“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.’ Read More
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.
About a year ago I watched ‘An Island’, a documentary film by Vincent Moon on the Danish band Efterklang. The whole soundtrack of the movie is extremely musical and is a great example of sound design and music creating a great blend. It was almost no surprise to see Nils Frahm credited for mixing and recording the soundtrack.
Frahm is not only an accomplished producer and mixer at his studio in Berlin, he also releases music (mostly piano based) under Erased Tapes Records that are usually a fine balance of beautifully crafted noise and music while also collaborating with artists like Ólafur Arnalds and Peter Broderick. His recent release, ‘Screws‘, is available for free to download and rework.
He was kind enough to make some time for a conversation over Skype just before his German tour. We just got started talking about his thoughts on sound when..
DS: Pro Tools seems to have stopped recording our conversation, we are now back on.
NF: Oh you need to look at this [shows a Nagra recorder], this is my best friend.
DS: Oh yes, I saw this in the video you posted.
NF: Yeah I’m definitely a tape enthusiast and I love the sound of tape. I’m more used to the sounds of Chet Baker and recordings from that time. Nonetheless I’m really into experimental sound design, musicians like Alva Noto, I’m interested in anything that sounds good. For me there is no divide between sound and music. What matters is what comes out of the speakers and because I’m a musician I want to see my music be recorded and reproduced in a way I feel is appropriate. It took me a long time to get there and understand the process. I have learnt that the only thing important is whether the sound that comes out of the speakers is good and tells you a story or has a certain tone, colour or atmosphere. Sound is music and music is sound and walking through a forest and listening to an environment can be as much of a musical experience as listening to a Mozart concert.
The BBC reports that it has re-opened its legendary Radiophonic Workshop, since shuttering it in 1998.
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