couple traveling in the world of sounds

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(CNN) – Seven years ago, American Libby Greene was traveling with her mother in Italy and France, ending her trip with a trip to the southern French Mediterranean resort town of Nice, before returning to America.

Meanwhile, German-born Marcel Gnouk and a friend were also in Nice, attending the Crossover Festival, a festival of eclectic music.

While walking the city’s beachfront Promenade des Anglais, Marcel saw Libby wielding a traditional medium-format film camera, the Hasselblad, and could not resist approaching her.

“I love old cameras, Hasselblad, it’s amazing,” he remembers telling her.

The pair talked about cameras and travel, and he invited her to go to the concert that evening. The next day, Libby flew back to America, but they kept in touch.

Less than a month later Libby traveled to Italy, and she and Marcel, who was working in Switzerland, reunited.

“When I think we knew, well, this is something special, something serious,” Libby says.

In 2022, Libby and Marcel recorded voices in Bangkok’s historic train station.

Libby and Marcella

Marcel then visited Libby in Los Angeles, where she was working in the film industry after studying cinematography, and they traveled together for a few weeks around California.

By that time they knew that they wanted to be together and travel the world.

So, Marcel returned to Switzerland, Libby stayed in LA, to save money, and worked for five months.

He bought a campervan, and in January 2015 Marcel met Libby at Zurich airport.

“In less than a year we had quit our jobs, and basically sold what we had,” Libby says. Then he spent four months traveling Europe. A campervan trip to Japan followed, then to Bali, Taiwan, Cambodia and Malaysia.

Over the years their passion has since grown, not only for each other, but for the world of sounds, recorded with their high-end microphones, and shared on their social media.

The couple turned a practical issue of recording sound for a travel video in Cambodia into a full-time business that sustains their digital nomadic life. But it took some time for him to discover his calling.

‘Everything came alive’

In the early years of their relationship, sharing their travel experiences online became a part of their daily routine.

Libby is proficient in using the camera. But they struggled to find a focus.

“Libby and Marcel were trying to be food bloggers,” recalls Libby.

“It was a disaster,” Marcel says. “But it was a good learning experience,” notes Libby.

Then, in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, Libby filmed some pigeons in flight, which she wanted to use in a movie. But she could not catch the sound of the beating of their wings.

They looked on the Internet, searched sound libraries, but did not find anything suitable. So, Marcel took a $100 audio recorder, and went in search of the missing sound to record.

He didn’t find any doves – but he did manage to change the direction of the couple’s future.

Marcel turned on the recorder in a small construction area where women were shoveling gravel, listening through a cheap set of headphones.

He was astonished not only by the sound of construction, but there were monks chanting, and motorcycles passed behind, banging their horns.

“It was like voices coming through my head from all sides,” says Marcel. “Everything came alive, and from that day until now I’ve never stopped recording.”

a passion for sound

In the six years since that first recording, Libby and Marcel have captured audio in more than 25 countries, mostly in Asia, Europe and North America, spending months at a time in each country.

They’ve developed a more sophisticated recording setup to incorporate stereo, ambisonic and binaural techniques – but still compact enough to fit into their travel lifestyle.

That means investing in high-end microphones and recorders to satisfy your ongoing passion for sharing authentic sounds from every location.

“We’re documenting the world through sounds,” Libby says. “We’re also trying to be a source of inspiration for others to look at sounds in a different way.”

It can be an expensive obsession. Typically, high fidelity recording equipment spans thousands of dollars for separate microphones and audio recorders. For example, one of their stereo recording kits that includes a German-made microphone costs around $8,000.

But for Libby and Marcel it’s not just about the equipment. Their purpose is to actually experience a place through sound.

For example, it took them two days to travel to Solheimasandur, the now famous black sand beach in Iceland. He hiked there for two hours and went back with his equipment, spending 10 hours each day recording wind and hail.

A favorite memory was recording around the iconic wreck of the US Navy’s Douglas plane that landed on the beach in 1973.

“It was amazing, how it feels, how the metal is breaking in the air,” says Marcel.

In 2020, the couple moved their mobile recording studio to the coast of Iceland.

In 2020, the couple moved their mobile recording studio to the coast of Iceland.

Libby and Marcella

Two hundred meters from the abandoned plane, the waves crashed onto a beach of black sand.

“The terror of the water. It’s something you have to experience,” Marcel says. “If you just go out there and take a picture and then walk away, you’re missing out on a lot.”

free to use sound

Libby and Marcel share these experiences via Instagram (@freetousesounds) and his YouTube channel (Free to use Sonic – Journey to Sonic) Through their postings they provide not only their passion and experience in recording sounds, but also details of the equipment and techniques they use.
Libby shoots and edits their YouTube videos, and manages their website (www.freetousesounds.com) Marcel does most of the sound recording and editing, as well as social media posting.

Through their website they offer over 500 royalty-free sound libraries. Of these, 145 are free to download.

a passion becomes a business

Marcel says his “a-ha” moment came when he was sitting in front of a computer in 2017.

Libby had added a donate button to her website, and a Hollywood post-production creative donated a few bucks.

“I’m like, ‘Oh! We just made three dollars! Remembers Marcel of his first donation.

It was then that they realized that others had a passion for sound – and they were willing to pay for it.

“We wanted to be a source that was affordable for all kinds of people to download sounds,” Libby says.

Since this beginning Libby and Marcel have developed a suite of premium sound libraries for purchase as well as for downloading sound.

And they’re still excited to travel to new places and record new sounds.

“It doesn’t feel like work because we’re loving what we’re doing,” Marcel says.

“I know we’re going to still be traveling, still recording sound in five years,” Libby says.

challenges of nomadic life

As for the drawbacks of the nomadic lifestyle? Libby and Marcel have no home base and are traveling constantly. They have fought through tough times, almost running out of money.

“When you have a home base you have more of a solid routine,” Libby says. “For us it’s always changing, so sometimes it takes more effort, more money.”

Marseille in Hong Kong in 2020.

Marseille in Hong Kong in 2020.

Libby and Marcella

“And we have such a backlog of sounds,” Marcel says, referring to his unedited recordings. “Recording is more exciting to be in the present, than to sit back with studio headphones.”

But the couple prefers to work on their own, without outside help.

“We don’t have anyone other than us, it’s just the two of us,” Libby says. “Maybe it’s trust issues, but for us, we know what we can do”.

where to next

Libby and Marcel recently left South Korea to continue their trip to Malaysia. His next big plan is to travel the Pan American Highway from Alaska to Ushuaia towards the southern tip of South America.

“I think it would be a dream to go to Antarctica to record sound. ‘Whoosh, a glacier breaks up,'” says a smiling Marcel.

But whether it’s a transcontinental road trip, or the frozen waste of Earth’s southernmost continent, Libby and Marcel’s passion for each other and the sounds they record will stay with them forever.

And, as Marcel says, “it takes us 45 minutes to pack our bags and get to the next airport.”

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