Blind Man’s Buff, by Eugene Pierre Francois Giraud
Silence! Be quiet! Because listening is active, because the birds have already left but their sound still reverberates. Silent all ears that listen, stunned by the noise that is gone but still relishes. The soundtrack? Our life! That one of changes, transition, mutation and mysteries, that one able to peer into the recesses of the deepest realities, responsible for questioning the apparent manifestations of the abstract and the concrete to go into unexpected territories of consciousness. These are the realities of sound phenomena, the challenges of searching for a continuous vibration, a pure sonic experience.
Let the mind travel around 2.500 years ago: we’re here in the Pythagorean School, waiting for the teacher to lead us into the most unlikely truths of the cosmic harmony. Our eyes are eager, the heart rumbles and a curtain, the veil of listening, can be seen on the horizon. Suddenly, a voice is heard, the teaching begins. The eyes, yet expectant, cry for the face of the talking master, who is not (and will not) on the retina. The curtain is still there and is the only visual reference for the sounds being heard. The voices possibly emerge from the cloisters of the mind or perhaps from the same shadows in the curtain, where the teacher continues his mission.
Silence! Be quiet! Because the sound is active, the akousma has emerged and the sonic code is already running through the mazes of the passions and the cusps of thinking. Slowly and without seeing, the oral reality becomes symphony, opening the doors to an intimate universe, the acousmatic. The teaching behind the curtain now makes sense and invisibility brings a message to the cochlea that is impatient because of its blindness. Over time it gets calmed, the world of sound is clear and the government of tongue and thought becomes possible, and with them also the desires and the scars of those memories that despite of being absent, still hit the listener’s soul.
And so, behind the curtain, sitting in silence, the initiation begins.
Bryce Dion (image hot-linked from original article)
We are saddened to hear about the loss of Bryce Dion, a production mixer from Lawrence, Massachusetts. Bryce was killed by police gunfire while filming for the Television show “COPS.” Our thoughts go out to his family and friends. The full article detailing the events can be read here.
Exercising listening in a public outdoor space.
Sound designers by nature have an inherent curiosity towards sound. We explore the way sounds work every time we approach a project. With each new opportunity to design a sound, we ask ourselves questions such as: What object/event produced the sound(s)? Where is the sound source located in relation to the listener, and just as importantly, how does (or how will) the sound impact an audience’s emotional state when heard?
It goes without saying that the sheer act of producing our own sonic work, and by critically listening to and dissecting the works of others (as Berrak Nil Boya explored and extrapolated on in her recent post) will inherently make us stronger and better critical listeners. Though along with these practices, it is invaluable to also step away from evaluating completed, produced works and critically listen to some alternate sound sources, and in some potentially new ways; just like exercising a muscle, the more angles you can target your critical listening “muscle”, the stronger and more well-rounded it becomes.
The question then must be, other than by evaluating an already existing game or film’s audio as it was intended, how, and what, can we listen to in order to hone our listening abilities?
This post looks to add to this conversation by offering a few exercises I’ve picked up and augmented over the years and still use to this day. Once again, just like any exercise routine, training your critical listening is an on-going responsibility for any sound designer (though vitally important early in your career, continued practice is essential to maintain a high level of critical listening fitness).
For those interested in the some of the current academic and research-led themes developing in sound design, the September 2014 edition of The New Soundtrack is dedicated to just this topic.
Guest-edited by Sandra Pauletto (University of York), this special issue features contributions that explore the growing maturity of sound design and the breadth of the topic as encompassed by the contrasting ‘European’ and ‘Hollywood’ practice, Foley performance as a means to interactive immersion, sonification, sonic hyperrealism and, sound design as an intuitive process in the creation of film and television soundtracks.
Mix Magazine, The MPSE and CAS have collaborated to put together a one day conference (September 6th, 2014) at Sony Studios in Culver City (Los Angeles, CA) exploring the Dolby Atmos and Auro 3D formats. Mix has been advertising this event for a while now, but details were fairly sparse. Things appear to have been locked down, and the schedule is now up on the event’s website. Take a look at the agenda to see who will speaking, or look at the schedule to see what will be available when. There’s a wealth of talent that will be talking about their experiences with the formats, including a keynote will presented by friend of the site Randy Thom.
If you were on the fence about the event, the new information will probably make the decision for you. The event is $79, though I know that MPSE members can register for free (you should have received an e-mail, I did). I believe the same holds true for CAS members. Hopefully, I’ll see some of you there!
Guest Contribution by Berrak Nil Boya
As a composer, musicologist and a sound designer who is making a transition to the world of game audio for the last year or so, not only do I have a new level of respect for everyone who works as a game audio professional but I also became aware of various changes I am going through almost daily to adapt my already established skill set and mentality to fit my new chosen profession. These changes affect different aspects of my auditory world to varying degrees, but listening and specifically critical listening ended up being a new kind of challenge for me. As a musician who is used to listening critically to music and its various properties, and as a musicologist who researched film music for years, the inherent interactivity and flow of the gaming experience required a new type of listening capability from me. One that depended on me to not just pay attention to the different aspects of the soundscape, but also to rise to the challenges that were presented to me by the game to succeed as a gamer. It meant orienting my attention to the other aspects of the game; so much so that, I forgot to listen for a while and instead just heard what the soundscape consisted of. So how would it be possible for me to play a game AND critically listen to its audio aspects at the same time? (more…)
The team that brought you the Free Firearm Sound Library is running another kickstarter, this time looking to provide the world with a completely cost free, high quality collection of CC0 licensed medieval weapon sounds. The project aims to include just under 500 unique sound effects, each with multiple takes, designed for use in all kinds of film and video game projects. For more information, or to contribute, check the Medieval Weapons Sound Effects Library Kickstarter Page.
Karen Collins, author and editor of four books on video game audio, and an accomplished sound designer in her own right, is currently directing the production of Beep, the very first documentary history of video game music and sound design. This ambitious project aims to cover the history of game audio, from Victorian mechanical arcades through today’s orchestral performances. The film will cover topics ranging from the psychology of game audio, to the use of game sound technology in pop music and other arenas, along with interviews featuring trailblazers and groundbreakers from every era of video games history.
The team is currently soliciting donations via Kickstarter. If you are interested in learning more, or in contributing to the project, check the Beep Kickstarter page.
In case you’ve been under a rock, and somehow haven’t noticed yet, Tim Prebble’s Hiss and a Roar sound effects label is having a birthday sale…and it’s BIG ONE! Through August 31st, you can get 50% off by using the discount code BOING at checkout. He’s also got a new library out too, SD020 Wind Instruments.
You’re still here reading?!
Back around the time I was first starting out, I remember opening up a demo of Cubase VST (on my trusty PowerMac 6400) and taking a look through the various menus. Everything seemed pretty standard, but something in particular caught my eye, a menu item labeled “Ears Only”. Curious, I clicked on it, only to have my monitor go completely blank. After a few seconds of panic thinking I had broken everything, I realized that Steinberg had programmed a mode that completely disabled the monitor and forced you to just listen. At first, this option seemed like a strange addition. Why, when I’m creating sound, would I not be listening to what I’m doing? Listening while working with audio seemed like a no-brainer. However, after gaining a little more experience, this “just listen” mode began to make a lot more sense. (more…)