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).
Indiewire has published a guest post by Dolby Institute’s director Glenn Kiser in which he talks to filmmakers about the importance of sound design from the beginning of production.
Making a movie is a never-ending series of compromises, and nothing is as good as the original concept you had in mind. But if you’re really lucky, there’s a moment of alchemy that can happen in the editing room when you put the right piece of music or the right sound effect into the cut. Suddenly something magical happens, and the thing comes to life. You forget about the perfect location you couldn’t secure and the cold your lead actor had on the day you shot the emotional scene. It stops being a maddening litany of disappointments and becomes a movie.
“Footsteps with character: the art and craft of Foley”, a great essay written by Benjamin Wright, included in the Screen journal.
“In this essay I look more closely at modern Foley performance and aesthetics, giving special attention to the customized nature of Foley effects and the importance of creating sound with ‘character’. What interests me is not only how Foley professionals have negotiated their role as sound artists but how the professional goals of Foley have shifted in response to the increasing use of digital audio workstations.”
Download/read (PDF file) / via musicofsound
The fourth annual FilmSoundHamburg got under way in Hamburg on Sunday evening – an event that will bring together enthusiasts from the worlds of sound design, film composition and game music for five days of workshops and seminars and masterclasses.
Among the highlights will be four separate masterclasses given by Tim Nielsen of Skywalker Sound (Maleficient, Lord of the the Rings, John Carter), and composers Olivier Deriviére (Assassin’s Creed IV, Remember Me), Javier Navarrete (Pan’s Labyrinth, Mirrors, Hemmingway & Gellhorn) and Lisle Moore (who has composed trailer music for Maleficient and the last three FIFA World Cups). In addition, a number of workshops and seminars will also be taking place.
FilmSoundHamburg takes place from June 29th until July 4th in Hamburg, Germany. Some places are still available so check the website for the full programme and price list.
FilmSoundHamburg programme of events
FilmSoundHamburg on Facebook
Charlie Chaplin on ‘City Lights’
“Ideally, for me, the perfect sound film has zero tracks. You try to get the audience to a point, somehow, where they can imagine the sound. They hear the sound in their minds, and it really isn’t on the track at all. That’s the ideal sound, the one that exists totally in the mind, because it’s the most intimate. It deals with each person’s experience, and it’s obviously of the highest fidelity imaginable, because it’s not being translated through any kind of medium.” – Walter Murch
Silence can be sonic; sound can be silent. We’re always listening to both. When we listen to a sound, we listen to a silence. When we listen to silence, we listen to sound. The dualism behind this is just an illusion, because in reality, we only find one thing, a single coin, with two faces, but a single coin.
There’s always sound in silence, always. There’s no such thing as sound without silence. There’s no such thing as silence without sound. Both are always dependent on each other and get differentiated just because of our fantasy of reality. We could think as silence as “absence of sound” but that will not be in an absolute way because there’s no place without sound, there’s no time without sound. Silence is absence just in partial ways, depending on the wave, all the time attached to the context the absence of a particular sounds, or just the choices around the speakers can’t reproduce.