The Wind of Breath

Further to a previous post mentioning my exploration of wind instruments (ie blade of grass whistles etc) via a friend of a friend I had the exquisite pleasure last Thursday evening of directing & recording some of the infinite possible sounds generated with the human breath via wind instruments. The genius I am referring to is an excellent local dude by the name of Bruce McNaught & he came armed with a dozen or more wind instruments….. And while i could provide a fairly specific description of what I needed, my mind was totally open as to how or what the reality was of generating that sound – it ranged from the specific/literal through to the idea of sonifying a metaphor….
The joy of working with musicians from a sound design point of view is that you can quietly push them into territory unknown eg ‘i only want an actual ‘note’ as a small part of the sound – getting to or from the note is almost more important than the note itself….’ And while I fully appreciate that my direction is almost the inverse of how someone learns to play a wind instrument, it easily opens the (right kind of) performer to the infinite… And I could well imagine hitting a brick wall with the wrong ego/personality type, but thankfully I was also working with a performer with an open mind…. Although he arrived with a dozen or more instruments, it took us over two hours of recording to exhaust what we instinctively deemed to be the four most likely instrument ie these:

On the left is a flute of Chinese extraction which employed some kind of onion skin, next is a Japanese Shakahachi while the other two were bamboo flutes of unknown oriigin….. I was, of course, recording 24bit 96k (some of these sounds will work best at half speed) but I also mic-ed with my favourite mic, a Neumann KMR81 pointed at where the primary sound was coming from, plus an Octava MK012 angled towards the main wind/air vent – for I was as interested in the breath/air movement as much as the obvious sound. Apart from trying the usual & immediately unusual approaches, the best material I recorded (& what i suspect will end up being key sounds in the film) were generated by Bruce almost throat singing/humming/harmonizing with his vocal chords while also creating wind/breath/notes with the flute of choice…. It was really something to be in the presence of… & when we finished the session we ended up having an inspired & very honest rant about how the further into exploring music & sound you go, the more you start to appreciate just how large/deep/infinite the scope is! Its a feeling that I can only compare to looking into a deep space telescope with an infinite zoom, and at first thinking; “hmm our stars are beautiful….” and then zooming beyond what you know/can see into the realms of the infinite…. music/sound is as deep as you are prepared to take it.

And vaguely related, this evening I was listening to Worldwide, and Giles Petterson & his studio guest commented about this particular video clip, have a watch/listen – I would suspect its the most interesting sound you have heard today! God bless Hermeto Pascoal and the music of the human breath…

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  1. Pingback: Designing Sound » More than 50 Articles/Tutorials about Sound Design, Recording and more, Plus Wooshes Sound Desing

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