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This library is a crossover between an ambience library and a polyrhythmic pattern library!

Selected from over 14 hours of multitrack recordings, made over a period of two rainy days in the porch at the rear of my house, where the clearlight roof has some holes… By strategically placing inverted metal trashcans, the leaking drips perform very interesting rhythms – like a metal drum kit played by raindrops!

This idea is not unprecedented. If you remember AMB018 STRANGE RAIN captured multitrack textures of rain, by placing microphones inside objects such as metal bowls, pipes, waterphones, gas tanks etc… In that example, light rain created a continuous texture or ambience. For this library, the objects were chosen for deeper percussive impact, as you can see and hear in the video.

The stereo recordings via MKH8040 pair are useful for characterful ambiences, with rain on the roof as well as drips falling randomly onto many metal props (gas tanks, buckets, milk cans etc). But it is the discrete MKH8050 and MKH8020 mics inside the trash cans that capture the isolated rhythms of individual rain drops, which when combined create almost hypnotic drifting rhythms…

The library is presented chronologically, with 12 x 5 minute selections from my first recordings with a MKH8040 pair capturing general ambience and MKH8050 inside a single trashcan pounding out a beat. Then followed by 17 x 5 minute selections captured with three trashcan mics over the course of an entire day of recordings.

The filename of each 5 minute multitrack selection includes the starting and ending tempo in BPM, to help indicate the intensity and the shift in speeds. From an insistent pounding beat, through cross-rhythms that slowly cycle in and out of time, to almost granularly loose rhythms…

RECORDING 01 – 28th December 2021: 12pm – 3pm

RECORDING 02 – 5th February 2022: 5am – 8am

RECORDING 03 – 5th February 2022: 8am – 5pm

I did not find the idea for RAIN RHYTHMS, it found me!

I discovered the idea for this library during the Xmas holidays, December 28th to be exact. We had an unexpected Summer rainstorm sweep through, causing flooding and damage. But it also, by accident created an interesting sound. From my studio, I could hear this steady pounding drum beat. Were my neighbors having a party?? I went to investigate…

Turned out I had left a trashcan upside down in the porch, and by pure coincidence, it was directly underneath a crack in the clearlight roof. Somehow this drip was very steady, so I grabbed my recorder and put an MKH8050 inside the inverted trashcan, and also set up my MKH8040 pair to capture the general ambience.

Listening on headphones while recording, it really struck me how musical these sounds were. The steady pounding pulse from inside the trashcan provided a rhythmic reference, making the drips falling onto other junk and props feel like granular percussion. So I quickly set up all of the metal objects I had close at hand (bucket, milk can etc) and I left it recording.

After the rain ended, I loaded the 3.5 hours of raindrop recordings and listened to all of the variations. Immediately after a heavy shower passed the ambience would quieten down, but the pounding trashcan beat continued, presumably fed by the build-up of water on the roof. At this point I decided the idea was worth pursuing – I loved the bassy sound from inside of the trashcan.

A few comments on the drums. When I think of an old school trashcan, they tend to be very solid, but the one I had was a cheap import, made from fairly lightweight steel. I first bought it to capture IR sweeps inside, for the Metal IR Library. And it was the light gauge of the skin (base) of the trashcan that provided the initial resonance, as it was thin enough to act like a drum skin.

But I discovered another useful aspect of this particular trashcan: it had a small lip or ridge around the outside, maybe 5mm high. Listening to some of the long takes, I noticed that the pitch of the trashcan would change over 30 minutes. As the water slowly pooled on its surface, the pitch would become deeper!

Next step: I wanted polyphony! I needed more trashcans! 
I headed off to the hardware store and after returning home spent the next hour arranging the three trashcans, and many more metal props. My metal drumkit and percussion ensemble were ready to play! Now I just needed some rain.

I waited. And waited.

January passed with no rain. I was hand watering my vegetable garden every day. Six weeks later the weather forecast predicted major rain!

HEAVY RAIN warning for Kāpiti-Horowhenua, Wellington 11:00 pm Friday 4/02 -11pm Saturday. Heavy rain may cause streams and rivers to rise rapidly, surface flood and slips also possible. Driving may be hazardous.

My batteries were charged, and at 5am I woke to the sound of rain, and quickly set up to record. This time I used three seperate trashcan mics MKH8020/8050/8020, plus the external stereo MKH8040 pair. I set my SD788T recorder rolling, had a quick listen and went back to bed. Every two hours I would swap batteries, and I recorded throughout the day, until the rain cleared that evening.

From session two I recorded a total of 11.5 hours of multitrack raindrops!

At the time, the rhythmic interplay sounded wild on headphones, but listening in the studio the next day these raindrop beats seemed even more interesting. The three thuddy resonant trashcans were consistent and have a correlation in intensity, but musically their rhythms are decoupled. At times they lock into beautiful patterns, but it may only last for a few bars before nature and gravity gently alters the pulse.

During very heavy showers the ‘dot would become a line’ as the raindrops would be so heavy that the pulse became a rumble. But after a heavy shower passed and everything settled down, the metal percussion started to sound like a mix of free jazz and gamelan.

These recordings are also a polyrhythmic pattern library.
I have been playing around with using the asymmetrical patterns to trigger other sounds (via slice to MIDI, and via real time triggering) and I think there is much potential to use these patterns to generate ambient elements. As a simple example, imagine designing a night ambience where each of the trashcan pulses is triggering a cricket chirp. While you ‘could’ spend time placing single chirps, or use a randomised algorithm, the gently random distribution of pulses from the raindrop beats could provide a naturally generated pulse pattern, which would be difficult to manually generate, and unlikely to take this form programmatically.