Oceanscapes: the ultimate ocean sounds collection

April 29, 2020 | Surfing
Oceanscapes: the relaxing ocean sounds platform created by Martin Kawaler | Photo: Kawaler

Meet Martin Kawaler, an Australian musician who decided to start recording ocean sounds to help to cope with tinnitus pain.

The 35-year-old from St Kilda, an inner-city beachside suburb of the metropolitan area of Melbourne, runs a platform called Oceanscapes available at oceanscapesaudio.com.

Kawaler released several albums of these recordings on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon. They're free to listen and incredibly relaxing.

Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears when no corresponding external sound is present. It's a common symptom affecting around 17.5 percent of people.

Soothing ocean sounds are also often used as a therapy for people struggling with insomnia or suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

SurferToday had a surprising chat with Oceanscapes' Martin Kawaler.

Oceanscapes: Martin Kawaler captures ocean sounds in a variety of locations, including Bells Beach, Portsea, and the Great Ocean Road in Australia | Photo: Kawaler

What is your main occupation?

I am a musician, DJ & music producer. I play guitar, bass in several bands & work out of my home studio.

Why have you started recording ocean sounds?

I originally started to make these to help me sleep at night but found they are pretty calming even n just as background filler.

After playing in rock n' roll bands for most of my 20s, I started developing tinnitus, which is a hearing condition that might be caused by excessive exposure to loud noise.

This causes a constant ringing or buzzing sound in the ears and made it difficult for me to sleep at night.

As a result, I began looking into treatments around July 2018, and some of the science pointed towards natural white noise such as rain or ocean sounds as a way to filter out the ringing.

I've always loved being near the ocean, so it was a no-brainer.

Also, at the time, I was in between projects and had a lot of spare time, so I decided it could be a cool project to go out to different beaches, make some recordings and photograph the locations.

It was an excuse to get out of the house, explore and do some photography.

After a while, I started building up a lot of sounds and photos, and I needed to do something with it.

I also found that it was really helping me block out the ringing and chill out.

I figured if it were helping me, there would probably be a lot of other people out there, which might find it useful.

So, I began releasing albums on Spotify and Apple Music, and over the course of 6-7 months, I noticed that there were thousands of people accessing these recordings, which spurred me on to go out and make more.

That and its also just a fun excuse to go out for a drive and explore new places.

Oceanscapes: Martin Kawaler uses several field recording microphones and some tripods for the recordings | Photo: Kawaler

Where have you captured these sounds?

At this stage, I've released eight albums from a variety of locations, including Bells Beach, Portsea, and the Great Ocean Road in Australia, and last year I traveled to the Greek island of Milos to record an album.

How do you avoid urban noises and other unwanted sounds?

It can be really tricky to get clean recordings.

There are a lot of factors to consider, such as wind speed, location, swell, proximity to roads, and time of day.

There have been a lot of failed recordings that are blown out by heavy wind or distant car sounds.

It's also tricky as I have to avoid moving or creating any sounds while recording because the microphones are quite sensitive, so I've often found myself hunched over holding a microphone over a rock pool as waves come rolling in.

I did some recordings on the Amalfi Coast in Italy last year, which I had planned for an album, but the sound of car horns reverberating down the mountain made most of the recordings unusable.

It's a learning curve, but I think I'm getting better.

What type of equipment do you use to record those sounds?

I have several field recording microphones and some tripods that I use to get the initial recordings, and then I bring them into my music studio to process and clean up the sounds with Logic Pro X.

I use a Canon EOS 80D with an 18-135mm lens for all the photography.

I try and keep it simple and lightweight as I'm moving around a lot when capturing sounds and have to be willing to get wet and dirty.

Oceanscapes: between 2018 and 2020, the platform has had over 3 million streams worldwide | Photo: Kawaler

Do these soothing ocean sounds really help sleep better?

I guess it really depends on the person, but I've always found the sound of the ocean and waves crashing to have a really calming effect on me.

There's almost like a meditative quality to the rhythm of the ocean, which chills me out, especially since I'm using my ears all day producing music.

But since making these recordings, I've found that it's not only useful as a sleep aid, a lot of people use them when running yoga classes, for meditation or to drown out city sounds such as being on a crowded train or subway.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have immediate access to the ocean, and people who live in inner-city apartments are bombarded with so many sounds that it can be pretty relaxing to escape away to the Greek islands without leaving your apartment.

How long does a sound last before being looped?

Again this really depends.

I try to keep the sounds as authentic as possible, but sometimes I have to cut them short due to environmental noises.

I recently released an album called "Beach House," which was recorded on a balcony in the hills overlooking Wye River Beach surrounded by rain forest.

The album is a long continuous recording that has been broken down into shorter tracks, but it plays through seamlessly.

Oceanscapes: Martin Kawaler's ocean sounds have already been used in surf videos | Photo: Kawaler

Do you surf?

I don't actually surf myself, but I've always been into the culture.

As a teenager, I used to read Australian Surfing Life magazine and grew up watching legends like Mark Occhilupo, Layne Beachley, and Kelly Slater.

Funnily enough, I actually had my music used in a coastalwatch.com video with Kelly Slater at Shipstern Bluff, which was a real trip.

But I've always had an affinity with the ocean. I'm drawn to it, and I like to photograph it. It gives me a sense of calm.

What do you plan to do next?

I had planned on heading over to California in the summer to do some recordings, but due to the Covid-19 outbreak, all my travel plans have been put on hold.

I've still got plenty of recordings, though, so I'll just comb through those and release a few more albums this year.

I've been using the time to work on my existing photos and make more music.

Oceanscapes: soothing ocean sounds help people to cope with tinnitus | Photo: Kawaler

 Are there many people "buying" your "records"?

It's actually been pretty amazing.

I started in 2018 and, at this stage, Oceanscapes has had over 3 million streams worldwide with around 10,000 or so listeners, and it has been growing every day.

The majority is from the United States and Canada, but I've had listeners from 46 countries as varied as Morocco, Peru, and Sweden.

The cool thing is that nobody has actually to buy it.

It is accessible for free on streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music, which gives most people access.

And if you're traveling, you can just save the album to offline mode and have it with you wherever you go.

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