The house I live in is an older house. I have never gone to city hall to look up the exact age of my house, but it was estimated to be between 80 and 90 years old when I bought it 5 years ago. There are good and bad things that go along with old houses. The positives are that the neighbourhood is old too, so the trees are big and the area has developed its own unique personality. The downside is that it can be a lot of work to keep an old house in good shape. As the house ages it develops a personality too, and some of those signs of degeneration can actually be, well, maybe not enjoyed, but put to good use - if you are a sound recordist like me! I just recently became aware that I basically have access to an endless supply of creaks and other strange "old house" sounds.
If you read this blog with some regularity you may know that I am a big fan of The Sound Collector's Club (read this post, or listen to this podcast if you are unfamiliar with the SCC). One of the themes the club has is for Creaky Floors and for some reason it took me nearly a year to contribute to this collection. I finally got around to it and I was shocked at just how loud my old house is! I guess I have become so accustomed to these creaks that I have been just unconsciously filtering out these sounds. I just don't hear these great creaks and strains when I walk around the house in my normal daily life. I got some pretty amazing sounds simply walking around on the old hardwood floors throughout the house.
My house is on a side street but traffic is pretty steady during the day and evening, but after about 1 AM there's only rarely a car driving by. Around 2 AM I got out of bed and went down and unplugged the fridge and turned the thermostat way down so the furnace would stay off. Now that I had the house as quiet as I could get it I grabbed a shotgun microphone, pointed it at my feet from waist height and just walked slowly around the main floor of my house. Here is a section of what I got:
The floors are so loud! How is it even possible that I haven't gone crazy from this?
These types of sounds can have a couple of uses that I can see: as an added element to foley footsteps (or even production sound) to add a feel of age to the environment on screen or simply to add a heightened tension with each step a character takes. They are also clean enough to be used as SFX on their own. I can see/hear them in scenes with branches sagging from the weight of someone climbing a tree or old doors opening/closing or as elements in large wooden objects being moved.
All in all I am so glad I finally got around to recording the basic sounds of my own house. Sometimes the best sounds are right under your nose and so ubiquitous you just don't think about it. A "can't see the forrest for the trees" type situation for sure.
My full recordings from this session plus a cool recording of the wooden floating staircase in my house are now available as part of the Sound Collector's Club Creaky Floors collection. To get my recordings and a bunch more (the collection sits at 1.53 gig currently) become a member of the SCC and contribute your own sounds. This is a great collection that will be handy to have in the future.