You only have to go to a gig or stand in front of a drum kit or bass amp
to appreciate the physical effects of sound, but this video illustrates the
effect frequency has on the natural balance between order and chaos….

Anarchy rules! (at some frequencys anyway)

Focusing your ears

How come you can shut your eyes but not your ears?

A crucial skill not often discussed by people who work with sound is that of being able to focus your ears… Most people understand the idea of focusing your eyes because we all do it constantly and you especially become conscious of the skill if you have some kind of vision defect/gift such as myopia. But how do you go about focusing your ears?

It seems if you were considering the idea of ‘training’ your ears to detect pitch (if not perfect pitch then relative pitch) then there are plenty of books & courses of study/practice. This is due to history and musical tradition ie you MUST be able to sing/play in tune… So the idea of training your ear to focus on pitch is well known, but what of sonic focus ie to be able to sonically zoom in & focus on a sonic detail?

As an example when we are mixing a film there may well be 100 sonic elements playing at once, all contributing at different relative levels as the scene plays but it sems the ‘trained’ mind has an ability to ‘look’ past all the mass of sound & hear, say, a single glitch or a mistake/imbalance. Or to focus specifically on one element of a background ambience.

Compared with visual focus, it seems sonic focus is psychological – we aren’t altering our ear function to zoom in on a sound. So focusing the ear is more of an aesthetic endeavor than a purely technical one, we are choosing to focus our mind to listen to one aspect of what our ears are hearing… So is this heading into the land of psychoacoustics, cognitive psychology or instinct?

recording metallic resonance

I’ve been recording & then messing with some lovely resonant sounds
generated by various bits of metal, suspended by cotton thread…
the largest have been some chromatically tuned wind chimes that
I just got from magnolia windchimes in nelson – add a breeze and
these generate beauitful aleatoric music all on their own!

far out! Just came across these wind chimes:

You’d get shut down by noise control
if you had those in wellington!
(US$2700 incase you’re interested)


Everyone has experienced a bad ADR session, but I have never heard an actor so eloquently insult the director as Orsen Welles does while attempting to voice this commercial!

recording vehicle FX

Its such fun to get out of the studio & do some FX recording! This a Ford Bronco V8 we recorded yesterday for our current film project: Bridge To Terabithia. We managed to track this vehicle down via TradeMe, since whatever we recorded had to match the one used in production. This one provided the challenge of having no WOF or registration and also being left hand drive… Needless to say we took it carefully but got some great material!
Recorded onboard using an HHB hard disk recorder using two dynamic mics (one on exhaust & one on motor) plus two Sennheiser 416s inside the cab… For exterior moves, passbys etc we used a Sound Devices 422 recorder with an MS mic setup using Sennheiser MKH 50 and 30.
After all that we went & recorded some interior bus moves (foley etc) plus recorded a few impulse responses with my starter pistol for use in Altiverb…

black sheep

The last film we completed sound design for just had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, apparently to much ‘laughter & shrieking’ which is appropriate seeing as the film is a black comedy/horror by the name of Black Sheep. It screened in the Midnight Madness section fo the festival to a full house of 1200!
In hindsight one thing this film achieved was to mess with every idyllic childhood memory I have of growing up on a farm, but in a hilarious way rather than there being any permanent damage!

A couple of reviews from Toronto:
twitch film review
mcn blogs review

There is also a video clip online actually from the film;
a scene from reel 1 where we first meet the lamb creature
(oh how I wish the audio from youtube clips was better!)

And by the way, I found these clips via this great blog on NZ film

I call architecture frozen music

and so does Goethe
in fact he said it first
I just borrowed the phrase

So…. as the title says, this blog is about ‘the music of sound’
ie my random thoughts on the lovely way air molecules vibrate.

Most of my waking hours are spent working on film sound design via which i get to collaborate with composers & music editors, but I also love to spend any downtime I have noodling around with music & sometimes, by virtue of using similar technology if nothing else, the two overlap & I try to capture the happy accidents that occur…
as one of Eno’s Oblique Strategys says ‘ Honour thy error as hidden intent’