Guest Contribution by Brendan Hogan
Making music from a single household item is hardly an original idea at this point, but if you’re a sound designer or an electronic musician and you haven’t taken a shot at it, I would highly recommend the exercise. I’m a huge fan of limitations. Not only will the challenge of making an entire piece with one “non-musical” item push you to discover every sound said item has to offer, but you’ll also be forced to confront your usual techniques and habits. Not that habits are a bad thing. Being efficient and productive requires that we have a bag of tricks to pull from, but on occasion, purposefully boxing ourselves into a corner is a fantastic way to develop new techniques.Several years ago I started a blog called “Impossible Acoustic” and dedicated it to exploring the potential of sampling as a technique for expanding the potential of acoustic source material. One of my favorite endeavors involved making a series of three songs out of a ballpoint pen. In addition to insisting that all sounds be derived from just one pen, I also imposed further technical limitations for each song. Song 1 for instance had no effects, and all sounds were at their original pitch. For Song 2, sounds could be re-pitched but only limited effects were used (reverb, delay, compression) and no looping. For Song 3 re-pitching, looping and filtering were all allowed. Here are the results.
I later took what I learned from these experiments and made two commercial sample libraries for Vir2 instruments. The first was called “Violence” and focused on using the violin to create new and very un-violin like digital instruments. “Fractured” my second commercial library, follows a similar line of thought, and is dedicated to sounds made from prepared acoustic guitars. Here’s just a little taste of these libraries. The following track starts out with some of the raw acoustic recordings and then those same sounds arranged into a short musical piece.
You can check out both libraries on the Vir2 website and you can read more my pen experiments here, here and here. For this blog post though, I thought I would create a new experiment. The purpose of this experiment is to once again use a single sound source but also just one recording from that sound source. I’ve recorded a ten minute video tutorial which shows, very quickly, the inner workings of a series of Kontakt instruments all from a bowl of pistachio shells. At the end of the video is a song made with those instruments.
Big thanks to go out to our guest contributor, Brendan Hogan, for putting this post together. Designing Sound is always open to guest contributions. Contact shaun [at] designingsound [dot] org if you have something you’d like to share with the community.