or so ascent using single rope technique we re-pitched up a little higher and set up equipment to do some test recordings. The weather cooperated and some gentle gusts came in creating a nice sway in the trunk and the soft wooshing sounds characteristic of wind in white pine. A newly arrived spring migrant Pine Warbler visited and hopped around the limbs near us, not too bothered by our presence. Eventually and reluctantly we returned to the ground and enjoyed another round of Barred Owl calling back and forth as we took the ropes down. Michael's a natural in a tree, I think we're off to good start exploring the New England forest canopy soundscape.

We have lift-off!

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Look down from 65' or so

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Taking in canopy space

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Descending out of the tree

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Touch down, congrats on a great first climb!

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Base of the trunk detail

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Trout Lily on the edge of the white pine grove

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Andrew Joslin
Jamaica Plain, MA

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dbhguru
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Re: White pine climb with Michael Gatonska

Post by dbhguru » Sat Apr 07, 2012 6:55 am

Andrew, Michael,

Trustees of Reservations has been approached about a climb in Bryant Woods. So far so good. Higher-ups have to weigh in, but we're off to a good start.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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edfrank
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Re: White pine climb with Michael Gatonska

Post by edfrank » Sat Apr 07, 2012 10:04 pm

Michael, Andrew,

This is really great stuff. It is pushing the boundaries of how we look at natural sounds in the tree crowns in the forest. Now we need Michael to make many more climbs and more recordings along with expert analysis of what he is finding. Andrew, it is your job to make sure he doesn't break his own crown until he learns the ropes.

Ed
"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

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michael gatonska
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Re: White pine climb with Michael Gatonska

Post by michael gatonska » Mon Apr 16, 2012 6:10 pm

Hi Bob, Ed, and Andrew!

My climb with Andrew was a super introduction to the tree-climbing craft; I learned a bunch from Andrew, and he was very methodical, great at explaining techniques, and a terrific climbing mentor.

Once we were up at about 3,000 feet, or actually more like the 70-or-so-feet that Andrew described in his offical post, I experimented a little bit with taking some audio. I have to mention, that once we had gotten into the canopy, what I heard, or learned, was that previously (from ground level) I was recording the sound of a tree. Now that we were in the canopy, I was "in" the sound - and this experience was completely different and all-ear-encompassing. Personally, it will be important that I find a way to capture this surround-sound sonic truth. On my maiden voyage with Andrew, I was experimenting with 2-channel stereo recording -- but now in our future climbs I will definately need to switch to making 4-channel stereo recordings.

I also discovered that wind in the canopy can be a different kind of factor than on the ground; it can create points of distortion in the recording, even with a windscreen on the mic. So, I have bought a bigger, and deeper dish, and I will need to experiment with that fixture before we get to the Bryant Homestead. My plan is, with a few more climbs with Maestro Andrew, that I can begin to focus on trying varying recording techniques in the canopy, and begin capturing some really good soundscape recordings. To prepare for this, I have contacted a very good sound engineer who is a friend of mine, who will listen to the takes I that I made with Andrew and offer his in the field suggestions as to how I can proceed.

Andrew - great photo of the Trout Lily!!!
Michael Gatonska
“What is essential, is invisible to the eye” –Antoine de Saint-Exupery
http://www.youtube.com/user/EcoEarSound ... sults_main

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AndrewJoslin
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Re: White pine climb with Michael Gatonska

Post by AndrewJoslin » Tue Apr 17, 2012 8:47 am

Glad it worked out so well, looking forward to the next climb and more canopy recording sessions!
-AJ

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michael gatonska
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Re: White pine climb with Michael Gatonska

Post by michael gatonska » Wed Apr 18, 2012 5:40 am

Hi Andrew-
I am definately looking forward to our next climb, and I have just finished building a new version of dish to bring into the canopy. Next time we will do some good, long takes, witth hopefully some good winds.

As a side 'note', hear is the audio (with video), I captured of the stream near the Barred Owl Pine that you thought had a nice sound. I went back and recorded the audio the next morning after our climb.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJ_JbOb-Uwg&list=UUSG6_-zJFcSOQp-Euz4UPXQ&index=1&feature=plcp
Michael Gatonska
“What is essential, is invisible to the eye” –Antoine de Saint-Exupery
http://www.youtube.com/user/EcoEarSound ... sults_main

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AndrewJoslin
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Re: White pine climb with Michael Gatonska

Post by AndrewJoslin » Wed Apr 18, 2012 9:54 am

Transports me back to the woods, nice. Could listen to that all day

Makes me wonder if one approach to capturing a sound portrait of a particular site could be to position microphones with separate recording devices (or as many as needed so you wouldn't have wires all over the place) at different locations, one by a brook, one up in a tree, another in a patch of trout lilies etc. Similar to the idea of a studio recording session. Each "musician" has its own microphone. Then later in a mixdown session, the "conductor" could "move" the listener around in 3 dimensional sounds space by adjusting levels for each mic location. When a goldfinch takes a solo the listener could move close to the goldfinch and still hear the other woods sounds in the background. then when a bumblebee visits some flowers on the ground, it's bumbling buzzing could be brought to the forefront. If done well it would accurately capture a site and give the listener the feeling of freely moving in 3 dimensional space to focus in on a particular part of the woods orchestra.

If that makes sense ;-)
-AJ

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Bart Bouricius
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Re: White pine climb with Michael Gatonska

Post by Bart Bouricius » Wed Apr 18, 2012 4:20 pm

Michael and Andrew

I think this is great stuff. You know sometimes you actually do not really hear things because the context is too familiar (at least as a professional arborist) and has you focusing on something else, but interestingly when you take the sound out of its normal context, it can be almost like hearing it for the first time. I noticed that some of the most amazing natural sounds I have heard are unavailable on the internet when I try to search for them. Would like to talk to you some about this Michael. Andrew has my contact info, or shoot me a message.

Bart

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michael gatonska
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Re: White pine climb with Michael Gatonska

Post by michael gatonska » Tue Apr 24, 2012 5:12 pm

Hi Andrew & Bart,
I really like the idea of being able to provide a 3-d soundscape - one that would clearly provide a 'real-time' audio overview of the natural sound-occurances at a particular site. Although I currently have only one mic, with my WebLab software I can certainly pan in-and-out multiple tracks into a final stereo mix to create that effect. It is definately possible, but at this time I would need to record each of those phenomena individually (i.e. tree, bird, bee). Then, I could create the mix of tracks in the soundscape - the only caveat being that it will not be in real time. But the idea has terrific Andrew, and I think with a lot of expressive potential!

At first, I began recording with the idea that by isolating the sounds of each individual tree and keeping within certain wind conditions, that each type may reveal individual sonic characteristics. So far, in the soundscape recordings I have made of individual needle trees, that has certainly been the case. The hemlocks, white and red pines, eastern red cedar and norway spruce are all distinct from each other. But, I think I am at the beginning of a lot of work, recording/experimentation, and sometimes disappointement still ahead.

Secondly, I want to combine these sounds with my other passion, which is composing music. By pairing the pre-recorded soundscapes with, for example, a string quartet, a piano, or a chamber orchestra, I am in a sorta-kinda-way bringing the life of trees into the concert hall. Besides the aesthetic purpose and my desire to stretch my musical language as a composer, I also want to create opportunities that will raise awareness, educate, and celebrate the sound & spirit of trees with concertgoers.

Lastly, I would totally understand if anyone feels I need to check into Belview at this stage? :)
Michael Gatonska
“What is essential, is invisible to the eye” –Antoine de Saint-Exupery
http://www.youtube.com/user/EcoEarSound ... sults_main

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AndrewJoslin
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Re: White pine climb with Michael Gatonska

Post by AndrewJoslin » Wed Apr 25, 2012 3:18 pm

michael gatonska wrote:Secondly, I want to combine these sounds with my other passion, which is composing music. By pairing the pre-recorded soundscapes with, for example, a string quartet, a piano, or a chamber orchestra, I am in a sorta-kinda-way bringing the life of trees into the concert hall.
A very worthy goal! Looking forward to hearing that.

It would be theoretically possible to bring a string quartet into the woods to perform with the background sounds but... the logistics of getting the audience to the site and other potential problems like a sudden downpour on fine stringed instruments kind of rules that out. Imagine a pileated woodpecker coming in and hammering on a dead snag during a performance! You've definitely got it right :-)
-AJ

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