As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…
I had the brake pads for the front wheels on my car replaced last weekend, and now they make this interesting sound every time I use them. As the car slows, there’s this quiet downward pink noise filter sweep just barely noticeable below all the other sounds of the vehicle. For some reason, this triggered the memory of a diesel pickup truck I heard a few months ago that was kind of the inverse of a pod racer from The Phantom Menace. It had this loud tonal air intake providing a continuous drone, and a rhythmic mechanical clack replaced the amplitude modulation chop. This then made me start thinking about the seemingly self-perpetuating sound references that become genre tropes…sounds that people sub-consciously expect to hear as, for instance, a space ship sound until they hear something completely new. Be honest, how many times have you heard something similar to that iconic pod racer sound since The Phantom Menace? That was a little more stream of conscious than I usually present here, but it’s how I found myself thinking about the difficulty presented by create something truly original and new that will be accepted as appropriate for a genre…something that feels natural based on all of the references we have to draw on from past media.
I focused in on that space ship problem. How would I do it differently? A couple of ideas jumped to mind…what would it sound like if the primary control system of the ship was focused on restraining propulsion rather than creating it? If the drive system was so powerful it couldn’t be turned off, would inverting the typical sound vectors (rising pitch for slowing down, dropping for acceleration) work in the context? We reference real world vehicles when creating fictional ones. That helps people accept them as realistic, so I’m not saying we abandon that approach. Would preserving those sounds, but messing with their mechanical function be enough to create something unique?
What other sound tropes do we take for granted, and subsequently fall into the trap of perpetuating?