SOUND DESIGN:

In Pursuit

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I posted a while ago about this fascinating documentary project: In Pursuit of Silence and as a backer its been great receiving the rewards, including postcards from around the world as their shoot progresses. I’ll repost the outline of the project below, but they have recently launched a second Kickstarter funding round, to get them through the remainder of the shoot and into post production – if you value your ears & can spare the price of a cup of coffee, or more, please have a look at the project here & help contribute to the creation of this incredibly worthy project. Some of the available rewards are so excellent, for example: “You and up to 2 guests can spend up to 30 minutes in the anechoic chamber at the famous Orfield Laboratories near Minneapolis, rated the “Quietest Place on Earth” by the Guinness Book of World Records” and I love these Moleskin ‘silence journals’

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Relatedly I had a fun afternoon, meeting up with Guido from Soundeffects.ch who is on holiday in New Zealand for a couple of months & it was interesting to chat with him about his experiences recording in his home country of Switzerland as well as many other countries in Europe and abroad. One of the comments he made that has stuck with me, was how difficult it is to find quiet in Switzerland. For example while there are plenty of rivers & streams there, to be able to capture wider perspectives of them is very difficult due to noise pollution.

Nowhere, New Zealand included, is free of noise pollution but there is a direct relationship between population, land mass and noise pollution. Unfortunately once noise pollution actually becomes an issue it is way too late to do anything about it: progress, endless population growth and development will be the inevitable undoing of the human race and it won’t be a quiet process. So it will be very interesting to see how far this documentary pursues the wider issues associated with the political & commercial agenda of constant expansion, and the long term costs associated with it.

Another aspect I am interested in is what the actual physical & health impacts are from living in a ‘noisy’ environment. Do you simply become desensitized? I notice it in a small scale by now living effectively in the country side – when I go into the city I feel the effects of the traffic & general busyness, and I don’t really relax until I get away again. But in Japan it is even more pronounced, I well remember spending a few days in the relatively small town of Nara for the film festival, and then returning to Osaka and instantly feeling the huge contrast in every day life, but especially in the evenings: Nara was quiet at night, whereas I suspect Osaka is never actually quiet.

Of course that is part of the ‘buzz’ of spending time in a large city, and each person finds their own balance and their own quiet places for necessary respite. But what does it actually mean to ‘get used to’ living & existing in a relentlessly busy, noisy environment?

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IN PURSUIT OF SILENCE is a meditative film about our relationship with sound and the impact of noise that will be released globally. The award-winning Los Angeles-based filmmakers are currently in the final stages of production, and have launched a Kickstarter campaign to finish the film. The funding will allow them to complete the last few production trips and move deep into the editing process towards a final cut of the film. This unique crowdfunding campaign includes a range of exclusive rewards for backers to engage with silence and sound, including 30 minutes in the quietest place on earth, dining at a silent meal (to be featured in the film!), a custom made “Silence Kit”, pre-orders for the completed film, limited edition prints, and more. All funds raised will help the film to serve a catalyst for a global movement towards a better sounding world. The campaign ends November 7, 2014. See a short video and more details about the project at Kickstarter

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The film intends to explore the following:

– Silence as perceived by different cultures

– The dimensions of silence and how we perceive it

– The benefits of silence from a psychological, neurological, spiritual perspective

– The basic science of sound, how we perceive it, how it influences us

– Noise pollution and its negative effects on health, cognitive development, autism, our general perception of the world around us

– Solutions to noise pollution (i.e. city planning, product design, architecture)

– Hearing loss and other diseases related to hearing and sound

Support the project on Kickstarter here

Ping Pong Delays in the real world

The last two files in the HEAVY METAL IMPACTS library are some sounds I stumbled across while recording this truck deck

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As soon as I saw it I knew there would be some interesting sounds within, but it was only when I moved around to the side that I noticed the two brackets, which were hanging off the side of it

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At first I thought I should remove them, as they ‘clanked’ when hit & did I want everything to have that ‘clank’ in it? But then I tried lifting them up & dropping them… ahar! Instant ‘bouncing ball’ patch!! Dropping them in unison led to nice complex decay sounds, but after playing with it for a while I tried to perform a ping pong delay and was having so much fun that I zoned out for half an hour, clank-clanking away to my hearts content!

I would presume most people know what I am talking about but two quick explanations:

the ‘bouncing ball’ patch is modular synth nerd speak for a patch that emulates the sound of a bouncing ball. The effect was used to the point of oblivion in this fantastic Aphex Twin track – Bucephalus Bouncing Ball, even if you know the song, have a listen again – his relentless manipulation of sound is so great, but if you require instant gratification skip to @3.02 in the track… (love all the little samples from the old school Defender™ video game scattered through the track too)

Obviously the bouncing ball patch is emulating the effects of gravity on this planet of ours – if we lived on the moon the effect would seem totally unreal… This effect can be achieved a few different ways digitally, there is a thread on GS HERE with suggestions eg in Ableton sampler via automating loop length

Or if you use Reaktor there is the Newtonian Bouncer or the Bouncer Pack

For modular synth users the MakeNoise Maths module can generate the required rhythms, see HERE and this thread on MW forum

And explanation #2: a ping pong delay is when you use two delays, one hard left & the other hard right, and the delays alternate. So if you used a ping pong delay on a snare drum it would echo left, then right then left then right etc etc as it decays… Back in the day, using analogue outboard gear it was a clever patch to make it happen. Then outboard went digital & it became a single button press to recall a ping pong delay preset. Then things like ableton LIVE came along and it became even easier, as their ping pong delay plugin auto matched the tempo of the music you were working on and if that was what you wanted it was instant… and bland. There is nothing more boring than a delay that is perfectly in time with tempo imho – the joy of using outboard such as a space echo is that you have to use your brain, your taste & your sensibilities to ‘dial in’ the delay that feels right in the moment. While no one is forcing you to use tempo matched delays, I think it is the worse starting point possible…

Anyway back to the real world, here are my totally flawed, human & gravity powered bouncing ball & ping pong delays version – first unison & then alternating ping pong…

I had another idea about this & asked on twitter: are there any delay plugins which let you script delay times?

What I thought would be interesting was to set the ProTools timeline to samples and accurately measure the placement of each of the hits in one of those gravity powered ping pong sounds, and then convert that back to a delay setting for each decaying hit and enter it into a delay plugin, and thereby be able to apply that effect to anything… The suggestions tended to be using MaxforLIVE or multiple instances of a multi-tap delay plugin, but I wondered if I could achieve it by manually creating an impulse response – not using the sound itself, as I don’t want the tonality of the sound applied – only the rhythm. So this is what I tried…

First I normalized the left channel to 0dB and then same for the right. Then I placed a marker on each sound and measured its level using the AudioSuite Gain plugins analyse button.
I then hunted through the impulse response folder for TL Space until I found an IR for a delay and I imported a copy into my session and borrowed the first impulse or spike, and manually placed it on two new tracks in the same positions as those in the original recording, and then went through using the Normalize AS plugin and changed the level of each spike to match that of the original at that position…

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Then I exported a stereo .WAV file to the IR folder, booted up TL Space and using my new Bracket Bounce impulse response applied it to a few different source sounds:

So it kind of worked – nothing too startling, but worth experimenting further eg applying a filter sweep to the spikes, so the high frequencies roll off as it decays… But also it is a potential method to apply a real world delay AND to create unreal delays, eg imagine rhythmically sequencing spikes & processing them through something like Sugar Bytes Effectrix with sequenced/modulated processing… hmmmmm….

If you really have free time on your hands you could also try this:

Light Show

This show just opened at the Auckland City Art Gallery, after a stint at the Hayward Gallery in London – it runs from 11th October 2014 until 8th February 2015, more info HERE

Fantastic – I can’t wait to visit it!

Believe revisited

This: JEFF MILLS TO DESIGN PERCUSSION INSTRUMENT INSPIRED BY UFO SIGHTING

Made me revisit this (originally posted September 19, 2013)

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Today was a great day!

I was in a ho hum sort of mood (aka hungover) but headed to Mito Peninsula & got some nice shots at a beach that I had previz’d…. & then met this fine gent. He showed me some beautiful photos he had taken using a telescope of the eclipse back in 2012, but the photo that caught my eye was the one he is holding, apparently shot in 2010 pretty much from the same spot where he is standing when I took this photo…. He gave me some great advice about local locations for shooting, all without him speaking english and me being a kindergarten grade Japanese speaker.

Do you believe?

shot on Mito Peninsula today 18th September 2013

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Following his advice I set two timelapses in motion (5D on the left and GoPro H3 on the right) and enjoyed not being able to do anything except be present for the next 2 hours…. When the sun actually crossed the horizon I expected some kind of sound (I know, lame huh?) but here is the funny thing, after waiting for over an hour, listening to the 5D go click every ten seconds.. sound was provided! This flock (murder?) of crows came out of nowhere & did a big circuit, out to sea a bit & then back in land…. perfectly timed for sunset, and surely not a coincidence!

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Did I record it? No….. but heres the thing: some moments aren’t created for you to record them. Some moments are created for you to experience them. As long as I live I will always remember finding the crows at sunset, after meeting the UFO guy, on the Mito peninsula.