Tag Archives: Bell Birds

Field Recording as a Respite from the News of the World


Road sign: high-brow artists contributing to Australia’s culture at the site of field recording

The temperature this weekend has been predicted to be the hottest on Australia’s record. Climate change is hard to ignore in a country that is experiencing hotter and longer summers, shorter winters, and catastrophic fire warnings for significant parts of the year.

The climate and other Unmentionables here and across the Pacific have created an uneasy beginning to 2017. We sit glued to a never-ending news cycle that has become overwhelming. It is as fascinating as it is shocking. A reprieve is needed …

… and so it was with a field recording trip to Tenterfield. I drove 2-hours west to hear one of my favourite natural sounds: the bell bird. Found in pockets of sclerophyll forest the bell bird’s measured 2-note chime provides a welcome reprieve from our daily routines and concerns.

It was 8:30 in the morning and the temperature was already 29°C when the first of the bell birds made themselves heard. There by the side of the road their call created the tranquility that I had been looking for. The act of listening provided a sense of peace and spatial awareness. Other concerns were stilled as the mind focussed on the auditory properties of the recording site.

2-hours later the temperature had risen to 41°C. I wondered about the effects of the heat on the local ecosystem. Would the forest be silenced over time?

Sounds from the Forest: Bellbirds – 1’31”

On a small stretch of road the sound of bellbirds echoes throughout the forest. The gentle call of the bellbird disguises its territorial personality. Bellbirds drive-away other birds from their nesting area, resulting in population increases in insects. This is causing dieback in some forests. It is difficult to connect these facts with the bellbird’s ethereal sound.

R. Murray Schafer describes the call of the bellbird as a persistent bell-like ring always sounding at approximately the same pitch (E-F-F#), which gives rise to a soundscape as dense as that created by cicadas, but different in that it maintains a certain spatial perspective; for the bird sounds issue from recognisable points, unlike the stridulations of the cicada, which create a continual presence, seemingly without foreground or background.

Border Loop Soundscape – 4’53”

The Border Loop is a section of the Border Ranges National Park connecting the states of NSW and Qld. A 64 km drive takes you along the rim of an extinct and heavily eroded volcano. This soundscape uses the local Bell Birds as the base layer to the track. Sounds of forest birds, frogs and mountain streams add to the soundscape, occasionally punctuated by short bursts of wind in the trees. Contrasting the natural sounds is the ominous rumble of a car as it drives along the unsealed road.