Glass Beach, about 150 miles outside San Francisco, CA, is all that’s left of a former garbage dump. For decades, the townspeople brought their household and industrial trash to the sea, dumping into towering piles rising above the surf. We spoke to a lifelong resident, who told us the heaps grew to over 30 feet high, before “The Dumps” were finally shut down in 1967. After numerous clean-up efforts, all of the refuse was removed, save for the tons of broken glass shards that were too small and far to plentiful to remove. It can now be found in MacKerricher State Park, running along the beach, by an old abandoned saw mill complex.
Once a ecological disaster and obvious hazard, the beach is now a remarkable example of natures resilience when we clean up our mess a bit and try to leave things alone. Over the years, the crashing waves and abrasive sand has worn all of those millions of glass fragments into perfectly smooth translucent glass pebbles and beads in every color of the rainbow – but mostly clear, brown or green. Yay beer!
From a sonic perspective, the millions of glass beads shifting and tumbling in the gentle surf create a remarkable effect. The sound is not unlike that of ice chips or slush on the shore of a thawing lake, but on a grander scale. The distant mournful wails of fog horns and sea birds casts an eerily serene hue over the sound-scape and the cliffs suppress most of the encroaching highway and city noise. As a whole-body sensory experience, it was well worth the long trip.
We captured several ocean surf and tide pool ambiances, as well as gentle waterfalls trickling through narrow caves and gullies running down toward the beach from the cliffs above. There’s also useful foley included, with footsteps that can be cut and re-purposed for sand, gravel and even gritty snow in a pinch. We also created a wide variety of tiny percussive elements, using some of the sea glass that migrated to other nearby beaches. Lastly, we used various sound-design tricks to morph the sounds from our journey into tonal and dissonant pads, synth-tones, ambient dreamscapes and disturbing hellscapes.
Deep Sampled Articulations:
Gentle beach and tidepool soundscapes.
Sea Glass Pebble strikes, bounces, scrapes, shakes, pours and slides.
Ambient sea cave stream sounds.
Walk besides our trusty sidekick, Doc. Includes boot and dog footsteps foley.
A unique collection of tuned synth lead and pad-style textures, including the “Stretched Glass Organ” and “Glass Piano”.
Drones, special FX, swelling stingers and other unusual creations