March was kind of a banner month for us wasn’t it?! There was a lot of enthusiasm about exploring the intersection of sound design and music. So please check out all of the excellent contributions from the community, and leave a comment to thank those people who donated their time to the subject.
Like I said, an amazing response from the community. Thanks to everyone who contributed! Remember to contact us if you have something you’d like to share with the community. Tomorrow beings an exploration of DSP environments. While some other sites will be having their “April Fool’s” fun, we’ll be staying out of the shenanigans. Thanks for a great March!
Scanner, aka Robin Rimbaud, is a British artist, composer and sound designer whose works include film scores, installation sound, product sound design and of course, electronic music. Just last month he presented the Keynote address at the 49th AES Audio for Games Conference. As thoughtful as he is thought-provoking, I sat down with him in his East London studio to chat about the intersection of sound design and music. Here are selected excerpts from that conversation.
Is there a difference between music and sound design?
I don’t ever delineate between the two. For me, they have the same goal which is to tell a story in sound…
In fact I wrote a musical in 2007, for which I wrote a lot of “traditional” music, but then I wrote all these other incidental parts where every now and again there were notes playing through it. So was that music, or was that sound design? I got into this really big debate (with the producer) because essentially with publishing, you have to pay on performance rights. So the less they have to pay, quite clearly, the better it is for the producer of the theatre – and they said “no, that’s not music.”
So I went back to them and said ‘What about Luc Ferrari and Bernard Parmegiani and the whole history of music concrete? Pierre Schaeffer and all those characters? Are you saying when Pierre Henry made a record of a creaking door, that wasn’t music? Where are the limits to these kind of discussions?
They just completely ignored it and said “that’s not music.”
Skip Lievsay needs almost no introduction: He is one of the most distinguished and prolific sound editors in the movie business. His many collaborations with The Coen Brothers, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee and Jonathan Demme, to name just a few, are often considered classics. Lievsay has been nominated for four Academy Awards, two for No Country for Old Men and two for True Grit. He is a New Yorker but has been working in Los Angeles for several years. Recently, he moved back to NYC and talked with Designing Sound at a new Warner-sponsored sound facility on Manhattan.
DS: Skip, thanks for taking time out to do this.
SL: My pleasure.
DS: The theme should be: Music and sound design. And I wanted to start out by asking you about your background. Are you a musician yourself or do you have a musical background?
SL: I started playing in rock bands when I was around 10. And that carried through high school pretty much. And I have some instruments that I play every other day. I started out with the guitar. And in my band they already had a guitar player, so I switched to bass. And like all great sound people I still play bass. I couldn’t say I’m a musician. I’d say I’m a dabbler more than anything. It’s entertaining and I enjoy it, but I don’t… To say I was a musician would defraud people like Terence Blanchard and Miles Davis.
Guest Contribution by Carlos Alberto Manrique Clavijo
“The vocation of the sound film is to redeem us
from the chaos of shapeless noise by accepting it
as expression, as significance, as meaning. . . .”[0A]
“(…) When does sound become music?
Above all, in the supreme states of pleasure and displeasure
experienced by the will, as a will which rejoices
or a will which is frightened to death,
in short in the intoxication of feeling: in the shout.”[0B]
As sound designers, we are always driven by passion and curiosity to try to understand that gentle monster that is the sonic language in the audio-visual world it inhabits. We constantly invoke its power to express emotion and to create significance and meaning. Yet, it’s mechanisms aren’t fully understood. And both film industry practitioners and audiences, have historically had the tendency to group it as a single entity with a different creature: music. But beyond the simple understanding that both art-forms stimulate and play with our auditory perception, asking ourselves about all the possible points of contact between both expressive languages may lead us to discover rich common-grounds to nurture our creative processes as ‘aural story-tellers.'
As they did during the Game Audio AES conference in London recently, Anton Woldhek and Damian Kastbauer are producing daily podcasts from GDC. You can find them over at the Game Audio Podcast website.