Smiths Lake nature sound conference report

The AWSRG’s 2019 conference has just been held on the shores of beautiful Smiths Lake on the NSW coast. Thirty of us gathered for the week, and whilst nature was the common bond, as a group we represented considerable diversity; experienced recordists to beginners, science researchers to artists, newcomers to some of those original members who began the group in the 1980s.

L-R: Janeene Willis, Arwen Ximenes, Marg Eller, Sue Boardman, James Harris, Michael Hannan, Bruce Robertson, Leah Barclay, Jurian Hoogewerff, Nicole Carol, Elena Gorgeva, Tim Duck, Virginia Hillyard, David Secombe, Sue Gould, Sophie Hoogewerff, Melinda Barrie, Rob Garbutt, Doug Quin, Rod Thorn, David Stewart, Michelle Scully, Graeme Chapman, Mike Fitzgerald, Andrew Skeoch & Jeff Eller (absent: Sharon Nott, Diana Hodge, Neil Boucher & Clem Fitzgerald)

Our keynote guest was Douglas Quin, who’s extensive experience, wide knowledge and generosity made his contributions a highlight for many of us. Beginning and ending with a meditative soundwalk, our program was a mix of field sessions, talks, performances, listening sessions and practical skills (Rod Thorn and Doug ran an enthusiastically attended session making contact mics).

Our week was also bookended by extraordinary wildlife encounters. Local ecologist Mick Roderick arrived with great excitement on Monday to say that he’d found a flock of critically endangered Regent Honeyeaters nearby, the largest group encountered for some time. Later, Leah Barclay ran a hydrophone lab which morphed spontaneously into an oceanic trip on the Friday, during which we were fortunate to be able to record whale song and dolphins.

Blessed with good weather, and with the local flowering mahogany trees attracting a noisy mob of friarbirds, lorikeets and honeyeaters, we had perfect conditions and subjects to be pursuing a variety of approaches to recording. While Andrew Skeoch and Sue Gould shared skills for soundscape work, Doug introduced Ambisonics and MS techniques, and David Stewart had a keen group with him trying their luck at species recording.

Among all this, it was the personal connections, contacts and new friendships that many attendees commented were the most valued aspect of our week together.

Morning field recording sessions, this one with Doug and Tim’s surround microphone rigs

Virginia setting up for soundscape recording

Master of the soldering iron – Rod assisting in making contact microphones

Sue giving a presentation on anthropogenic noise –
all the presentation sessions were audio recorded and will be posted here in due course

Deep conversations – David and Graeme discuss silvereye subspecies

Post processing of the morning’s recordings – Bruce, Elena and Sophie

Excellent food – thanks to Nils and Debbie, our fantastic caterers

Our resident thieving magpie

Leah supervising the hydrophone excursion during which we recorded distant whalesong

Doug with the elders of our tribe; David and Graeme

A quiet moment at the end of the workshop – Rob Garbutt at sunrise over Smiths Lake

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