Sound Design Exercise 01

While recording the HISSandaROAR MECHANISM Library I got to hear some fascinating sounding machines, many of which made me think of rhythm tracks for music (century old guillotine = mechanical drum machine?) but most of the machines were also visually fascinating. Sometimes what I was seeing didn’t match what I was hearing (especially when monitoring the contact mic channels of the recordings) but one machine in particular, a large scale printer capable of printing banners 4 metres wide, tweaked my imagination: its movement was hypnotic!

So I shot some video of it, and uploaded it to vimeo but without any sound. Download is enabled, so if you want to have a play & redesign the sound of this machine, fire ahead! But if you do, please sync it to the video & upload it to Youtube or Vimeo & comment a link: I’d love to hear what your machine sounds like (& about your patch/design process!)

Download at vimeo or using this link (its 75MB 720p 23.976fps mp4 mute video file)

I also posted this on MWiggler forum here – intrigued to hear what a modular synth version sounds like!

So please watch this silent video & listen carefully to what your mind imagines:

 

 

ps I didn’t plan this as a competition or anything but… make & post something interesting & I’ll find a reward!

 

HISSandaROAR Competition Results

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Wow – so many entries and not a dud amongst them, but in no particular order here are the ten winners

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▶ Daniel Clay
https://soundcloud.com/danielclay

1. What ideas led you in the direction you took?

The fact that the original sound samples were rhythmic and repetitive and had been cut neatly into loops caused me to think immediately of making a beat. Cliché? Maybe. But maybe not in the context of a “sound design” contest. And I wanted to have fun and not overthink it. I decided to superimpose three of the loops, which got me onto thinking about polyphony, rhythmic and otherhwise. That reminded me of a piece of music I’d read about recently – an antiphon to St Boniface, the oldest known example of notated polyphony in the Western musical tradition. So I, uh, borrowed a recording (thanks guys!) of a performance of that from YouTube and used it as an additional (and integral) element in my submission. Around the same time Native Instruments was giving away free licenses to their Replika delay plugin, so I grabbed that to use too.

2. Any revelations or anecdotes from exploring the sounds?

I think it’s good sometimes to not think, just grab some material and go for something, trying not to be too precious about one’s own aesthetic sentiments. I don’t know that I even like my submission that much, to be perfectly honest. It’s certainly interesting. But it was good practice to be given material, told to do something (FSU, as Tim suggested), make some arbitrary associations and follow them to a conclusion. Process for it’s own sake, somewhat detached form the outcome.

3. What techniques/tools did you use?

After choosing three loops, I put each loop on a separate channel and gated each heavily so that only the more extreme transients were audible. The output of the gate was followed by a delay. The output of these channels was then muted. So, only the rhythmic profile of the transients from Tim’s loops were used. Tim’s actual recordings are absent save one at the very end.
Three additional channels were then created, each containing the recording of the antiphon, followed by EQ, followed by a vocoder. The three vocoders were then sidechained to the respective outputs of the gated & delayed and muted industrial loops. So now the three rhythmic loops were triggering the three vocoders. Each of the vocoders were EQd differently in order to achieve a discrete element of the beat. Low. mid, high. Kick, snare, hat. However you want to think about it.
After the basic skeleton of the signal flow was laid out I did some additional automation of parameters, as well as EQ and resampling a couple things to pull them out of the processing flow and treat them as discrete samples, though never moving them from their original location in time; only processing them further (if that makes any sense.) At the very end you can hear some of one of the original loops creep back in. Also, the primary reverb is from an impulse response I captured with spaced omnis in a defunct train tunnel in Connecticut.

4. How much time did you spend on it?

Considering it was the holidays it is hard to say how much time I spent exactly. I worked on it with headphones at the kitchen table or wherever in the midst of general holiday milling-about, downtime and sitting around with a drink in hand. I’d guess a couple hours, maybe three total.

You can read all about the antiphon to St Boniface here:
http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/earliest-known-piece-of-polyphonic-music-discovered

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▶ Jason Acuna
https://soundcloud.com/jason-acuna-music

1. What ideas led you in the direction you took?

The day you sent that email out, I downloaded the samples and just really liked one of the hits and decided to make a short loop at some arbitrary tempo. Also that same day my friend – the very talented singer/songwriter Danielle Dissmore (https://soundcloud.com/danielle-dissmore) – sent me a song idea she had sung into her iPhone and I decided to sample a short little melody from it. For some reason it just worked over the beat. The Moby reference happened because – a few weeks before – I had been on a date with a woman who is apparently good friends with Moby and she was telling me all these really great, really interesting stories about him. He seems like a really cool guy. Anyway, because of that date something was telling me ‘listen to Moby, listen to Moby’. I read the story behind his PLAY album (it’s beyond inspiring) and just listened to “Play” and “Animal Rights” on repeat, hundreds of times. Moby is a master at taking a kernel of an idea (usually some sort of interesting vocal sample), looping it, and creating this lush sonic landscape. That, along with your great samples, was enough to get me going!

2. Any revelations or anecdotes from exploring the sounds?

Well they got me out of my writer’s block.. I have to check out your other libraries!

3. What techniques/tools did you use?

I need to give a shout out to Twisted Tools, I used some drum samples they gave out for free during the holidays.. Like your sounds, they were also really inspiring and helped make the process a whole lot of fun.

4. How much time did you spend on it?

From the moment you sent that email out to January 1st, I just played around with it in my spare time, so a little less than two weeks.

5. Please let me know any links etc you would like added:

Really want to give a huge thanks to Bob Macc at Subvert Central Mastering. He’s an audio genius and mastered this at the very last minute for me. So nice of him!
http://www.scmastering.com

And of course Danielle Dissmore. Funny thing is I don’t think she’s heard the track yet, I’m just waiting for her to stumble across it and be surprised.
https://soundcloud.com/danielle-dissmore

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▶ Christopher Scullion
https://soundcloud.com/christopherscullion (my music)
http://tatakaudio.com (my audio production company based in Brazil & mostly working with audio for advertising)

1. What ideas led you in the direction you took?

With the rhythmic elements of the sounds I decided right away to take a more musical approach. I had the guitar idea rolling around from a track I was working on and wanted to take it out of it’s original context and mix it this new idea to see how it would turn out.

2. Any revelations or anecdotes from exploring the sounds?

Banging of industial pipes can easily be tuned.

3. What techniques/tools did you use?

Looping, pitch shifting, spectral editing. On one of the scaffolding loops i did a sidechain gating thing, where the sound would be playing but the gate was on so nothing was coming through. I fed the gate with the signal from a beat I made then this would open the gate to let the scaffolding hits sound in a rhythm different to how they were ‘played’.

4. How much time did you spend on it?

About 30 minutes

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▶ Rob Newton – Rocky Scrape Clock Machine
https://www.behance.net/robnewton
http://www.linkedin.com/in/robnewtonaudio

1. What ideas led you in the direction you took?

Well, when the contest read “remix” the sounds, I thought I would try to make something completely different from what you had even before I listened to them. So I pretty much ran with that idea. I like experimenting with stuff until something strange pops out if I’m not looking for anything specific.

2. Any revelations or anecdotes from exploring the sounds?

Hmm….I usually don’t try to make specific location sounds into separate sound effects so it was a bit interesting to see where it would go. Doing stuff like this kind of frees you up to just let it take shape. Sometimes good things can come out of just experimenting. You can find things that can become something unique to the moment. That is kind of exciting and pretty fun.

3. What techniques/tools did you use?

I knew I wanted to really mess with the sounds, so I first just threw them into my DAW and played with time stretching and plug-ins for a bit. That wasn’t really cutting it. I decided it could be cool to combine or convolve two or more of the sounds to really mangle them. I got out of my DAW and went for the weirdest piece of software I have: Mammut (http://www.notam02.no/web/2005/10/mammut-2/?lang=en). This amazing piece of Norwegian software does an FFT of an entire sound and then…well…gets unpredictable. One portion of the program lets you convolve two sounds together in different ways. It’s pretty wild. Unfortunately I can’t really remember what exact settings or parameters I used.

4. How much time did you spend on it?

Probably an hour or so of tweaking and experimentation, then a little editing.

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▶ Carl Beukman – A Little Japanese Factory Horror Story

1. What ideas led you in the direction you took?

Your sounds inspired me together with the Japanese factory that brought up the idea to make this little horror story!

2. Any revelations or anecdotes from exploring the sounds? Where did the Japanese language samples come from? Whats the meaning?

The Japanese language came from some films where I took the samples from. I don’t know what it means, I often use language more as sound as melody to create an atmosphere to tell a story, even without understanding it.

3. What techniques/tools did you use?

I worked in Ableton use max and some effects from Native Instruments.

4. How much time did you spend on it?

I think altogether I worked for about one day on it!

HISSandaROARcompWin

▶ Triames – Hiss
soundcloud.com/triames
facebook.com/triames

1. What ideas led you in the direction you took?

Rhythm + machines + factories. I instantly thought “techno”!

2. Any revelations or anecdotes from exploring the sounds?

I enjoyed the nuances on some of the rhythms – they where very mechanic but sometimes it felt like if they were being operated (played?) by human hands. I guess these are not your average drum machines in terms of timing so they are not perfectly thight, which gives them a certain interest. Specially if you force them to be quantized, this produces all kinds of time-stretching and digtal artifacts, which is something I enjoy using in my tracks.

3. What techniques/tools did you use?

The whole project was done inside of Ableton Live 9, using just the default instruments and effects for one notable exception.

I used Robert Henke’s Granulator for the pad / drone. It excels at creating dense atmospheres from tiny fragments of audio, perfect for focusing on a specific characteristic of a sound, in this case some metallic resonance in the scaffolding hits. I also played with the FM synthesis function during the track because it usually plays great with metallic/inharmonic sounds.
It’s an amazing sound design tool, and it’s free providing you have Ableton Live and max4live:
http://www.monolake.de/technology/granulator.html

For the main rhythmic loop, I took several fragments of the recordings and loaded them in Live’s Sampler:
The kick drum is just a pitch envelope + eq on one of the metal hits, same as the snare drum, which is played at different octaves; and filter envelope, transposing and a bit of FM for the bass. The hihats are pretty much “as is”, I just played them three octaves above the original note.
For the shifting rhythm around 1:45, I used a function of Live’s time-stretching algorithm that “cuts” the transients of a clip at different measures of time (1/8 of a bar, 1/16, 1/24 and so on). The “braking” effect at the end is achieved using this same technique.

Some synced delay + reverb on the return channels, a bit of master compression, a ton of automation, and that’s it.

4. How much time did you spend on it?

About three or four days (nine hours? I usually skip from one project to another and I’m always working on a dozen things so it’s difficult to have an exact time).

HISSandaROARcompWin

▶ Arnaud Noble
https://soundcloud.com/ninjamnox

1. What ideas led you in the direction you took?

In first, i would like to do something like Sci-fi, because I like it and for me it’s easy way to do something “creative” and original. But finally, I took a realistic direction and i work on acoustic rendering and audio texture without editing sample source.

2. Any revelations or anecdotes from exploring the sounds?

Not really, but I really liked to participate to this competition, fresh and fun !

3. What techniques/tools did you use?

I use one of my favorite audio tool name “Scapes”. It’s a ensemble use in Reaktor (Native instrument plugin) made by Twisted Tools. Scapes is a real-time effects processor and generator based on feedback. It uses six independent granular delays, modulation, pitch, enveloppe (..ect) and you can control dynamically manipulate the sound (promised i’m not doing advertising and i’m not working for Twisted Tools, but it’s really cool effect). Then, I use all of sample from HissAndRoar competition and search different way to render cool texture and acoustic with Scapes. I do a lot of audio layers with this effect and mix them. Finally, I spatialized them and processed a convolution reverb (use Altiverb 7).

4. How much time did you spend on it?

I think i spend average 16 hours on it. I wan’t to spend more time but Christmas time win.

5. Any links etc you would like added?

My Audio Source : https://soundcloud.com/ninjamnox/sets/hissandaroar-remix (all files used for my remix)

Scapes : http://twistedtools.com/shop/reaktor/scapes
Twisted Tools : http://twistedtools.com
Reaktor : http://www.native-instruments.com/fr/products/komplete/synths/reaktor-5
Altiveb : http://www.audioease.com/Pages/Altiverb

HISSandaROARcompWin

▶ Angel Perez Grandi
www.soundarkstudios.com/blog
Twitter: @angelpgrandi
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/angelpgrandi
Instagram: http://instagram.com/soundarkangel

1. What ideas led you in the direction you took?

I was looking for inner rhythms in the recordings, percussive snippets and interesting micro-loops to use as main ingredients.

2. Any revelations or anecdotes from exploring the sounds?

It’s very liberating to use a limited set of samples and see where they can get you, with absolute freedom on the final creation.

3. What techniques/tools did you use?

I recently purchased Sound Guru’s The Mangle so thought it would be a good occasion to experiment with it. Feeding the edited samples in this granular synthesis mangler, I created a series of evolving pulsations that drive the piece. Other than that dynamics processors, decapitators, bitcrushers, reverbs and a tad of speakerphone.

4. How much time did you spend on it?

One morning.

HISSandaROARcompWin

▶ Sarah Buchynski
Polarity Audio Works, my audio service business: http://www.polarityaudioworks.com/
IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm6509720/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sarahb_paw

1. What ideas led you in the direction you took?

My goal was to do something that could stimulate a psychoacoustic response in the listener. I had no “solid” idea in mind at first, in terms of the approach I would use. However, once some of the sounds started emerging, I thought, “Hey, let’s do an obscure sci-fi theme.” I’m a big fan of the fantasy/anime genre, and am constantly analyzing the sound elements in these productions, which played a role in my direction once I decided on a theme.

2. Any revelations or anecdotes from exploring the sounds?

As it was coming together, all I could think was that it will evoke one of two responses from the listener:
1. This is random irritating noise, or
2. This is different, but intriguing.
This is the basis, and risk, of psychoacoustics – it will sound like ‘noise’ to some, or ‘pleasant’ to others.

3. What techniques/tools did you use?

I used a handful of virtual vocoders, voice processing plugins, and other processing within Pro Tools

4. How much time did you spend on it?

I spent more time than I thought, at first, I would. I made several different versions. I was having too much fun exploring all the different combinations of sounds I could create!

HISSandaROARcompWin

▶ Derrek Jones, “subtlelapse”
https://soundcloud.com/subtlelapse

1. What ideas led you in the direction you took?

I honestly had no idea where I was headed when I sat down, so I let the sounds themselves do most of the groundwork. I started off with part of one of the machine loops and, after a bit of extreme pitch and time manipulation, heard something that “caught my ear.” This new rhythmic loop became the foundation for what I was now hearing as a sort of ethereal industrial beat. So, now I had a direction, but needed to figure out how to add some color.

2. Any revelations or anecdotes from exploring the sounds?

Sure, but the revelations, once again, were pulled out of the sounds themselves by just experimenting and mangling, and really pushing things too far until I “heard what I was looking for.” That aha moment was already sitting within the sound, waiting to be found. I just played around until I found it.

3. What techniques/tools did you use?

Because I didn’t realize I was creating a beat when I started, rather than using samplers and quantization or any other methods commonly associated with a more “musical” design, I cut this in Pro Tools, by hand, the same way I would have gone about cutting a car chase. Plug-ins used: ReVibe II, H-Delay, MondoMod, Enigma, EQ3 7-Band, PaulStretch, WNS, AIR Distortion, and Ozone 5. Also, the pitch manipulation within Soundminer helped tremendously.

4. How much time did you spend on it?

Over the course of 3 days, probably 3 total hours.

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The main prize for each of these ten is a free copy of the new HISSandaROAR library MECHANISM due for release in the next week or so… But everyone who submitted an entry will receive a special prize, which will be a selection from the new library. Congrats & thanks for creating such intriguing new sounds!

 

ps if you contributed but weren’t one of these selected ten, feel free to add your contribution in the comments – there was such a huge range my choices were very idiosyncratic and I’m sure people would like to check out more of them!

 

State of my Modular

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Spent the start of the new year completely rearranging my modular synth, partly motivated by getting the Tiptop Circadian Rhythm module and partly by the old configuration requiring too many long patch cables. I’m still getting to grips with the new layout but the control & audio pathways seem more logical… The case on the lower right with the Orban parametric EQ and all the FOH Choices joysticks has interesting history – I bought it at an auction and it was used for police surveillance (has tape inputs & monitoring/EQ insert control) but just imagine what that rack has heard!! Most recent addition is the little Akai MPX16 sampler in front, which I am using for replay of field recordings… The SW radio up top is great as a noise source but also has a line in – using the modular feels different through a small speaker than via studio monitors (modular is at rear of studio – thats one of my surround speakers on the right)

Lastly, and I cannot understate this, it is HEAVEN noodling on this – some of the sounds I like the best from it are not complex, but it is a slippery slope – patches tend to evolve to become more complex, rather than less… but my aim is to create patches & then use the joysticks to manually animate them, even just having one patched to the Echophon enables subtle control of multiple parameters… bliss!

note: photos link to larger version