Soundscape: evoking associations through sound
Arts 107: Digital Imaging in the Visual Arts
Prof. Claudia Esslinger
“When you’re beating a drum, you can hear when the boom comes the teeniest bit too late or the teeniest bit too early, because your whole attention is focused on the razor edge between silence and noise…when you beat a drum you create NOW, when silence becomes a sound so enormous and alive it feels like you are breathing in the clouds and the sky, and your heart is the rain and thunder.” Ruth Ozeki in A Tale for the Time Being
For this project you will find and create sounds to use in a sound collage. No, they don’t have to be drum like…but the quote above speaks to the sensitivity I hope you develop toward sound and time as an element for your work. You will use a digital audio recorder or the sound lab to gather these sounds and then create a sound collage one minute long. The sounds you find will help determine the content of the piece, combined with prompts from personal interests and/or chance associations.
Preparation: Make a list of topics (facts, idioms, myths, etc) you are interested in from personal sources, classes, the wider world. List colors, rhythms, texture they remind you of. Use chance methods
(like the card game) to extend those topics.
Finding Sounds: Carry the recorder and explore the world around you. Use headphones. Go to places beyond Kenyon. Record at least a minute of each sound you find interesting from several angles and distances. You will find that a rushing stream can sound like a roar, whereas a faucet can sound like a running stream. A very loud sound can cut out on a digital recorder unless you manually attenuate (lower, hold back) the sound. Find ten different sounds (each with some variations (fast water, slow water for instance). Try to think of sounds that could relate directly and obliquely to your topic. Record at least 15 sec of room tone/ air tone/ambience in each space (what we think of as no sound, yet it holds a resonance and reverberation of that space).
You may find archival sounds or sounds from daily life, but use them as you use the other sounds, not as options for a commercial, lecture or music video.
Making Sounds (Foley): Record sounds that you make with elements that you find, gather or create. This part is similar to what a Foley artist does in a film, hitting a piece of sheet metal to simulate thunder, etc. What kinds of materials can you come up with? What interesting sounds can you make? Make at least 5 different sounds with variations in pitch or volume for each one. Practice making sounds have a direction and variety rather than random repetition. (Shake something as it passes by the mic increasing or decreasing speed for instance, rather than just shaking something up and down). Think of sounds that might “amplify” your topic.
Making Sounds (tonal) You have the option of making or collecting sounds that you or your friends make on different instruments, (including your voice or a glass bottle). Adding these to your composition could give it direction and lyricism.
Importing and Editing: Import the sounds into Premiere Pro to edit.
Make a sequence first that will match your video footage:
File/ New Sequence /SequencePresets/DigitalSLR/1080p/DSLR 1080p 24 or 30.
You will layer the sound, using room tone throughout. Consider making a bed of sound (lower tones) first adding accents and middle tones afterwards. Another way to think about this is the way vocal or instrumental compositions are arranged: Bass, Tenor, Alto, Soprano…Think about the volume of each sound separately from its tone, that is, a low tone could be loudest, a high tone could be quiet (since these are differently received by the ear).
A rule of thumb is to have volumes on the audio meter peak at -6db for the sound you want the most obvious, then -12, -18 and -24 for the least obvious. (this means recording most of the sound at LOWER dB so that just the loudest sounds reach the peak...You can set your recorder for field gathering at -20dB. Do not go above 0 db as the sound will cut out)
Think of the sound as having a texture, a color. You can use transitions, jump cuts, simple filters (don’t overdo this). You can use visual waveforms to cut the clips precisely. You can use markers and measure time carefully or approach it loosely. We will look at the option to use Adobe Audition, Audacity, or Garage Band, but only if needed.
The structure of this collage may be based on a structure that you already know from your personal background or may be developed through experimentation. (For instance you might use the structure of a sonnet to organize your sound. If you are interested in horizons or sunsets, your sound might stretch out long and slow increasing in speed as it ends (like the sun dipping into the horizon). Be able to identify the shape of time in your piece when you are finished (you don’t have to preplan this, but respond to the sounds you find.)
Artists: Stephen Vitello, Brian Harnetty, Laurie Anderson, Janet Cardiff and GeorgeBuresMiller
From the Presentation on Sound: Understand the Basic Formal Qualities of Sound:
FORM .. (Shape of sound over time)
PITCH . (frequency of vibration) low to high tones. 440 hz is A,
VOLUME (intensity) (amplitude of waveform) measured in decibels
a soft whisper is -30db, aim for -12—20 average. Peak not over -6
Turning up by 3db doubles strength, up 10db increases x10
TEMPO: speed of the beat bpm. 50 ppm Deliberate/ 80normal/ 120 lively)
RHYTHM (pattern or arrangement of tones, regular/syncopated)
TEXTURE (integration of layers/ chewiness!)
TIMBRE /VOICE (tone color and quality, distinguish instrument, overtones)
ARTICULATION/ EXPRESSION: (ie.staccato/legato)
SPACIAL ARRANGEMENT(stereo/ surround, etc)
MELODY/ HARMONY (Musical Sentence of pitches/ interaction of tones)
Helpful Audio Filters:
Equalizer : boost or cut specific frequencies:
a high shelf filter boosts or lowers amplitude of high frequencies (above 5000 hz)
a low shelf filter boosts or lowers amplitude of low frequencies (wind)
a high pass filter allows high frequencies to pass through while curtailing lower frequencies
a low pass filter allows low frequencies to pass through while curtailing high frequencies
a limiter will not let frequencies above a certain level play
(will curtail peaking with a hard limit)
a notch filter (or band stop) can enhance or reduce a very specific range such as a hum or pop.
Compressor pulls frequencies closer together so the whole can be raised. this allows for hearing of details lost in bad audio situations like a car radio, etc A multi-band compressor does this based on a certain frequency and allows greater control
Noise reduction with either Audition or Audacity: takes a sample from a small segment of audio with unwanted noise. Then Select the whole track and reduce that sound in all parts. If you do this too much you get chirping sound.
Delay, reverb, pitch shift, for unreal sound.