The Wizards of Neranwood

The unpredictable magic and curse of field recording

Note to reader - you’re invited to experience the above video first as you join me on this exploration for sound…

A journey out into the field is usually accompanied by an optimistic energy that you will achieve everything you set out to achieve and possibly more (which is why you pack so much gear into the car). Often this optimism is met with success. And sometimes you are left scratching your head, wondering if you got anything useful at all.

My field recording trip started at Hinze Dam which is the main supply of the Gold Coast’s water. The Eastern Boat Ramp is a beautiful and quiet spot, framed by dead skeletons of trees that line the shallow parts of the dam.

It was here that I realised how windy it was today. I could hear the air distorting my Tascam mics (even with windsocks). Once I found a good spot out of the wind and pressed record, a plane flew overhead. But I like how you can hear both the insects in the distance and the insects right up close.


From the dam, I made my way to Neranwood (where I recorded Red Gold) and found my way to the walking track into Springbrook National Park. I was seeking some sounds of the bush that did not feature the river. From what I had read, this track was one of the more direct ways up Springbrook Mountain which is just over 3,110 ft (948m) high, not that I intended to walk that far.

I figured I could get away from civilization fairly efficiently. How wrong I was!

Well, this track was steep indeed. I really should have packed my boots for better ankle support to navigate the loose rocks. As I climbed I noticed the sound of a generator coming from the road below. I definitely did not want this sound in any recordings, so I kept climbing until I could no longer hear it. 

I saw one more ridge I wanted to get to that had a bit of protection from the wind and also a nice lookout, but as I approached I saw a bobcat on the track doing repairs.

I had not heard it at all.

But this is the weakness of being deaf in one ear.

I usually have to turn my head regularly in order to hear stereo. So when I am walking in one direction for a long time, I tend to get mono focused on the left side.

I turned back around and chose a spot about halfway between the generator and the bobcat and set up a U87 condenser mic (a nice clone of the classic U87 made by Australian company OPR) along with my Tascam stereo mics. I wanted to hear the difference between the two styles of condenser mics so as to make some informed technical decisions for future adventures.

But here is where I start scratching my head. My U87 mic sounds heavily distorted.

The U87 needs to be powered by 48v sent from the Tascam. This is called Phantom Power. The Tascam has struggled in the past with 48v but even with my usual troubleshooting, I could not not get the mic to record cleanly. So I settled on just the Tascam mics….and then a plane flew over.


I spared you the sound of the plane in this excerpt, but what you can hear is a group of youths echoing out from down the hill. When I got back to my car I realized they were calling out from under the bridge which is why it sounded so reverbed and delayed in the recording (these kids were dressed as wizards, I’m not joking).

I decided I needed to get away from all the bobcats, generators and wizards of Neranwood and look for more enclosed and intimate bushland that was also out of the wind.

So I doubled back around and headed for Austinville, where the subtropical rainforest is arguably the Gold Coast’s most lush. I drove downhill, made a hard turn right and headed deep into the forest, all the way past the Mudgeeraba Creek rock pools and all the way to the end of the road. 

Out here, the mix of Eucalyptus, Casuarina and Palm trees is intoxicating. The creek is magical.

I turned the engine off and got out of the car and heard someone running heavy machinery on a property nearby!

This was not part of the plan Stan. 

You could hear a low rumbling hum through the forest. Even out here I could not get away from man-made sounds. 

I turned around and stopped at a spot further back to record the intensely loud cicadas by the side of the road.


As I drive further I notice that the cicada colonies are louder about every 100 meters, so I find a quieter spot and record a little of the creek, bush and cicadas.


This is the field recording I used in the video. I threw it together with the beginnings of a track I am working on.

What do you think?

Disclaimer: Mudgeeraba Creek is technically not part of the Nerang River water catchment, although they are so close they would be neighbours… siblings even.

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This project is supported through HOTA’s Artkeeper proejct is an exploration of the Nerang River (Ngarang-wal) through sound and song.