Torture of The Bursar Line

For our CT Project we were asked to pick 2 different locations to record audio. It did not matter where, but it had to be 5 minutes long for each clip. First me and Trone got our hands on a DR-100 MK II. We had absolutely no idea how to use this thing so we went to google and simply typed the name of the device in the search box. We then found a link on youtube that showed us how to turn the device on. We also found a PDF Manual on the company brand website. We put in the batteries, turned it on and it seemed to be working pretty fine. After playing with the recorder’s menu we figured out how to actually record using the internal mic and also how to playback our recording on the device itself.

We were told to use an external mic from our professor because the internal mic would not cover the range of sound that had to be recorded. We picked up an XLR cable and attached it to the XLR Microphone. Our device recorded WAV files and it came with 2 channels. We used the left channel to plug in our headphones, then we proceed to find a good location to record. We went to the college bookstore where we were basically kicked out because apparently it’s private property, so then we walked to the cafeteria and noticed all the miserable people standing on the Bursar’s Office Line waiting to pay their bills.

We got some audio of people going up the escalator, a screeching baby and a phone conversation (not our fault she was so loud) a few foul language here and there but overall it was pretty fun. Another thing, everyone that passed by us keep giving us the shady eye like were private investigators or something. I guess they felt uncomfortable, oh well. (Evil Smile)


Sounds affect everything we see , feel , and think . This simple lunchroom observation was very profound at the mere fact that I couldnt believe that all the lowkey sounds were occuring within my surroundings . Its amazing that technology can pick up vibrations that the human ear wont even notice . The wierdest part for me was the fact that you could barely hear conversation in the recording which I figured would have been clear. The recording mainly grabbed the sounds of everything else ( footsteps , bags, cashier using the machine etc . ) . This was a very interesting assignment and hope we have more like it .







YCL: The Ideal Quiet Place to Study

This sound clip was recorded in York College’s library, as part of our first class group assignment, which asked us to do a sound-scape as would be done used when creating sound maps. As a group of two we each took turns choosing a location on campus to closely listen to the environment without causing interruptions. At each location one person listened with headphones through the microphone recording for 5 minutes, while the other listened naturally.

DR-100 MK II

                     DR-100 MK II


Before we went out however we choose the Tascam DR-100 MK II, which having never used before took us a while to figure out. After experimenting with the settings and controls along with the help of an online manual, we were able to set our recorder to what we needed. We set our input setting to stereo rather than mono which records in a limited space in the direction of the mic, while stereo would capture surround sound using more than one channel. We also set our bit rate to 256kbps, with a sample frequency rate of 44.1 kHz, and used the compressed mp3 format to record our sounds. Next we turned off the auto limiter, set the Mic Gain to high, along with raising the manual input gains for both left and right to the maximum 10, and we didn’t need any power for an external speaker. We used the OMNI input rather than XLR for an external mic, which allowed us to use the built in mics on the recorder, because we believed those mics gave us a better range to listen and record our sounds, than the dynamic SHURE SM58 mic which would limit the recorder to pick up sounds in front of it.


                  SHURE SM58


So I decided for my recording to use the library, since it’s supposed to be a quiet place where you go to do work, but you can clearly hear from the sound clip like I did that it was certainly not the case. At the time that we went to the library, it was surprisingly busier than I thought as classes are scheduled at that time. Using the headphones, I heard everything amplified, but I still managed to have a sense of which direction the sounds were coming from. What I managed to hear in the library, at times really felt like I was eavesdropping. I could foot steps as persons walked back and forth, conversations in front and to the left of me, in range and word for word. I could hear the pages of books being turned, mouse clicks, keyboard taps, and mainly the continuous humming sound in the library which I believe came from the vents in the ceiling.

The other location my partner Marissa chose was York’s in house fake Star Bucks. She was the one listening with the mics and headphones, while I listened naturally to the surroundings. Here I managed to hear more collectively, conversations, machines being operated, the sloshing of a mop, mop buckets rolling by and the creaking of stools on a wood panel floor.

Between listening with headphones and naturally, I would say listening naturally I heard everything more collectively, where as with the headphones and mics it felt like I could  distinguish the different sounds easier or more separately. At the Starbucks I felt like I had to concentrate on what I was hearing more, while in the library with headphones I heard everything still, but it felt like I was listening to multiple tracks being played at once rather than listening to one combined track of multiple mixed tracks.

Using our ears to map the space

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Chiu Longina

In our first class we spoke a bit about how we orient ourselves to a large extent by listening to our surroundings. The is a lot we can understand about a space by listening to its acoustics – which is the study of sound wave behavior in an environment. We can easily tell the difference between indoor and outdoor spaces as well as the potential size of the space based on how sound reflects and refracts. We also can tell surfaces that might be in a space might be hard or soft depending on the quietness/loudness of the space.

We also can get a sense of direction from which sound is coming based on listening to the space. Our ears take in sound wave information around us and we are able to perceive these things naturally as part of a normal process of growth and awareness.

But a microphone listening to a space and recording an environment does not necessarily do as good a job of reproducing what we perceive with our ears. Microphones are designed in a variety of forms to capture environments in different ways. Some microphones listen to only what is directly infront of it, others listen equally well from all sides including the bottom. Some microphones can even listen to the left and the right but deemphasize the middle.

So you can imagine that this is very different than how we hear sound with our ears. The microphone is an instrument with a particular purpose and we need to get accustomed to how it ‘listens.’ This is why we spoke of the need to always listen to the microphone through headphones as well as develop a close listening skills.

For today’s class you are going to work in pairs. You are going to set out into the building with the goal of ‘sound mapping’ a unique location in the building that you can get access too. You are then going to record five minutes of that space while you stand perfectly still and listen to it. DO NOT DO ANYTHING IN THE SPACE, THINGS MAY HAPPEN AROUND YOU BUT DO NOT INSTIGATE ANY ACTIONS ONLY LISTEN!

As a pair each of you will pick a location and record five minutes. During the recording the person who has chosen the location will wear headphones, hold the microphone, and operate the recorder. Both people will take notes about what they hear, one will have the perspective through the microphone, the other will be based on listening naturally.

There will be a certain amount of missteps as you try to figure out the recorders and microphones for the first time, but that is expected. Just do your best and document your process.

You will need to then upload your five minute recording to If you do not have an account, please create one. You will then embed your audio file in a blog post. Be sure to follow the good blogging instructions for your post. Also categorize and tag your post accordingly.