The couple traveling in a world of sounds

(CNN) — Seven years ago, American Libby Green traveled with her mother to Italy and France, ending their trip with a visit to the southern Mediterranean resort town of Nice before returning to the United States.

Meanwhile, German-born Marcel Gnauk and a friend were also in Nice to attend the Crossover Festival, a celebration of eclectic music.

Walking down the seaside Promenade des Anglais, Marcel spotted Libby brandishing a Hasselblad, a traditional medium format camera, and couldn’t resist approaching her.

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

The couple discussed the camera and travel, and he invited her to go to the music festival that night. The next day, Libby returned to the United States, but they stayed in touch.

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

“That’s when I think we knew, okay, this is something special, something serious,” Libby said.

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

Libby & Marcel

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 through California.

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

So, Marcel returned to Switzerland, Libby stayed in Los Angeles, working another five months to save money.

They bought a motorhome, and in January 2015 Marcel met Libby at Zurich airport.

“Within a year, we had quit our jobs and basically sold everything we owned,” says Libby. They then spent four months traveling through Europe. A motorhome trip to Japan followed, followed by time in Bali, Taiwan, Cambodia and Malaysia.

Over the years, their passion grew, not just for each other, but for a world of sound, recorded with their high-end microphones and shared on their social media.

The couple turned a practical sound recording problem for a travel video they were making in Cambodia into a full-time business that supports their life as digital nomads. But it took time before they discovered their vocation.

“Everything came alive”

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

Libby is adept at using a camera. But they struggled to find a goal.

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

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

Then, in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, Libby filmed pigeons in flight that she wanted to use in a film. But she couldn’t catch the sound of their flapping wings.

They searched the internet, looking for sound libraries, but found nothing suitable. So Marcel grabbed a $100 audio recorder and went looking for the missing sound to record.

He didn’t find any pigeons, but he managed 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 inexpensive headphones.

He was impressed not only by the sounds of construction, but there were monks chanting and motorbikes honking past behind.

“It was as if the sound was falling into my head from all sides,” says Marcel. “Everything came alive, and from that day until now, I never stopped recording.”

A passion for sound

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

They developed a more sophisticated recording setup to encompass stereo, Ambisonics and binaural techniques, but still compact enough to fit their traveling lifestyle.

This has meant investing in high-end microphones and recorders to satisfy their continued passion for sharing authentic soundscapes from every location.

“We document the world through sound,” says Libby. “We also try to inspire others to look at sounds in a different way.”

It can be an expensive hobby. Typically, high fidelity recording equipment costs thousands of dollars for individual microphones and audio recorders. For example, one of their stereo recording kits featuring German-made microphones costs around $8,000.

But for Libby and Marcel, it’s not just a question of equipment. Their goal is to truly experience a place through sound.

For example, they took two days to visit Iceland’s famous black sand beach at Solheimasandur. They made the two-hour round-trip hike carrying their gear, spending up to 10 hours a day recording in wind and hail.

A favorite memory has been recorded around the iconic wreckage of a US Navy Douglas plane that crash-landed on the beach in 1973.

“It was just amazing, how it sounds, how the metal cracks in the wind,” says Marcel.

In 2020, the couple took their mobile recording studio to the Icelandic coast.

In 2020, the couple took their mobile recording studio to the Icelandic coast.

Libby & Marcel

Two hundred meters from the abandoned plane, waves crashed on the black sand beach.

“The terror of water. It’s something you have to live with,” adds Marcel. “If you just go over there and take a picture and then leave, you miss so much.”

Free sounds to use

Libby and Marcel share these experiences via Instagram (@freetousesounds) and their YouTube channel (Free To Use Sounds – Traveling for Sounds). Through their publications, they not only offer their passion and experiences in sound recording, 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 takes care of most of the recording and sound editing, as well as publications on social networks.

Through their website, they offer 145 royalty-free sound libraries with over 140,000 free downloads of sound effects and ambient sounds to support creators.

Additionally, they offer a range of premium sound libraries for purchase aimed at commercial users such as post-production, gaming, and sound design creatives.

A passion becomes a profession

Marcel says their “a-ha” moment came while he was sitting at a computer in 2017.

Libby had added a donate button to her website and a Hollywood post-production creator had donated a few dollars.

“I’m like, ‘Oh! We just won three dollars! recalls Marcel about their first donation.

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

“We wanted to be an affordable source for all types of people to download the sounds,” says Libby.

Since that start, Libby and Marcel have developed a suite of premium sound libraries for purchase as well as free downloadable sounds.

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

“It doesn’t feel like work because we just love what we do,” says Marcel.

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

The challenges of a nomadic life

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

“When you have a home base, you have a more concrete routine,” says Libby. “For us, it always changes, so sometimes it takes more effort, more money.”

Marcel in Hong Kong, in 2020.

Marcel in Hong Kong, in 2020.

Libby & Marcel

“And we have so many backlogs,” adds Marcel, referring to their unedited recordings. “It’s more exciting to record, to be in the present than to sit with studio headphones.”

But the couple prefers to work alone, without outside help.

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

Where to go next

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

“I think going to Antarctica to record sounds would be a dream. ‘Whoosh, a glacier is breaking away,'” Marcel smiles.

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

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

About Juana Jackson

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