Shoddy field recording; Chinese New Year, NYC 02/18/07

Chinese New Year Crowd

My wife and I decided to go to New York this past weekend to attend the Chinese New Year celebration. It was kind of a whim, It has her birthday this past saturday,we wanted to do somehing special and we figured it would be a good time. I also figured it would be cool to record some of the drumming played for the Lion Dance that is traditional on that day.

Of course, I forgot my MD recorder (*o*). Somehow in the bustle to get packed and on the road at a decent hour, I overlooked this important detail. I happened to pick up an old tape recorder with a built in condenser mic on the way out, but the thought of lugging it around NY all day, was not in the least appealing.

I realized though, that while I did not have an audio recording device, I did have a video recording device in the form of a digital camera, that also recorded audio. I knew this was not optimal and would be crap quality comparatively, but anyone who reads this blog knows crap sound quality is not something that bothers me. To be more precise, I find pretty much any sound interesting. Be it midi or a cassette getting eaten by a recorder, it’s all interesting to me.

The celebration was total chaos. The really fun kind. Tons of people came out, which is really rad, and there were interesting sounds all over.

Lion Dancers in Action

When we first approached, we saw a Lion Dance taking place, but were blocked by baracade’s from reaching it. I was worried that if it was always that crowded around them with all the baracades, I would not be able to get a good recording. Luckily there were a bunch of different troupes making their rounds, so we caught up with one that happened to be heading right into the center of the action, and I filmed it all the way in to the fireworks.

The fireworks were awesome sounding! They basically just set off a million black cats. You don’t really get the full effect on the recording of how immense the sound was.

Black Cats on a Wire

What I got sounds better than I thought it would, although it is pretty tinny. I wish I could find out more about the structure of the rhythm. They are definitely playing a repetitve theme that must have some significance. It looked as if the main drummer in each troupe was most likely the head of the school, which I thought was very cool. They played the core rhythm and it looked as if the rest of the instruments were passed out in order of importance, ending with the yougest scrappiest looking guys with the smaller quieter cymbals.

I’m excited to use this audio in some sort of composition, though I’m not sure what. I have been warming up recently to the use of rhythm to psychedelic effect. Which ever way, I always like the idea of incorporating field recordings into my music.

Lion Dance


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