Tag Archives: traditions

New Year 2017 Temple Bells and Fireworks

This recording is also on radio aporee ::: maps.

On New Year’s Eve I wanted to record temple bells and fireworks along with other rural sounds from a nearby location with little traffic. I thought one of the Yasugawa riverside parks might be far enough away from major roads but still close to home.

There are no lights near this location and no place to park a car at night. I had to go by bicycle, so I practiced in daylight on December 31st.

Public park along Yasugawa riverbank upstream from Shinkansen bridge in Moriyama City

Public park along Yasugawa riverbank upstream from Shinkansen bridge in Moriyama City

In daylight I mounted a small audio recorder on a light tripod. That practice helped me when I mounted an Audio-Technica BP4025 stereo microphone and a Tascam DR-70D recorder on the same tripod late at night in the dark.

Public park along Yasugawa riverbank upstream from Shinkansen bridge in Moriyama City

Public park along Yasugawa riverbank upstream from Shinkansen bridge in Moriyama City

At night I recorded from at about 23:30 on December 31st until about 00:10 on January 1, 2017. As I was recording, I sat on a park bench with a nice view of Mikamiyama.

Public park along Yasugawa riverbank upstream from Shinkansen bridge in Moriyama City

View of Mikamiyama from the public park along Yasugawa riverbank upstream from Shinkansen bridge in Moriyama City

The audio recording sounds pretty noisy, but that’s what it’s like in this suburban area with so many people and so much activity. We become so accustomed to noise that we just filter it out. Maybe that’s why they announce the year with fireworks. Those midnight explosions are hard to ignore.

New Year 2015 Temple Bells and Fireworks

Since there was a light rain this New Year’s Eve, I recorded from my house by placing a stereo microphone in a window facing North toward the nearest Buddhist temple. Nearby houses reflect sounds, so the sense of space may seem distorted in the recording.

The view north from my house in Ritto City

The view north from my house in Ritto City

This was my first time to use a new audio recorder, a DR-70D. This recorder is designed for DSLR video recording, so it works well on a tripod, with or without a camera, and it offers a variety of input and output options.

I bought this recorder rather than its 2-track sibling (DR-60DMkII) because it can record four tracks at the same time, and it has a dual recording mode, which creates two stereo files from one stereo source. I fed the stereo output from an Audio-Technica BP4025 microphone to tracks 1 and 2 and used tracks 3 and 4 for a second stereo file recorded simultaneously at a lower level (in this case -12dB). I expected loud fireworks at midnight, so I kept the input levels somewhat low (mic sense high, input level knobs at about 10 o’clock); however, I had no way to know how loud the fireworks would be. Fortunately, I did not need the second file because the highest level was -2.2dB. If I had set the input levels slightly higher, I would have needed the second file.

The sonic environment in Japan often covers a huge dynamic range, with relatively quiet scenes punctuated by extremely loud sounds of thunder, fireworks, drums, street vendors, noisy cars and motorcycles, etc. For example, you can search my posts for fireworks.

We cannot fully reproduce the great dynamic range or the visceral experience of hearing thunder or large taiko drums, but in this extreme sonic environment dual recording capability greatly eases the anxiety of field recording.

Hayama Danchi Mochitsuki 2013 video

This short video is an attempt to express the spirit of my neighborhood as we made and ate mochi (sticky rice cakes) on December 22, 2013. I did not shoot or record with a plan, so it’s pretty rough. Also, wanted to use it for teaching, so I used photos in three ways: original 4:3 aspect ratio from the camera (pillarboxed with vertical black mrgains), cropped to 16:9 aspect ratio (same as the video), and cropped with Ken Burns effects (pan, tilt, zoom).

I kept the camera aimed low to avoid shots that might embarrass people or violate their privacy. That worked out well. Other bystanders and I stood side-by-side, looking at the same activities. I quickly discovered that the most visually compelling scenes were of hands: old, middle-aged, and young hands, often close together or touching. I was most impressed by the transmission of manual skills from old to young. Fathers, grandfathers, and other men held the smallest mallet (kine) with small children as they pounded rice together. At tables outdoors grandmothers and mothers guided girls’ hands as they formed the sticky clumps of rice into bite-size pieces of the same size and shape. In the kitchen grandmothers and mothers guided young girls as they prepared and served topping (kinoko) and green tea. In many cases such practice was followed by children doing it themselves. That’s how people keep their traditions alive, and it’s a great way to support young parents who want to raise their children in a healthy and supportive community.

Sounds of Mochitsuki at Hayama Danchi

Neighborhood adults and children are making mochi (Japanese rice cake). We take turns pounding the rice. Adults help and encourage children to keep this winter tradition alive in rural Japan.

Rice pounding

Rice folding

More photos of the event are on Flikr: Hayama Danchi 2013 Mochitsuki.