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Posted by on Sep 18, 2014 | 1 comment

Real Spaces

Image by Stewart Butterfield. Used under a Creative Commons license. Click picture to view source.

Image by Stewart Butterfield, used under a Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.

When we say “space”, people generally think of two things: outer space, or a bounded area that something fits into. It’s a safe bet that most people in the sound community immediately think of the latter. So often we focus on the characteristics of a space…how far a sound carries, reflections and reverberation time, etc. Certainly that helps us define a space, but…for the most part…only on a technical level. What really defines a space, is what occupies it. There’s no denying that production designers and location scouts in film, or level designers and artists in games, have a strong role in creating a space, but we in the sonic branch of our respective mediums have the unique ability to refine…or even redefine…those spaces they create. Sometimes, we’re even given the opportunity to create spaces where they cannot. What I want us to consider in light of that, is how we approach the creation of that space.

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Posted by on Sep 2, 2014 | 0 comments

A Space

Image by Bust It Away Photography. Used under a Creative Commons license. Click image to view source

Image by Bust It Away Photography. Used under a Creative Commons license. Click image to view source

The world we inhabit is ever shifting. People and animals are constantly on the move. Water laps against wood or crashes against a sandy beach. If considered from a somewhat solipsistic approach the buildings, trees and mountains around us even shift in position. With all of those positional changes comes a new sonic interaction. The squirrel’s chitter no is no longer to our left, the wave passes above us when we are under water, or the reflections of nearby traffic now reflect off of a different building of steel and glass…confusing its location. Space is not fixed nor are the elements within it.

This month, we look at that mercurial idea of “Space.”

This site is a space by and for the community, and is made special by all of the contributions that come in from that community. If you would like to add something to the conversation around this month’s theme…or when we turn our attention to Synthesis next month….please contact us through the contact form or by e-mailing shaun (shift+2) [this site].

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Posted by on Jun 5, 2014 | 7 comments

The Negative Space of Sound

Guest Contribution by Jeff Talman

Seong Moy, my drawing professor at City College of New York, had students lightly shade their sketchpads with hand-smeared charcoal to prepare a background for the drawing. This neutral background helped to create an illusory sense of depth in a 2-dimensional medium. The negative space of the drawing was activated by this treatment. Had there been no shading, no defined background, the objects in the drawing would not have existed anywhere, but would have been only representations, floating and free of context. The background helped to create a space in which to work.

Similarly, audio engineers know how important the background silence is in recording. In the early days of Audio CDs engineers learned that absolute silence between tracks created a void that the listener could find to be unpleasant, as if the CD was somehow unnatural because it did not exist in any space itself. The problem was compounded in that LPs had a consistent background sound. So sound on the early CDs seemed to ‘drop out’ between tracks. Soon engineers added low levels of ambient, background sound to fill these voids just as the charcoal smears did for the drawings.

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Posted by on May 30, 2014 | 2 comments

Art of Surround

Acousmonium_1980_photo_Laszlo_Ruszka__c_Ina
Acousmonium, INA-GRM, 1980. Photo by Laszlo Ruska.

Surround (Oxford Dictionary)

  • (verb) [with object] – Be all round (someone or something)
  • (noun) – A thing that forms a border or edging around an object.
  • (adjective) (Surrounding) – All around a particular place or thing.

Based merely on a technological approach, one might think that Surround sound is just the technique of reproducing audio signals in a particular array of speakers that distribute sound around space in order to give a three-dimensional illusion for the ears…

Surround is not visual really, is not something we can see. Surround is not just a technique of distributing sound, but the consequences of it. It’s a characteristic of sound itself, natural to the sonic phenomenon and responsible of the entire notion of the “auditory field” which is more than simply one dimension of space, but a multi-layered, multi-dimensional representation of sound.

In this article I aim to explore different experiments and perspectives toward the use of surround sound and the experiments between space and form, getting out from the image/film relationship in order to explore how sound “alone” can be enriched by the process of multichannel distribution, which has been deeply explored aesthetically, psychologically, musically, etc.

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Posted by on Dec 1, 2012 | 6 comments

Welcome to Reverb Month


Sound occupies space. Actually, sound is a wave (or set of waves) that travels through a medium. So, it’s not so much that it occupies a space, but is trapped within it. Sound interacts with that space, fills it, bounces around inside it and, if it causes enough vibrations, can bleed out into adjacent spaces. The interaction between sound and the space it occupies can tell us a lot about both.

Reverberation is what we commonly call sound’s interaction with the space that houses it. Reverb tends to imply that we’re speaking about the reflections and decay time of indoor spaces, but reverb is the propagation of reflections that occurs in an enclosed space. That means it happens outdoors too; in the woods, in a canyon or city alley.

And that’s what we’re going to be focusing on this month, sound’s interaction with its host…reverb.

Next month we’ll be looking at unsung plug-in features and fun ways to abuse some of our favorite plug-ins for sound design. We are always open to guest submissions if you have an article you would like to share. Contact shaun.at.designingsound.org if you’re interested.

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