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Max Cooper / Tom Hodge – Fragments of Self from Nick Cobby on Vimeo.


> ironic photo augmenting #funny!


> Good source of replacement tapes for many different tape echo units


> “Naughty passengers will be crushed” & other funny fake signs on the UK tube…


“We can express our feelings regarding the world around us either by poetic or by descriptive means,” Tarkovsky explained in an 1983 interview, “I prefer to express myself metaphorically…” Some of Tarkovskys polaroids here – I have a copy of this great book: Instant Light: Tarkovsky Polaroids



> so whats your NAMM/GAS favourite? So far mine would be Arturias Beatstep – primarily for use with modular synth via its cv/gate support… & its super affordable!


> The secret sounds of trees


> birds sleep? I thought they were like meth addicts, grab a nap once a week or so…. #wrong – not sure they mention it in that article but swifts sleep while flying! now THAT!! wow! if there is reincarnation, can I please come back as a swift… (wonder if they ever have that dream of falling?)




>a translator we all need: “Literally” becomes “Figuratively” & “Will Blow Your Mind” becomes “Might Perhaps Mildly Entertain You For a Moment” & “One Weird Trick” becomes “One Piece of Completely Anecdotal Horseshit” – Downworthy plugin for Chrome


trailer for HER, except Philip Seymour Hoffman replaces Scarlett Johanson


> I read this ironic headline recently somewhere, but can’t remember where… or now, find the link… but a search did lead me to the fact that its a hoax…. but best of all, it made me remember & crank up the vinyl of this tune:

& while digging through some of my vinyl to find it, I also cranked up African Head Charge – Environmental Studies (iTunes link) – wow, what a fantastic record – its as vivid & weird & mysterious & unknowable now as it was when I first heard it back in the 1980s… I can clearly remember where I was & who turned me on to this, back in the day…
(thanks Duncan (rip) & Sean)


> “some analysis is better than no analysis” – whats that saying? there is no freedom without dissent…. “If I defected at all,” Snowden said, “I defected from the government to the public.”


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> Interesting notes about Spike Jonzes new film HER


> Acoustic scientists shatter the world record for longest ever echo (note: competition does not include Roland Space Echo)



> nice freebie for Kontakt: a drumkit deep sampled via cassette tape


> some weekend listening: Joe Strummer spins his favorite tracks from around the world #archival_radio


> and some more good listening, a very nice mellow dub-techno mix by Casey Borchert for Arctic Dub – download etc here


ooops – video is David Lynch interviewed by Mike Figgis – watch it at vimeo


> Why audio doesn’t go viral – well, not counting music, which is constantly ‘going viral’ (thanks Rene)


> Googles music timeline visualization is kinda interesting eg the genre of ‘dub’

Little Huia

or the band CAN (it seems to display album/band rather than just band)

Little Huia


> After searching years I finally found a schematic for my broken Firstman SQ01 synth & sequencer – the schematic PDF wasn’t free, but it & a ton of other synth schematics are available from Music Parts site



> There are people you will meet, throughout your life, that make you stop & go huh? What IS it with this person, that they just do not get!? It is likely that they never learned this



> Love these flight paths of birds, by Dennis Hlynsky


> A virtual microphone? I’m sure its capable of colouring a signal, but…

but… i would be prepared to pay money to never hear that guy sing ever again.. is there a plugin for that?


> There is a saying, which I partially subscribe to when it comes to some recording situations: “Its better to ask for forgiveness than permission”
A simple example: years ago I needed to record some ambiences for a film in the Auckland Britomart train station. The idea that I might need a permit never even entered my brain, so I wandered in there, recorded three or four different perspectives and was about to leave when a security guard came up to me & asked what I was doing. He was being polite & non-aggressive, and I well know it pays to smile a lot in situations such as this & make light of it, but I was duly informed that I must stop what I was doing and that I would need a permit & where I should go to get one. I apologised and left, and in hindsight I guess it was a case of ‘asking for forgiveness’ rather than permission. But, next time, if there is a next time, I would get a permit & follow their protocol.
So while that saying is useful in certain circumstances, it misses a few important ethical & human aspects. First, in my experience if you engage with people, they are usually happy to share their expertise with you. And that expertise can make all the difference. But if you do make regular use of that saying to justify your actions, I suggest you also read this article: When “Life Hacking” Is Really White Privilege just to be clear you aren’t forming some sense of entitlement and/or actually exploiting people & situations….



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> wow! Ryoji Ikeda has been awarded the Prix Ars Electronica Collide @ CERN residency which will take him to the CERN headquarters in Switzerland to work with data produced at the large hadron collider. Ikeda’s first visit will be this spring where he will be paired with scientists from CERN, and his residency will run across two years! Can’t wait to see/hear the results of that!!


> apparently Stonehenge is actually a giant xylophone!


> Fantastic tribute to Dziga Vertov (thanks monoskop!)- Dziga Vertov is the creator of Man with a Movie Camera, amongst many other great pioneering film & musique concrete works


> trailer for Gondrys new film: Mood Indigo


> Mindscapes: The first recording of hallucinated music (?really – not so sure about that ‘first’ part)


> imagine a digital version of Dust & Grooves where they go around talking to people about their MP3 collections? yawn… but Dust & Grooves itself is fascinating – interviewing & photographing vinyl collectors


> This is a tough read (tough, because its hard to believe there has been so little progress…) but it is important to read… I am sure it applies to crew as much as directors:
How women are treated in Hollywood


> Post-digital analog – no, not about 808 clones… but a fascinating read (thanks Tom!) “The challenge for Apple’s audio engineers is less about improving sound than deciding whom they are improving it for: you or Siri.


> vimeo gets more interesting by securing exclusive digital VOD rights for 13 films that premiered at Toronto Film Festival (they offer $10k to the film makers & get 30 day exclusive VOD or until they recover their $10k, then its a 90/10 split – 90% to film makers)


> Mmmmmmm just got some new modules, the Intellijel Dubmix with its two expanders – VC control of mix/pan/aux sends FTW! Now the process begins of rearranging my existing modules to fit it in… & best feed it!



> A question: moving into my new house I have split my studio in half – upstairs is my writing/sound design studio (quad monitoring, 192k PT, modular synth, 88 key controller etc) and downstairs is my analogue studio (Toft 24.8.2 desk fed with my older 16 output 192 voice ProTools rig & all of my analogue outboard) but the one bit of outboard I do not own & wish to, is a good compressor, with sidechain input – what would you recommend thats both affordable & good? Doesn’t need to be new… or even recent…. Drawmer? DBX? Someone somewhere has a tip for me – like all my analog gear, bought for far less than its worth due to the migration to digital for many people…. Work-in-progress photo below, nothings even plugged in yet… but just you wait!

analog num nums



> Musicdrop – a 3D printed music box, you provide the tune, they print it, video & stream it & then post it to you


> some of the sounds of New York as a physical sculpture



> would love to listen to/through this sculpture on the A50


so wrong… but so funny!!


Why do an Artists Residency

Seeing as how the last four months of 2013 for me involved completing two Artists Residencies, I thought that while the memories are still fresh I would reflect on what they meant to me, their lasting impact… & a little bit of advice and encouragement if you are considering applying for one.

Without wanting to sound like a physics lecture, Artists Residencies are about space and time. Many different institutions and facilities offer Artist-in-residence programs all over the world – many are listed here. The residency must be applied for to a strict deadline and they exist to provide a place to work and develop your art, away from your usual place of residence. In a sense they could be considered a working holiday but the work you do and how you do it is the key. Some residencies are aimed to support specific mediums, which is obviously an important factor in finding a good match between you, the artist and the residency. So finding the right residency is the starting point.

The other key element that residencies provide is time, usually of a fixed duration. Time away from your local commitments, time away from your ‘normal’ life. Time to focus on your ideas, explore them, research and develop them, to create new work and eventually present or exhibit it… In my case, after a LOT of research, first I spent the two months of September & October 2013, on Shodoshima, an island in the Seto Inland Sea of Japan completing a residency with the ArtBiotop Organisation. Secondly I spent two months of November & December 2013 based in Little Huia, in the Waitakere Ranges Park near Auckland, completing an Auckland Regional Parks artist residency.

Little Huia

The answer to this question (why do an Artists Residency?) will be different for every person who applies, because it is a direct reflection on where you are at with your own art. Some residency programs are targetted at new/emerging artists while others seek mature artists with an established body of work.

For me, I consider myself a combination of both of these. I have spent 20+ years working in the film industry and developing my aesthetics, approach and processes. I do have an established body of work, but the majority of that work is work on other peoples projects. At the end of 2012 I went through a period of reflection, initially motivated by the death of a dear friend & mentor. The resolution was a shift in my focus, to creating my own work. And successfully applying for these two residencies was a crucial part in my creative evolution, but it wasn’t quite the abrupt shift in approach that it might at first appear…

Back in the late 1980s, when I was attempting an electrical engineering degree I slowly came to the realisation that I could not live a life as an engineer. Electrical engineering just did not excite me, nor engage what I considered my strongest personal attributes. This finally became crystal clear in an interview with a local electronics company – in hindsight the interviewer was a very clever, insightful person who within 15 minutes helped me clarify what it was that I wanted to be doing. And it wasn’t electrical engineering! I am indebted to him for this, some people live their whole lives without such realisations. So I was slowly spending less and less time at Engineering School and spending more time hanging out with friends at Ilam Arts School, one of New Zealands two top fine arts institutions. The contrast in how these people lived their lives was in such contrast to those in engineering. This sounds ridiculously obvious now, but when you’re young & finding your way in life such things are important, especially when you consider the choices you make back then affect the rest of your life.

During this time I slowly vowed to live my life as an artist – not someone who has a job and works from 9 to 5, spending the rest of their time trying to forget or avoid work. I wanted to evolve my life to do work that I cared about, that I thought about 24/7, work that I could provide a unique perspective on. And this attitude has served me incredibly well in the following decades – both in the 20+ years of working in the film industry and during all of the spare time that I have invested in my own projects. But through reflection and evolution I have slowly come to want to reverse the roles, that is, to spend the majority of my time working on my own projects. And these two residencies have provided the most beautiful, supportive and inspiring situations in which to finally address that desire.


The first step, after deciding you want to do an Artists Residency is the application process. I am sure this process alone eliminates a lot of people, because it involves a lot of deep thinking, and putting ideas into words, words that anyone can understand. Most residencies provide guidelines for your application, for example the Auckland Residency Program notes that priority will be given to:

• artists capable of high quality and innovative work
• artists who propose a clear result or outcome from the residency
• artists opting for new, site specific work either related to a specific place or park feature or to the residency experience
• artists whose work encapsulates or alludes to “sense of place”
• artists who offer some interaction with others eg. park visitors, park neighbours etc.

Examples of your work, your history, your personal goals and character references are usually required. While there are some similarities with applying for a job, I believe the core issues can be summed up as: what do you want to do during the residency? And are you able and likely to do it and have a successful outcome?

Simply having to clearly express what it is you want to do is an invaluable process for any creative person. Clarify your intent, and communicate it in a way that anyone can understand.

Once your application has been sent off, then comes the waiting… and waiting… Usually there is a period of months between application deadline and any further contact, which is enough time that you have to just put the idea of the residency aside and continue on with life. The reason I applied for two residencies was about hope as much as anything – I thought if I didn’t get the first residency that I applied for, then at least there would still be hope for the second one. I pitched totally different projects for each of the two residencies and while there were some similarities in the application process, the majority of each required specifically and uniquely developed ideas. I put a lot of thought & research into making sure if I did get to do either of the residencies I was going to achieve the utmost that I could from them.

And then one sunny morning the phone rang… you could not wipe the smile off my face for weeks! And when I discovered I had been accepted for both residencies I was ecstatic – the universe was encouraging me in ways I would never forget.

Each residency program provides physical help in different ways. Some provide per diems, others provide transport (to the residency, and while at the residency). For the Shodoshima residency I was provided a house and a car for the duration of my residency, but getting myself from New Zealand to Japan was up to me. The Auckland residency provided a house and a weekly stipend (enough to live and cover basic materials) – getting to the residency and transport at the residency were up to me. So researching an appropriate residency for you, is dependent on what you need and can afford to do.

And there will be practicalities. For both residencies I needed to set up my own little composing/mixing/post production suite in the house provided. Now consider the practicalities of that: hundreds of hours spent in a room with all source elements, CPU, softare, storage & backups, monitors and acoustics. My excess baggage to and from Japan was equal to about half my airfare. But that didn’t worry me – I planned for it. Do not take anything for granted.

For me, making the schedule work with two residencies of two months each meant I had to juggle timing a little, and sadly I also had to pull out of working on a film that I was booked for. But there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity these two residencies represented.

Little Huia

I won’t go into too much detail here, as the ramifications of both the residencies are deep, far reaching and in some ways beyond words. But I can imagine looking back in a few years time & being able to point directly to the residencies, as to why I am now wherever I will be by then.

The first thing I really noticed with the residencies was the dramatic shift from research, planning and developing/clarifying concepts to arriving at the residency and starting work.

In the months prior to travelling to Shodoshima, I spent hours and hours online doing virtual location recces on Google Earth, Maps & street view and Flickr. Hours and hours, stashing bookmarks, taking screenshots etc… And a lot of time clarifying and evolving ideas, researching concepts & techniques…

Little Huia

Arriving in Japan is always a buzz, but catching the ferry to Shodoshima for the first time (I have visited Shodoshima twice before, but its a different feeling arriving on day one of a residency!) I was like a kid on a sugar rush! But it was also interesting that within a week I had settled into my new temporary life, thanks to the help & support of the local residency people. The same was true in Little Huia – it is amazing how fast one becomes settled…

And that is one attribute of the residencies that was common to both: you arrive and instantly tap into a supportive network of local people, who are there to help you, and who want you to succeed. Being positive, open minded and collaborative are invaluable attributes in life, but even more so when being thrown in the deep end, meeting a lot of new people & forming new relationships in situations such as these. Good for the creative mind, essential in fact, but great for the human soul too!

The next revelations I savoured were the shifts from concept to reality. I remember a specific point during the Little Huia residency where this became crystal clear to me, it was right here:

Little Huia

A good friend & DOP/filmmaker had agreed to shoot a little documentary about my residency (you’ll get to see it, sooner or later) and while out recording in a really unique visual location (as per that photo, a road literally carved through the landscape) I suddenly thought of a great steadicam shot for the doco. I did a pre-viz version, shooting with my 5D and comped it into a video, sent him a youtube link and the next weekend he brought his steadicam out & we revisited the location.
But after shooting my idea for half an hour & getting it in the can, we both then relaxed & started shooting material with the steadicam that was so much better than what I had conceived. I came away from this experience with a resolution: it is the concept that gets you there in the first place, but the gold comes from being open minded and exploring the possibilities in situ. Its not a new adage but it reinforced my belief that the best work comes from working, not from thinking about working.

Little Huia

I also knew I would be influenced & inspired by engaging with the environment and locations from both the residencies. People talk about the form of light in New Zealand, but waking every morning to a view of the Seto Inland Sea of Japan was bliss. And equally, living mere metres from the Manukau harbour had a profound effect on me, it reminded me that I could never, ever live out of sight/hearing of the sea.

Seto Inland Sea

In both residencies my work was totally altered by the places I spent time and the people I met. It is easy to say in hindsight, and it is easy to think about beforehand. But just how it happens, moment by moment and day by day, is heavenly.

Little Huia

The two biggest things I learned from the residencies?

First, was about process. Evolving my process, learning how to do things I planned but had never done before. Clarifying what I was willing to accept and what I wasn’t. I’ve been accused of being a perfectionist before, but I am not – I am a pragmatist. But what I accept as ‘good enough’ for myself is based on my own ideals, no one elses. And not a new lesson but: perseverance. As example, one 20 second shot in my Shodoshima short film took six hours to capture, and it wasn’t timelapse, it was a real time shot. When people see the shot & ask about the actors, there weren’t any. It was all real. Hence the time….

And despite having witnessed it many, many times on other peoples projects, the process of evolving my own projects with a clear screening rapidly deadline approaching, is some of the hardest work I have ever done. If you want clarity of vision, book a screening! What is that old saying by Leonard Bernstein: “To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time”


Screening my work, and discussing it with the audience was also profoundly satisfying. The stress and adrenalyn of finishing the work, the anxiety of it screening (I’m not religious but I prayed to technological gods for pleeeeease, no playback glitches!) and then witnessing how my work changed before my very eyes, just by having an audience present, are incredible things to learn.

And unlike any time in my past I felt like I really OWN my work. I have always had a slightly uneasy relationship with what I make (I am without a doubt my own worst critic) but after weeks and months of being present, and making the most of every day to create the best personal work that I could, I was more than happy to own it. And during the Q&A from both the residencies I answered questions with answers I didn’t know I had until I said them. Insight into your own work, is such a blessing.

Little Huia

Secondly, and finally, the most important things I learned during the two residencies are the most personally profound: growing as an artist, and clarifying my ouvre. I feel that in my own personal work I have evolved, from crawling around exploring & bumping into walls, to walking with a sense of purpose and direction. Without the residencies I simply would not have that, and that alone will serve me deeply, in the years to come…

Little Huia

Should you apply for an Artists Residency? Only you can know the answer to that question – are you ready? Are you able to take months away from your normal life? Are you able to support yourself? Is your work ready? Do you have clear ideas about what you’ll create? If yes to all of that, I cannot reccomend the experience highly enough – it IS life changing.


I can also imagine a hundred ways someone could come unstuck, and for that reason the residencies tend to be well screened. But bear this in mind, even the process of applying for a residency will teach you things about yourself that you may not even be aware of. For that alone it is worth it. And I tend to take the long view, if you are committed then even if you don’t get accepted with your first application, then that is just feedback to you, to evolve your ideas & present an even stronger application next time round.

And some important advice: most residencies only occur once a year, at most. So if you are interested, it pays to track the application deadlines. Why I mention this is that the deadline for the 2014 residency in the Auckland Regional Parks is closing on 17th February – you have just over a month to get your application in – more info here

Good luck!

And I can’t finish this monologue without offering my profound thanks to all of the people who made these two residencies possible for me. From the bottom of my heart, thank you! I know I will revisit both residencies, for the rest of my life & I so look forward to meeting again the fantastic people involved in making both happen. Thank you! Arigatou gozimasu!





Other resources (please comment with any & I will update this article)

Rate my Artists Residency

I would also be absolutely fascinated to read any comments from other people who have done an Artist Residency – please feel free to comment (& apologies but comments are moderated, only to avoid endless spammers – your comment will appear as soon as I am awake!)

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Interesting… until it becomes an advertisement for Spectrasonics… Would love to have a play on those bass steel drums – there is a full bands set of instruments for sale locally for nz$8,600… I hit up the seller to see if they would consider splitting the set apart… maybe…


> Floodtide by John Eacott makes music from the movement of tidal water. A submerged sensor gathers information from the tidal flow that is converted into musical notation


> 11 favorite New Yorker cartoons


> Sonic Wonderland is a new book by Trevor Cox (UK release Jan 16th, USA release Feb 10th, review in the Guardian here.. I just bought a copy for my iPads kindle app, so not sure about those release dates) which grew from his website Sonic Wonders – a global sound map of interesting listening locations


Prodigy – Firestarter without music?


Nirvana – Teen spirit without music

Queen – I want to break free

Note: these alt soundtracks/music-less music videos were created by Mario Wienerroither


> Hauschkas guide to the prepared piano



> Bumping Into a Chair While Humming – A Book on Sound by Ezekiel Honig, support on Kickstarter


> a Folktek sample library? such interesting & disturbing sounds


RMX™ (loop) from beeple on Vimeo.

Creative Commons REMIX of Transparent Machines™ – Cinema 4D project file available here sound design by standing wave


This needs an alternate soundtrack too – a horror film score anyone?


> All the best scientifically verified information on Fukushima impacts


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> “It was a combination between programming a knitting machine.. and morse code…” – the history of Blue Monday (love the part @17.20 about it ‘making sense’)


> wow – 4,057 feature films and 8,161 short films submitted to Sundance this year!




> A bluetooth bathtub/speaker? Can’t but help think even if I was filthy rich there would be quite a few things in the queue before this.. But first thing I’d be doing would be hooking up an oscillator & trying to find the resonant frequency!


“But with all the attention paid to the machinery of making movies and to the advances in technology that have led to this revolution in moviemaking, there is one important thing to remember: the tools don’t make the movie, you make the movie. It’s freeing to pick up a camera and start shooting and then put it together with Final Cut Pro. Making a movie – the one you need to make – is something else. There are no shortcuts…. If John Cassavetes, my friend and mentor, were alive today, he would certainly be using all the equipment that’s available. But he would be saying the same things he always said – you have to be absolutely dedicated to the work, you have to give everything of yourself, and you have to protect the spark of connection that drove you to make the picture in the first place. You have to protect it with your life. In the past, because making movies was so expensive, we had to protect against exhaustion and compromise. In the future, you’ll have to steel yourself against something else: the temptation to go with the flow, and allow the movie to drift and float away….” – Scorsese, from a letter to his daughter


> And in contrast; an open letter to the film industry



> Shhhh your TV? I wish that technology could be applied to many things… eg nose-breathers in film screenings, annoying kids, crying babies on planes, muzac-on-hold, stupid compensatory-fat-exhaust-pipes, imbeciles tooting in tunnels, (insert more grumpy old fck lists here) etc etc…


> re photos, amen!


> incase you haven’t seen them, a great series of portraits where the photographer digitally & seamlessly adds herself to her childhood photos…


> Hmmm PCMD100 – handheld 192k


> some heavy, but vital, reading about 2013


Adam Magyar, Stainless – Shinjuku from Adam Magyar on Vimeo.


its the ‘fro that makes it (thanks ignatius@m)






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> ever wonder why Netflix made House of Cards? not ‘why make a TV series’ but why that particular show/genre/style?


> Punch drunk?


> all I wanted for Xmas was a…. plate reverb


> listen to… singing icebergs


> Birders using smart phones to attract birds


> Mini interview at c74 with Johnny Greenwood


building a wooden air raid siren? (thanks Guy)


> Perfect pitch? There’s a pill for that



> Cable sock?


The sound of the earth from Lotte Geeven on Vimeo.


> Listening inside the World’s deepest hole




> Urban Soundscape Competition: Sapporo International Art Festival Executive Committee is issuing a worldwide invitation for submissions of sound files representing the SIAF 2014 theme that are suitable for reproduction in urban public spaces. The winning submission will be played at SIAF 2014 sites in the city during the festival, and will be heard in public spaces in Sapporo throughout the event. Judging by Ryuichi Sakamoto, submission period: Saturday, February 1 – Monday, March 31, 2014 – more info in English here and Japanese here


> Computers watching movies? More info here

Computers Watching Movies (Exhibition Cut) from benjamin grosser on Vimeo.


Motivation, Attention and Boring Sounds

NOTE: If you’d prefer to read this in Chinese, Jennifer Chen has very kindly provided a translation available here – thanks Jennifer!

This post is (a repost from 8th August 2010) and is dedicated to Benoit, who asked me to comment on a post he made expressing a feeling of discontent and frustration – amongst other things he had returned from holiday with no interesting new sounds… I began writing a reply and it started to turn into a novel, so I am here writing it as a more generalised response…

As a starting point I think it is worth watching this video:

Its a funny video but he also makes some very important points; about being objective, about what you are lucky enough to already have, and how quickly you take that for granted. There is a saying I like to repeat: Familiarity breeds contempt. Sometimes the same-ness of experience can lead people to think the experience has no worthwhile meaning. Contempt is a strong word but the essence of its meaning is about judgement

With regards to recording sounds, I suspect the issue may be a case of being too judgemental BEFORE you record. I truly believe having an open mind is very important when recording. Its easy to say ‘I am open minded’ about some topic or concept but having an open mind in terms of real time experience is different again. It requires delaying the judgement of whether a sound is immediately interesting. This is related to the idea of delayed gratification – when we were little kids we tend to run around doing things that immediately make us happy. As you get older you realise some things are not fun at first, and require struggle and hard work, but because more effort is required over a longer time, the reward is even bigger. But you do not receive the reward until you finish it. Which means perseverance becomes a very important skill to develop.

sound advice

On some creative projects I go through short periods where I think the project has become worthless – it’s all bad! Why am I even trying to finish this? I guess it is a form of doubt. But I’ve learned that it is important to just delay those feelings. I tell myself: stop being judgemental and keep going! Do the next step, and the next one, and once the project is a little further developed, then stop have & see how you feel about it. And funnily enough this tactic usually works. Whatever made me feel bad was momentary, a passing mood shift or something external & short lived. Most projects of any depth take time and there will be stages that feel frustrating, but you just have to keep going and push through those feelings.

sound advice

So back to recording sounds. There is a Japanese term ‘wabi sabi’ which I can only give my own interpretation of, but to me it means finding beauty in the imperfect. Sounds which at first might seem broken or not useful can turn out to be very, very valuable and inspiring. I recently did an interview for local radio, and the interviewer asked me to take her location FX recording. I thought hmmmm where can we go easily and get an interesting sound? On the day we went to a local playground – I thought maybe the swings might make an interesting creak… Try the first one: no, second one: no, try the seesaw – its a little bit interesting – it has a big spring and the impact when it hits the rubber tyre is nice. We record some, then go over to the hurly gurly (a rotating toy that four kids can sit on and spin around) I give it a spin and WOW!!! Its a bit rusty and sounds very, very heavy. It sounds nothing like what you imagine. I instantly think about what it will sound like when I slow it down an octave!! We record it. Here it is, first real speed, then 2 octaves down, then convolved through an IR (play it loud! It has gorgeous low frequencies!)

Playground FX 01 by timprebble

Then we go over to a climbing wall with small chains on it. It’s not a super-amazing sound, but I know how useful chains can be – especially exterior ones, so I rattle them and record them.

So in ten minutes, two things happened: the first two sounds I failed to record anything interesting, but I found one amazing sound & two useful sounds. Which will I remember? The first two or the last three? Here is the seesaw hit, first real speed, then 2 octaves down, then backwards, then through two different IRs:

Playground FX 02 by timprebble

But what if I hadn’t persevered and tried the last three? I would have nothing. What if I waited until all the kids left the playground and I could get super clean recordings like I ideally want? I would have nothing. I did actually record all five, because sometimes boring, normal sounds are what you want too! And appreciating the true nature of what may appear as a boring sound is an important aspect of this too!


Another example to illustrate the point: when you edit ambiences for a film, inevitably you need the sound of a fridge for any scenes set in a kitchen. So I went through a phase years ago, where everywhere I went, I recorded the fridge. Fascinating right? Not very… The rock & roll life of a sound designer? While on holiday, staying in a motel, at night I would record the fridge for 5 minutes. Put it in the library and forget about it, it is a boring sound right? But I use those fridges, and they are MY fridges! I was there & I recorded them. They have context – I remember where I recorded them, and guess what? Every one of those fridges sounds different. They all have different character. And sometimes they are more than just ambiences. A film I did in 2003 called Perfect Strangers was about a guy who kidnaps a girl and takes her to a deserted island. She eventually ends up killing him and putting him in the freezer. At first I put in a normal sounding freezer sound but the director and I came up with the idea of making the freezer more interesting. The girl starts to go a bit nuts and talks to the freezer, so we started using the fridge motor starts and stops to punctuate the one sided conversation she was otherwise having. It worked very well, but guess what? I couldn’t have made the idea work without all my library of fridge sounds. Fridges are boring right? Not. At. All!

sound advice

The moral of this is that reality is FULL of interesting sounds, it is up to you (and your attitude) to find them and make them interesting!


Benoit also expressed a feeling of being overwhelmed with the constant flood of information: twitter feeds, endless web site updates & blog posts, new equipment reviews and software releases. I think that feeling is shared by many, and while the obvious answer is to just disengage, the people who will actually be the best at managing it will probably be the ‘digital natives’ – the kids who are growing up now, who have no experience of life before the internet. But identifying the problem is part of solving it. Consider it this way: you ARE in control of your attention. A simple example: I do not watch television, live, ever (or very, very rarely). Apart from the dire scarcity of any good quality meaningful television I also cannot stand the constant interuption of advertising. At one stage I thought getting pay TV would solve the problem, but they just replace general advertising with their own advertising. I believe television to be an insult to my intelligence. But no one makes you watch television, and we are all sentient, so the choice is yours.

Kill your Television

When I was young I was more of a gear addict but now I don’t care so much – I have the tools I need. If another version of ProTools was never released ever again, I could still make film soundtracks with what I have. My recorder & mics work well, I do not NEED more gear. And while the people who are constantly trying to sell you more gear will attempt to make you believe, having more gear will not advance you creatively necessarily. And defintiely not as reliably as working on your own attitude & experiences will. So I stop reading reviews and it is only when something very specifically interests me, that I read about it..

Learning to filter the crap out of your life so it doesn’t waste your attention is VERY IMPORTANT! Plenty of people have written blog posts about this topic, so it is worth doing some searches to find specific means of efficiently accessing ONLY the info you want. For me, using an RSS reader has become fundamental to how I deal with the flood of information. I use Googles RSS Reader, as I can access it from anywhere (home, work, laptop, ipad) and while I have 374 RSS streams feeding into it, there are probably only a dozen I actually check each morning. And even then I only read the new posts that interest me. But all those other feeds sit there, accumulating information that I can refer to when I feel like it. The point? it is up to you to develop strategies of managing it.


The same goes with twitter – looking at a constant stream of twitter posts is like insanity: hearing 1,000 voices inside your head. The way I deal with it, is again via RSS feeds. I follow over 1800 people on twitter, and if they mention or message me I get it, but the core people I follow, I subscribe to an RSS feed of their tweets (go to their twitter profile page – there is an RSS button) So in Google Reader I have a folder of twitter feeds which cuts the constant flood of 1,800 peoples tweets down to an archive of 20 peoples, which accumulate until I read or delete them. Twitter lists work a similar way.

The last aspect I take from Benoits post, is really him questioning his motivation and direction – a loss of desire. I suspect this happens for most people at some stage in their life. For some it takes the form of a mid-life crisis, but here is another way of thinking about it. Maybe it is something you should actually think about every day? A film maker I worked with years ago died this week, she was only 49. She doesn’t have any days left now. So maybe every morning it is worth thinking about how your day should be best spent? If you do not feel inspired to compose or record, don’t do it. Putting yourself under pressure may be self defeating. But sometimes it is the act of doing that generates inspiration and not vice versa.

sound advice

If it is a comparative issue ie I used to enjoy X but now I don’t, then its worth thinking about the context & situation when you were doing X happily. What has changed? The only constant is change, so there WILL have been change, but how has it created a different feeling in your behaviour and appreciation for what you used to enjoy? As I eluded to before, is it just familiarity? It is no longer a new experience…

If the issue is motivation, then maybe the problem is defining the actual goal. Getting started is directly related to finishing, so what it is you are starting, so as to finish? What is IT? I hassled a friend about this once, as he was in a rut with a project and went on and on about the various ways the project was going to fail. So I asked him what success was? What is a realistic successful outcome of the project? Clearly defining that may help motivate you to start, develop and finish it. But without it, it may never be started.

sound advice