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Fall Semester, 2005
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example Chris Graffeo; from The Art of Designing Sound


CHALLENGE: The Use of Metaphor in Sound. Create a sound design representative of another work of visual art.

STATEMENT: For my second design, I intend to create an echopractic interpretation of Jackson Pollock's classic drip painting One (Number 31, 1950). The painting hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and my piece will be incorporated into a larger environment project designed to create a digital experience of that room in which the painting is hung and that offers both an homage to the artist and gallery, as well as invokes certain questions about the nature of gallery space and digitization.

The sound design itself fill be rooted in Clement Greenberg's criticism of the work (and related Pollock drip paintings) as an "all-over painting," emphasizing the formal elements of the work and calling particular attention to the depth, space, rhythm, and use of color that characterize Pollock's innovative and unique physical and expressive techniques.

Automation and sound processing will figure most prominently in the design: the sounds will be selected for their duration and richness of tone or overtone structures, but will be processed beyond recognition as sampled or realistically synthesized sounds. The sounds, meant to invoke individual colors or paints that feature prominently on the canvas, will be deeply layered (I estimate no fewer than 15-20 tracks in motion) and automation of pan and volume will. Volumes will fade in and out of audible range to simulate visual arrival at areas of the canvas that breathe more openly, where as accelerated rhythms, higher amplitudes, and quick pans will offer an interpretation of more densely paint-laden regions. Like one's gaze, one's sonic orientation will be dragged quickly but fluidly back and forth across the sonic field by several simultaneous, often opposed, threads. Sound selection and EQ will be used to separate each tone as far from the others sonically as possible, so that the listener will at times be able to follow the tracks discretely, where as at other moments they will be used to represent the amalgamation of the tracks in a singular sonic gumbo of swirling paint. used to represent the amalgamation of the tracks in a singular sonic gumbo of swirling paint.

SOURCE MATERIAL: Listed above and various sound effect compact discs.


example Andrew Hofstra; from The Art of Sound Design


CHALLENGE: The Use of Metaphor in Sound. Create a sound design representative of another work of visual art.

STATEMENT: For my Image and Sound project I will be using Salvador Dali's painting titled "The Elephants." A surrealist piece of course, will require surrealist sound. I am going to attempt to emulate the horizon color change from yellow to deep red with a synth on my computer (if you will allow)-- I already have it in my head. The sound will start off low and watery and build in intensity and sharpness. I also want to use a number of eerie ambiences and white noise to capture some of the haunting and chaotic elements of the work. The sound of lumbering brass instruments (tuba heavy) also come to mind when I look at this piece, so I would like to find a way to incorporate that as well. Those are the initial ideas that popped into my mind when looking at The Elephants.

SOURCE MATERIAL: Listed above and various sound effect compact discs.


example Andrew Colangelo; from the Art of Sound Design


CHALLENGE: The Use of Metaphor in Sound. Create a sound design representative of another work of visual art.

STATEMENT: When I look at this image, I see the evolution and eventual destruction of human life on earth. I see the diseases that strike high-density populations as natural selection, destroying the communities that have grown out of control. In this image, the S.A.R.S. mask that represents the medical protection against disease has evolved into a war helmet, representing humans destroying themselves. The explosions on the soft-blue sky background represent the shattering of the relatively peaceful human race by massive amounts of war.

The start of the track is a heartbeat, the potential for human life. Static follows, the random noise that is the molecules mixing in the universe to create an environment where humans can live. The symphony warming up is the early evolution of humans, finding the right tone and place in the environment. The sounds of a Hong Kong city street represent the communities formed between humans, and start of the industrial world. The highway noises represent the world beginning to move too quickly, develop too much for its capacity. The siren is the onset of disease and natural selection, which has come as a result of overpopulation. The downward spiral of the human race continues with armies and war vehicles set into motion, and subsequent fighting. The final leg of the human race as we know it is obliterated by an atomic bomb, ending all human life. But a slight heartbeat lives on...

Sound Component Ideas: Underlying static/random softer noises, representative of human life at a relatively static state, could also be a steady beat. Then more sounds are added, representing the increase in the complexity of human life and crowded density. Next really crowded noises, lots of things on top of each other. At the climax there will be sirens representing the disease that has forces humans to wear the mask in the picture. Then there will be a decrease in the noise, but gunfire, which will represent the spiked part of the mask in the picture. Finally the gunfire will die off and the sound will return to the basic static noise or beating we heard in the beginning

SOURCE MATERIAL: Listed above and various sound effect compact discs.


example Annie Steingold; from The Art of Designing Sound
CHALLENGE: An Audio Environment: Students will recreate the sound of a realistic environment.

STATEMENT: A musical wouldn’t be what it is without… the music. Whether the music is boppy and splashy, or dark, intense, and powerful, the music and sounds in the show allow it to be referred to as a “musical” in the first place. But, what does it sound like in the theater before the show begins?

Many times, people are so preoccupied with what the show will sound like once it has started, that they are not paying attention to the various sounds around them before the show has actually begun, sounds that contribute to making the musical effective (for example, the musicians warming up). I plan on recreating the sound environment of a large theater full of people who are attending a musical, anxiously waiting for the show to begin.

First, I will begin with the theater. I will attempt to recreate the sound of a large crowd of people murmuring and whispering to each other before the show. I will create the sound as if I am sitting in a seat in the middle of the theater before the show has begun (so I will hear the sounds of murmuring and talking all around me). The people will not be loud individually, but what will make it seem loud is the amount of people in the theater (about 500). This murmuring will continue throughout the whole thing…until toward the end.

Occasionally, you will hear the sound of a page turning- a page in the playbill. There will be rusting of the playbill as well. This will occur about every 10-15 seconds. About 5-8 seconds after the sound environment begins, you will hear the orchestra start to warm up. First, there will be violins tuning up (because to me, violins are the most common sound that I can think of when I think of an orchestra warming up). That will continue for a while, and then I will put other instrument sounds over that (for example, a flute going up and down the scale, or an oboe-player starting to warm up). These various sounds (the instruments, the murmuring, the page rustling), will continue for a whole minute. I think the various types of instruments plays a key role in this environment. Then, a voice, which sounds like it is amplified and has a slight echo, will turn on, louder than the murmuring. This is after the instruments have stopped tuning/warming up. It will be an announcement that says, “Ladies and gentlemen, please silence all cell phones. Remember, there is no flash photography. And remember, enjoy the show.” It will be something like that. As it begins, you will hear people going, “Shh” (comments like that), and the murmuring will quiet down until it is silent (except for the announcer). After he says, “enjoy the show”, the orchestra will strike one large chord- a big, booming noise- and that will mark the end of the sound environment.

I plan on getting these sounds by finding a murmuring noise and then duplicating it throughout. I might add the sound of someone clearing their throat (which I could do on my own with a microphone), etc., to vary up the sound of people talking. For the instruments, I will find sounds online. Also, the page rustling sound should be easy to do (I can record that as well). For the voice, I can record a male voice and then add an echo to it in order to make him sound louder than everything and everyone else (to make it sound like his voice is projecting throughout the theater). I will also hopefully find the sound of an entire orchestra online.

SOURCE MATERIAL: Listed above and various sound effect compact discs.


example Ben Warner; from The Art of Sound Design


CHALLENGE: An Audio Environment: Students will recreate the sound of a realistic environment.

STATEMENT: I’m going to Hell. Ted was a child molester who was never caught. Then his appendix burst and he died on the operating table. That is where my sonic narrative begins. The first sound we hear is a classic ER flat-line. This slowly fades out. My idea is that the environment (Hell) exists in the consciousness(es) of the condemned. Though it is his own personal hell, he has no voice. We are sonically privy to his descent. So, after the ‘beeeeep’ fades, Ted finds himself at the top of a cool, dank, enclosed staircase leading down. The sounds here will be a single drip falling into a puddle and Ted’s footsteps on metal stairs. As he goes down, the drip gets louder. He opens a door. There is a surging suction, then a pop, as Ted is sucked into Hell. Immediately, a match is struck, a small fire starts. Fire sounds will be a constant from here on in the environment, slowly growing in intensity: match…small blaze…campfire…forest fire…raging, towering inferno. Also at this point, I want to introduce a distant, repetitive scream, initially undetectable, slowly, constantly rising. Also, I want to add a distant, initially undetectable, gigantic throbbing bass drum, which builds throughout. As the fire sounds grow, we hear the clinking of chains and mild moaning. Then, suddenly, a phone sound: that ascending ‘beep, beep, beep’ which comes when your call has failed. This repeats several times, and then stops. The flames are more apparent now and a wild, "echoy" scream sounds close by. More chains clinking, the fire builds, bass drum now low in the background. A saw whizzes on, one of those little circular bone-saws. A voice begs for mercy: ‘No, no, no, please, no.” (Note: none of these voices or screams come from Ted, he’s just my viewpoint) The saw cuts into flesh, bone. Wild, garbled, wet screams. The saw stops. The phone ‘beep, beep, beeps’ again. The fire, bass drum and initial scream are now quite loud. Electricity crackles, flesh sizzles, a chain saw buzzes on, limbs are severed, something internal bursts, at least four screaming voices. From the second coming of the ‘beep, beep, beep’ I want about 25-30 seconds of heinous, hellish noise, rising to a crescendo of screams, then suddenly, silence, except for the fire, which dies down a bit. Nine seconds of relative peace, then: ‘beep, beep, beep’ and screams, flames, drum and saws resume their crescendo volume for five more seconds, then silence.

Required sounds:1)Flatline 2)Drip into puddle 3)Footsteps on metal stairs 4)door opens 5)suck…pop 6)match light 7)fire (various fire sounds will be good, to create a range of intensity) 8)1st scream (repetitive) 9)Bass drum repeating 10)chain clinks 11)moans 12)that rising ‘beep, beep, beep’ 13)2nd scream 14)bone saw 15)mercy begging 16)saw in flesh/bone 17)3rd scream 18)electric crackling 19) burning flesh 20) chain saw 21)limbs falling 22)organ popping 23)4th scream 24)5th scream?

SOURCE MATERIAL: Listed above and various sound effect compact discs.


example Chris Graffeo; from the Art of Sound Design


CHALLENGE: An Audio Environment: Students will recreate the sound of a realistic environment.

STATEMENT: I approached my realistic environment intending to recreate the ambience of an art gallery, positioning the listener as a single individual moving throughout the gallery and listening to the physical
sounds and voices of other people moving around him/her in the space. As I began working, I found this project limited by the number voices available and the relative dullness of two minutes of moving
footsteps and decided to turn the focus of the project towards the listener's interior space. The crucial decision that led to many of the decisions I made while choosing, editing, processing, and ordering sounds was to place the listener inside a mind collapsing--perhaps the mind of an artist himself--under the pressure of the gallery environment. Without giving a fully explicit narrative of the individual sounds, the listener hears himself walk into the gallery from a side staircase, move to the center of the room and sit down, beginning to read a newspaper. As the sounds of other speakers in the gallery, children moving throughout, and city ambience outside mount, the listener begins to lose their mind, and a number of sonic signifiers are employed to suggest this mental unhinging as sounds in the gallery trigger hallucinations of both alien sounds originating within the listener's synthesized mind (grunting pigs, frying bacon, a roaring lion) and spinning off of the gallery sounds (an amplified and dramatically-panned clock ticking, radio-like processing of the other voices, a jet fly-by). The hallucinations dull briefly as the listener lights a cigarette, but his or her end is left ambiguous as purposeful footsteps are heard approaching, followed shortly by a gunshot (whose origins, target, and real/surreal existence are left intentionally unspecified) which causes the listener to faint, closing the environment.

SOURCE MATERIAL: Listed above and various sound effect compact discs.


Spring Semester, 2005
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example Sara Ward; from Mentored Study in Sound Design

CHALLENGE: The Use of Metaphor in Sound. Create a sound design representative of another work of visual art.

STATEMENT: In the image “Untitled” painted by Roberto Sebastian Echaurren Matta, it relates to sound in the elements that are used to create this piece. Strange shapes inhabit this fantastical, amorphous landscape. Visions from a dark imagination dart spontaneously across the picture surface and beyond, like electrical currents. I want to recreate that with sound with elements of sharp lazar beam like sounds or lines (in a 2-D term) moving or panning across a canvas. They seem to resist any polar attractions to direct them into a semblance of compositional unity or rhythm. When I first came across this image the artist did a fantastic job by taking me into another world unlike any one I have ever seen or dreamt. I felt as if I was in some kind of under–water world. But, then after studying the piece longer I began to realize that that was not necessarily a fish at the bottom center of the image, but it could be any thing, just a ball of color. An unnatural blue-ish color suffuses the scene with an aura of mystery and other-worldliness, while the pictorial forms seem to be the result of a bizarre symbiosis of organic limbs and mechanical components extending into an infinite space. The ideas of electronic noises and mechanical sounds appeal to me in recreating this with sounds. And muttle it with an underwater feel of deeper tones and gurgling noises. Matta first strained as an Architect, but turned to painting in 1937. His style is in full contact with that of the Surrealists movement and uses a technique of free brush strokes with out control or rational. This I too feel could be translated and communicated through sound. The idea of spontaneous brush strokes hitting the canvas could be conveyed with just that. I would like to record that sound and then play with it with reverb and other mixing tools in Digital Performer. There must be a sense of freedom conveyed to the listener when this piece is finished.

SOURCE MATERIAL: Sound effects from Sound-Ideas, Valentino Sound Effect Library, and others.


example Jinny Parron; from The Art of Sound Design


CHALLENGE: The Use of Metaphor in Sound. Create a sound design representative of another work of visual art.

STATEMENT: I find the digital collage by Karin Kuhlmann that can be found at http://www.karinkuhlmann.de/DigitalWorlds/abstract9/witches kitchen/witcheskitchen.html fascinating. I like her collages of lighter color because they don't represent any one thing and they have a milder, less violent mood to them. In this collage I see a pipe organ playing a light, airy tune. This tune is something that flows rather than lingers. It could be possible that dancing is happening to this tune. I also see jugs full of water and I can imagine possibly dripping in the distance from some faucet that was used to fill them. I see a chemistry set of bottles with a flame beneath some, gently boiling their contents. And I see a volcano in a mountain range full of volcanoes with an active, sputtering core. The space isn't full of sound, just like the collage isn't full of color, but has emptiness about it. This emptiness isn't a dark void or a small room with a sharp echo, though, but rather a summer landscape where things roll away into infinity.

SOURCE MATERIAL: Various sound effect compact discs.


example Jonah Lampkin; from the Art of Sound Design


CHALLENGE: Simple Editing. Students will edit music an/or audio by rearranging the parts of a piece.

STATEMENT: The picture of Alexis seated next to the bus window was taken en route to Auschwitz in Poland. She is very contemplative and distracted. The heavily saturated grayscale creates the bed for a rich emotional reaction.

This picture speaks in the form of a crested wave. We hear the background sounds: a humming (well maintained) bus, water pelting against the window gently, some "anticipational" music piping tinny through the headphones, a dull roar of background conversation. Thoughts begin to take over, and we hear a transformation into her mind’s eye. The ambiance fades away as vivid colours, forms, and volumes take hold. We hear gears cranking, bodies falling, hearts entwining in ecstasy and breaking in despair. A very abstract and experimental collage of sound and imagery takes hold, suppressing the past, and subtly hinting at the future. The woven mesh of sensory stimulation eventually falls apart, leaving only reality (and the ever faithful drone of the bus ride) behind.

SOURCE MATERIAL: Various sound effect compact discs.


These materials are examples only. They are not for intended for commercial use.

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Last Modified:
November 7, 2008