clingmanas dome - shutterstockWind blowing over ridge in high-altitude spruce-fir forest along the trail to Clingman’s Dome. Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 7am, 18 May 2000. © Lang Elliott. Please listen using headphones!

Don your headphones and join me on a windy, forested ridge in Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Experience and enjoy a soothing binaural immersion featuring not only the wind, but also a panoply of bird songs typical of high altitude spruce-fir forest in the southern Appalachians (be sure to listen using headphones … otherwise it may sound like a bunch of noise!).

Winter Wren by Lang ElliottIt was mid-May in 2010. I was traveling in an old Chevy van and had just spent the night in a pullout along the ridge-road that leads to Clingman’s Dome. I rose at the break of dawn and was disappointed at all the wind (although it would periodically settle down for a minute or two, only to rise again in intensity). Deciding not to be stymied, I ventured into the spruce-fir stand and soon homed-in on a Winter Wren, singing excitedly from a low branch. I quickly set up my soundscape microphone, placed it in a special “wind box” (see below for more information) and then hit record. Everything went well for about twenty minutes, but then a sudden rush of traffic on the highway put an end to my effort.

I’m quite pleased with this spacious soundscape. It features the songs and calls of a number of birds (plus a mammal sound). At the beginning, note the prominent songs of a Winter Wren and a Black-capped Chickadee, followed over time by the caws of American Crows, scratching sounds of a Red Squirrel, the squeaky songs of a Gray Catbird, the rising zhree-zhree-zhree-zeeee of a Black-throated Blue Warbler, the sprightly pleased, pleased, pleased t’meet’cha! of a Chestnut-sided Warbler, and finally the soft musical whistles of a Robin.

What makes a great wind recording? One important aspect is “spaciousness,” meaning a wide soundstage within which wind moves around. If all the wind were in one place, the listening experience would be boring. Likewise, who wants to hear wind that doesn’t vary in intensity? The most pleasing wind soundscapes (at least to my ear) are those where the wind moves around, sometimes unpredictably, and also varies greatly in intensity, from gentle breezes to huge gusts that threaten to overwhelm the soundstage. What makes a great wind recording? The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind … the answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Recording the sounds of wind blowing in the trees is more difficult than you think. The big problem is that my soundscape microphone is quite sensitive to wind (as are all microphones)—not the sound of the wind itself, but rather the effect of the wind buffeting against the mic, thereby causing sudden pressure changes that produce annoying distortions that I call “wind thumping.” Such thumping is to be avoided because it pretty much wrecks a soundscape recording. So in situations such as this, I place my mic inside a specially-constructed homemade “wind box” that greatly reduces or even eliminates the thumping.

Thank goodness for my wind box … without it this recording would have been an absolute disaster! As it is, all I had to do was repair some subtle resonation-tones caused by wind wrapping around the box itself, plus remove one section where the wind roared through the understory with such intensity that it made my wind box shake. Altogether, I think my efforts were a success.

Relax and enjoy! And as always, please leave a comment below to let me know what you think of this recording.

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