After more than 35 years of field recording, during which he hasbuilt the largest private library of animal sounds, Bernie Krause hasyet to find a microphone to surpass Sennheiser’s MKH series in soundquality and performance. Krause can also attest to the ruggedness ofSennheiser microphones, having not only used them in environments ofextreme temperature and humidity, but also having witnessed his set-upssurvive being mauled by both a jaguar and a black bear–and he has therecordings to prove it.
“I’ve recorded in Alaska and the Antarctic when it’s been 50 or 60below, I’ve recorded in temperatures hovering around 120 degrees,” saysKrause, who owns three M-S (mid-side) pairs of Sennheiser MKH 30 andMKH 40 microphones. “The advantage of working with that kind of micsystem, in humid conditions and tropical rainforests, and in desertswhere it’s very dry, is having the reassurance that you’re going to getmost of what you’re there for.”
Krause and his Wild Sanctuary sound and media design company haveamassed an immense library of animal and habitat recordings. “We haveabout 3,500 hours of material from every representative habitat on theplanet (terrestrial and marine) and about 15,000 creatures. We’reactively looking for a sponsor to fund the transfer of this library toan academic institution,” he says.
On Wild Sanctuary’s Amazon Days, Amazon Nights CD release,listeners can get up-close and personal with a jaguar. “We could smellthis critter, which was leaving its scent marks along the trail, but wecouldn’t hear or see it because it was so dark that night,” recallsKrause. “My colleague went off to record and I set up my mics. I have a10-meter cable, so I was 30 feet away, and had just switched on myrecorder when I heard this growl at the microphone. I realized thejaguar had been following me and had just stepped up to the mic. I hadmy earphones on so it sounded like it was right at my head. It was alife-affirming moment, as they say!”
Krause, who replaced Pete Seeger in the world-renowned folk group,The Weavers, in the early 60s, is also credited, together with hiscreative partner, Paul Beaver, with introducing the synthesizer topopular and film music at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Thefollowing year, Beaver and Krause began recording their debut album,In a Wild Sanctuary, reportedly the first album to ever usenatural sound, which Krause recorded around the Bay Area and the SanFrancisco Zoo, as an orchestral component.
Initially adopting the X/Y mic configuration for his recordings,Krause recalls that he read an article about Sennheiser and M-Srecording in the mid-80s. The M-S configuration pairs a cardioid mic(the MKH 40) to record the mid component with a coincident figure-8 mic(the MKH 30) picking up the side signal. Using an M-S matrix, theapparent width of the stereo image may be controlled during recordingor post-production and a very robust stereo mix is the result.
“I tried it and my life was changed,” he states. “In almost allcases, the M-S system was by far the most compatible and flexible forour work, so we stuck with it.”
On occasion, Krause admits, he’s allowed his Sennheiser microphonesto get wet. “More often than not, they didn’t fail. But, when they did,it took less than half-an-hour to become operational again. I beat themics up all the time. I don’t keep them in boxes and I don’t keep themcarefully protected as we’ve had to do with other systems. They’re justso rugged, and they typically just keep on working.”
His mics have also survived close encounters with a bear, hereports. “We were recording for the National Park Service in SequoiaNational Park. We had set up three Sennheiser systems at differentsites. At one of these locations a colleague had just moved away fromhis rig when a black bear came up to the mic and completely engulfedthe zeppelin [wind shield] with its mouth. I have the only stereosurround recording of what it’s like to be inside a bear’s mouth.”
For anyone seeking more information on Krause’s field recordingtechniques, his new book/CD, Wild Soundscapes: Discovering the Voiceof the Natural World (Wilderness Press) includes a chapter ontechnology that is largely devoted to Sennheiser equipment. Morecontact information can be found on the Wild Sanctuary Website: www.wildsanctuary.com. For more information onSennheiser’s products, go to their Website at www.sennheiserusa.com.