home instructor courses Examples notes facilities resources

Fall Semester, 2006
<< back

play Matthew Marcus from Sound Design: Studio

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

STATEMENT: For my audio/visual interpretation, I have chosen this picture of Batman.  I felt representing the image of Batman would be both challenging and enjoyable as he has transcended the limits of the ordinary fictional character and entered the realm of symbol and myth.  This picture emphasizes this mythic quality by depicting Batman in abstract form.  You can’t see Batman’s face or really any individual part of him.  You can only see the reflection of the rain as it bounces off his crouching form.  My overall goal is to create an audio score which expresses his strength, darkness, and unrelenting determination.  There will be three main components to my project: an audio environment, a musical score, and a voice over.

The first component will consist of found sound effects to create a thunderstorm, preferably taking place in a teeming city.  This will reflect the picture’s emphasis of rain and “show” the city Batman is looking down over.  The second component of the project will be a musical loop created on Garage Band.  I plan to mix swelling stringed instruments and electric guitars, maybe even dramatic vocals if Garage Band has the appropriate samples.  The music simultaneously represents the edgy crime-ridden streets of Gotham and the violent strength required to stop it.  I also want the music to complement a voice over.  I intend to record a voice track to give the figure in the rain an interior monologue.  The voice over will be a unifying component to the project emphasizing the central character’s dominance over the world he lives in.

SOURCE MATERIAL: Various sound effect compact discs, original Garage Band composition, and voice recordings.

play Todd Patterson from Sound Design: Studio

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

STATEMENT: For our next design project, I decided to find a brand new piece of art that would allow me to approach it with a fresh interpretation instead of something I’d already seen and analyzed before.  I found a piece of artwork that I found interesting, however the name is typed in Russian or Ukrainian, as well as the artist’s name, so I’m not exactly sure what it’s called.  However, again, the lack of title may aid me in my creative interpretation.  The painting consists of a man, whom I believe to be black, sleeping or thinking up against a tree with either the sea or the sky as a background.  Despite the rather mundane depiction, the use of color and brushstrokes make the painting much more interesting, where many of the colors blend together which enhances the visual.  The main thing up for interpretation which I hope to try and portray is what the man might be thinking about in this particular environment.

I hope to capture this piece by beginning in what seems like a peaceful environment as it would suggest, but then to slowly (as if in a dream state) segue into the mind of the man that is sleeping.  I interpreted the guy from his skin color and his style of dress that the man might be a servant/slave of some type, which opens worlds of possibility as to what he may be thinking.  The idea is to try and contrast the serenity of the background in the picture with the inner turmoil of the man in the picture.

For example I might begin with a simple country ambience, with waves crashing, birds chirping, horse carriages moving (although I’m not sure what time period I want, it may move into a more modern feel by the end).  Then using GarageBand or Digital Performer try to create some sort of music or effects that would imply moving out of a reality into a more supernatural type of environment, which would be the man’s mind.  Using effects such as babies crying, people being whipped, gunshots, etc. (all a little warped), try to show what this servant man goes through everyday. I will try to portray the oily nature and muddled colors of the painting, using the various plug-ins, like echo, reverb, etc.  This will hopefully portray a dream like setting which is indicative of the painting.

SOURCE MATERIAL: Various sound effect compact discs, original Garage Band composition, and voice recordings.

play John Campbell from Sound Design: Studio

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

STATEMENT: The goal of this project is to make an audio representation of this piece of digitally generated visual artwork.  This work of art is from www.digitalblasphemy.com.  All of the wallpapers on the site are visually stunning computer generated works of art.  When I first saw this image, I imagined a wizard casting a spell in a mysterious fantasy world.  Through sound, I would like whoever is listening to my audio clip to envision such a magical world. 

My plan is to create an intense audio clip with lots of variation.  The clip will start out with the soft noise of men worshiping.  This will be very soothing and create a spiritual mood.  From there, I will add the high-pitched voice of a woman opera singer, which will slowly increase in intensity during the clip.  With the men and woman, there should be a very spiritual presence, and it should feel as if the listener is in the middle of some type of magical ritual.  As the tension builds with the increased intensity of the singers, a very deep rumbling sound will also emerge.  It will feel as if the entire chamber is becoming less stable, and suddenly an intense explosion will occur.  The instant after the explosion the bass will stop and the intensity of the men and women will start to decline.  The room will be filled with a supernatural aura as the twinkling of spells can be heard floating around the room.  This twinkling will swirl around the room and slowly dwindle until it finally becomes inaudible.  The men and women will then be the only thing left and will slowly fade out.

It may be difficult to find the correct sounds of men and women for use in the clip.  I will search for men singing or chanting in a strange language and women opera singers.  I will also need to find, or possibly generate a very deep bass sound that will intensify the clip up until the moment of the explosion of the spell being cast.  I hope to find a gentle twinkling sound that can be used for the actual spell, but if I can’t find a sound that I like I could alter the sound of chimes.  I plan to manipulate every sound in the project with plug-ins.  I will change the frequencies by automating the equalizer to try to make the room pulse and feel alive.  Echo and reverb will also be very important because the picture seems to be in an enclosed space such as a temple.  I will also pan the twinkles left and right to try and achieve the feeling that they are floating and circling the room. 

SOURCE MATERIAL: Various sound effect compact discs, original Garage Band composition, and voice recordings.

play Courtney Kesseler from Sound Design: Studio

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

STATEMENT: For the third project, I will attempt to simulate an image with sound. The image I have chosen was graphically altered to make a very powerful and beautiful image. I was initially attracted to this image because of its creativity, but on looking further, I found that the image sends a very powerful message. In order to convey this message, I will alter and arrange a variety of sound effects using Digital Performer. In addition, I will create my own work using the clips in Garageband to further help represent my image with sound.

While the image can be interpreted a variety of ways, I have chosen to taken on a religious perspective. In a literal sense, a creature from above has come to shed light on a dying tree. Metaphorically speaking, I view the creature as a messenger of God, and the tree represents society as a whole. As it stands, society is in a weakened state. God has sent a messenger to shed life (the rays of light and color) upon the darkened dying tree in order to embrace and improve the conditions we live in today. While this interpretation may not be what the artist had intended, that is what I have gleaned from this picture and have chosen to simulate with sound. I will use dark sound initially, which will represent the dead tree. Then after I feel the message of the desperate society has been conveyed, I will use sounds to simulate the heavens opening and the appearance of the messenger. Then soft sounds, such as a violin or peaceful water, will fill the atomsphere to simulate the light shining down and flooding the tree of society.  I want my piece to end on a positive and uplifting sound to represent the hope the messenger has brought society.

Sounds I might use include violins (dark and light notes), which will serve to set the mood at a given time within the piece. During the “dark” portion of the piece, I will use a low heavy bass, rustling of leaves, and wind. I want to incorporate the sound of crying or screaming. I want this to symbolize the cries of help from the people of society. I want the sounds to be very low, and almost unrecognizable. I will look for clips in different languages to convey that the desperation is a world-wide mood. As I simulate the heavens open up, I will use a lot of heavy wind. I will also look for a sucking or ripping sound, which will symbolize the heavens breaking apart to allow the messenger into the world.  At the climax of the point, I will use an “ah” sound, perhaps from a chorus, to represent the light pouring in. I also want to find harps, or other instruments, to create a light atmosphere. Ultimately, I hope to use these sounds, and create my own, in order to fully convey the message of the image to my listeners.

SOURCE MATERIAL: Various sound effect compact discs, original Garage Band composition, and voice recordings.

play Kevin Turner from Sound Design: Studio

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

STATEMENT: Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”, which can be found here, is a masterful depiction of a serenely lit city at night made surreal, even violent by swirling, turbulent brushstrokes. The painting’s eerie, surreal imagery creates a constant vacillation into and out of reality. The result is an overarching tension between life and death, reality and “surreality,” the conscious and the unconscious. My challenge as the sound designer is to not only capture the visual essence of the painting through the metaphor of sound, but also to evoke from my listener the same emotions Van Gogh evokes from his viewer.

A key element of “Starry Night” is the sharp contrast between dark—the rolling blue and black hills, the deep blue sky, the black tree looming in the foreground, and the dark blues of the city—and light—the vivid oranges and yellows of the stars and yellowish-green aura just above the hills. Because darkness is prevalent in the painting with light only interspersed, I will try to embody such an imbalance sonically. My base texture, or ambience, will consist of dark, low pitched tones created either with a synthesizer or sampled (I’m not sure what kind of “tones” we have in the sound database at this point because last project I was looking for sound effects). Higher pitches will enter the soundscape erratically from all directions to mimic the moments of light in the painting breaking through the dark sky. I would like to use a Doppler effect plug-in on some of these tones to help create the surreal, swirling effect that we see in Van Gogh’s brushstrokes. Dynamic panning will also help create this swirling, surreal effect. I believe the mania that eventually drove Van Gogh to suicide is evident in the violent swirl of the brushstrokes, so I also want my sound to design to suggest a sort of mania, subtly at first but building in intensity and reaching a climax at the end of piece. Automation of effects will certainly be needed, as I’ll want a lot of the effects to swell as the piece progresses forward towards this climax.

I expect to use a lot of musical sounds in an atonal/experimental context for this piece. (What I mean by that is, for example, if I use a piano sound, it will not be in the context of a concerto but instead heavily processed as an element in a greater sonic texture). The project will have less “sound effects” (with the exception of certain noises from nature like wind, perhaps, as their appears to be a gust of wind in the night sky) and human noise than the last project because the town seems so eerily still in the painting (juxtaposed against the violent motion of the sky). Embodying this visual work of art aurally will be about recreating its surreality, tension, and intense emotion through sonic metaphor. It will not be a matter of finding that one perfect sound effect, but coming to the blank canvas of digital performer with an idea, and using a wide variety of sounds, plug-ins, and my creativity to see it to fruition.

SOURCE MATERIAL: Various sound effect compact discs, Original iTunes composition voice recordings.

play Kenneth Clash from Sound Design: Studio

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

STATEMENT: For project III, I will focus on a basketball player's picture. I would like to represent his hard work and determination by creating a rhythmic arrangement inspired by the movie "Rocky". The song is titled "War" by Vince Dicola. Sean Singletary, of the UVA basketball team is a very good friend of mine, and I really got a chance to see how hard he works this summer, as he worked on basketball fundamentals three, and sometimes four times a day. I could think of no other theme music fitting for him than the Rocky series. He loves Hip-Hop as well, so I figured that I would combine samples, midi, and garage band loops to represent the determination on his face as he drives to the basket in this picture.

To be more specific, I would include the following:

  • Begin with Rocky “War” fanfare sample
  • Transition to hip hop beat using drum sounds and midi
  • The concept of the project will be to demonstrate a build in intensity to represent Sean Singletary’s intensity.
  • Background noise will include crowd swells, announcer, ball bouncing, sneaker skids, net swooshes, and buzzers.
  • If time permits, I will beat box to add texture to the beat I will recreate the Rocky “War” fanfare using midi sounds.
  • End with Rocky “War” fanfare sample

The loop should change layers at least every 16 bars for no more than 2 minutes.

SOURCE MATERIAL: Various sound effect compact discs, prerecorded music and voice recordings.

play Kevin Turner from Sound Design: Studio

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

STATEMENT: I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat in an airport, waiting to board a flight. Usually, I’m listening my iPod trying to block out the flurry of sound going on around me.  And furthermore, whether it’s because I’m sad about who, where, what, or why I’m leaving or because I’m anxious to get where I’m going or even because I’m terrified of flying, I’m so deep in thought, so filled with emotion that I don’t pay attention to the soundscape. But what would I hear if I really listened? What does an airport terminal sound like? I plan to answer those questions for the listener with this sound design.

I will assume the point of view of a passenger waiting to board his flight. Of course, I will include the sound of planes landing and taking off. I will probably EQ a lot of the high-end out of these sounds so that they sound like they are coming from outside and are being dampened by the walls of the airport. They will also pan from left to right and vice versa to mimic their movement in relation to my passenger’s head. As most flights these days are sellouts, the waiting area outside the gate will be crowded with other waiting passengers. So, part of the sound environment will include the murmur of people—unintelligible chatter, flurries of footsteps, coughing, baby’s crying, cell phones ringing, iPods bleeding through headphones, etc. This murmur will be relatively constant, and will be panned all over the place so that it will sound like my passenger is surrounded. And what would an airport be without the seemingly endless loudspeaker announcements? “United flight 183 to Chicago will begin boarding in 20 minutes”; “Attention passengers, this is a reminder there is no smoking in the terminal” (repeated in Spanish);  “Please do not leave your baggage unattended”—these are examples of the type of announcements I will need to include. For those announcements coming from a live voice (as opposed to pre-recorded), I will try to use a short delay to mimic the delayed doubling you hear as the live voice is heard first and then reproduced over the loud speaker. A few other sounds will make short appearances like the sound of a handicap cart rolling by and honking to move people out of the way. Depending on the time constraints I may end my sound design in one of two ways—either with my passenger’s flight being called or with him actually walking through the gate, having his ticket taken, receiving a “have a nice flight” from the stewardess, and heading down the walkway to the plane as his footsteps fade away. Oh, and I think all of this will occur over the drone of Muzak.

I will search sound databases to find such sounds as the murmuring, the planes taking off, cell phones ringing, honking, etc—basically, the more standard “sound effects.” For other sounds, like the announcements, if I can’t find anything suitable I may have to record some of the voices myself, or in the case of the Spanish announcement, record one of my bilingual friends. There is a composer named Brian Eno who has a CD entitled “Music for Airports,” which I might sample for the Muzak. I definitely think the right sounds are out there or at least practical to make; it will come down to how they are put together.

SOURCE MATERIAL: Listed above, various sound effect compact discs and original voice recordings.

example John Campbell from Sound Design: Studio

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

STATEMENT: The goal for project 2 is to create a realistic sound environment through the computer.  I have chosen to recreate the sounds of a busy city street in a stereo clip approximately 2 minutes in length.  I will attempt to create a smooth and natural sounding clip from various sound samples with the resources in the classroom.  I would like the clip to have constant background noise, with various louder actions occurring in the foreground.

To accomplish this goal, I will first create background noise for the entire length of the clip.  The focus of the background noise will be the sounds of city traffic.  I will incorporate the sounds of engines driving by slowly, idling, and also a lot of car horns.  The sounds of footsteps and faint muttering will also be heard, but this will probably be much lower than the sounds of cars.  At random points in the clip, several foreground actions will occur.  I will have the sound of a bus slowing down, coming to a stop, and then accelerating to the next stop.  I will also have sirens and horns of ambulances and fire trucks zooming by.  The sirens will be very faint at first, slowly build to a point of maximum intensity and then fade into the distance.  Other actions will include people yelling for taxis, cars driving by with very deep bass, and a small fender bender with screeching tires.

In order to recreate the sound of a busy city street, I will need several samples that will be manipulated.  I will need traffic, engine noise, horns, footsteps, mumbling, bus brakes, sirens, a fire truck horn, screeching tires, and a collision with crunching metal.  I can record some voices in the classroom, and generate the deep bass with the programs in the lab.  The main effects that I plan to use are the frequency filter to make sounds seem more distant, and the fader for passing events such as the fire truck and bus.

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

example Matt Fletcher from Sound Design: Studio

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

STATEMENT: For this project, I would like to recreate the sound of a baseball game. The sounds of the air outside, the yell of the vendors, the crack of the ball against a bat and the response from the crowd will help identify this particular environment. I chose this environment because as a sports enthusiast, nothing makes me happier than live sporting events (with maybe the exception of performing). There’s something particularly soothing and captivating about live baseball games that entices me. But not being a big fan of baseball and having only attended a handful of major and minor league games will present a slightly bigger challenge than other live sporting events I might be more familiar with.

At the start of my environmental sound project, I would like to fade in with the ending of a rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” traditionally sung during the seventh inning stretch of most baseball games. The audience will cheer a bit and then settle in. A hot dog vendor will yell out for hot dog sales, then disappear into the crowd. An announcer, way off in the distance, will be heard announcing the batter stepping up to the plate. The crowd will cheer slightly, but mostly murmur through the first pitch, which will be a strike. The second pitch will be a hit—a homerun. The audience will cheer loudly and wildly. Music will play, the announcer will announce the homerun, and then the recording will fade out.

This sound design should be just under two minutes, and will hopefully tell a story—or at least a piece of one (a whole game is a story, an inning might be a chapter…)

SOURCE MATERIAL: Various sound effect compact discs.

Spring Semester, 2006

example Jen Lilley from Sound Design: Studio

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

STATEMENT: My goal as a designer is to construct a work of art that exerts same power audibly on its listeners that Atabet’s art  exerts visually on its viewers.  I personally know and am friends with Atabet, so I want to really key into his vision as an artist and utilize my knowledge of his own purpose: to shake the hearts of his viewers and awake them spiritually.  View the image here. (Note: Sixth image from the top of page.)

In order to achieve my goal, I plan to first analyze the artwork itself.  To analyze the art, I must first recall the story of the prophet Elijah when he prayed for rain to end the seven-year drought.  (I have attached the story for recollection.)  Since this chapter in Elijah’s life dealt with drought, I want to start the piece out with a very dry and arid sound.  Furthermore, I’m sure when Elijah saw a cloud forming the size of a fist that eventually grew into a cloud that swept over the land, there was quite a bit of wind.  The sound of wind moving across the earth's surfaces, as well as the sound of the wind moving past Elijah on the mountaintop where he was kneeling.  Therefore, I plan heavily to incorporate the sound of a rushing wind.  Finally, I want to study Atabet’s clues on the piece itself.  There is a sentence that reads, “There is the sound of the *rushing* of rain.”  Clearly, since Atabet took the time to write this sentence out in his art, and highlight it as a prominent part of the piece, it holds great significance to him as an artist.  As an artist who is trying to construct sound to compliment his art, it is only logical that the sound of rushing rain is an important sound to utilize.  The art itself is also dark, and shows lightning and fire in the sky.  Thus, I want my piece to sound a bit dark and ominous.

Potential sound effects:

  • Dry, Arid atmosphere
  • Dessert sounds
  • Wind
  • Wind moving through trees
  • Wind passing the hearer (a surround sound effect hopefully)
  • Rain
  • Rushing water—like flood water
  • Lightning
  • Fire
  • Hebrew—to symbolize Elijah’s cries to the Lord.
  • Crying, but a certain kind of crying.  Crying that seems like the result of someone carrying a heavy burden—I know what sort of cry I’m looking for.
  • Thunder—especially because psalm 29 describes the voice of the Lord.  I have attached Psalm 29 for referencing because it is full of sound effects I need to meet my vision.
  • Trees breaking.
  • The sea/ocean

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

example Hala Matar from Sound Design: Studio

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

STATEMENT: The image I would like to represent through music is of ‘the egg’ bathrooms in the restaurant/bar in London called Sketch. View the image by clicking here. What I love most about ‘the egg’ is that it recreated the ideal environment for a bathroom: a place to relax and empty your thoughts, through its use of curvature and color white. However, if one were not aware as its function, one would see it as an imposing futuristic, minimalist, seductive design. The first idea that comes to mind is capturing its grandiose spaciousness by including lots of echoes bouncing off the various eggs. Thus it is essential to use reverb on all the tracks. Also panning and editing the volume will be essential in capturing the space itself. However I must always keep it to its simplest form as to comply with the egg’s minimalist quality. 

My intention is to capture the space’s hollow quality and the progression from the color white to pink. It is essential for the sounds to spiral into one another to establish a strong unity. I would like to start out with a more calming sound and progress into something explosive and energetic. I also intent to use three sounds to five sounds (aiming for the lowest number) to create the piece by changing their features through various plug-ins.  Specifically I plan to use the flanger, reverb, and chorus. It is also necessary for the piece to sound futuristic (colored) and melodic.

I will start the piece with a sexy jazzy tune or just of a saxophone; this tune will be layered on top of female whispers. Then add it to the sound of laser beams, which I would like to edit to develop a tune. The laser beams will eventually come to a strong buildup to reflect its imposing quality and then release a calming energy at the end.

Other sounds that came to mind are: 1) glittery sounds, breaking glass, ‘giggling jelly sounds’, round sounds, camera flashes, electronic shooting star sounds.

SOURCE MATERIAL: This original song was constructed with Apple's Garageband.

example Will Anderson from Sound Design: Studio

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

STATEMENT: Time and space have both fascinated and confounded humans on the planet Earth since the beginnings of time. Seemingly invisible things, both intertwined in a way that is stronger than anything in this universe. Without space, there is no time. And likewise, without time, there is no space. How, then, does one go about representing this visually, and beyond that, sonically?

My quest is somehow find a way to do this. Visually, I find nothing more stunningly appropriate to represent the beauty, vastness, and ambiguousness of space and time than the “Eagle Nebula.” View the nebula by clicking here. The Eagle Nebula, as it’s called, is a nebula, or birthplace of stars. It grows, and from the particles of matter and gasses comes full out stars, planets, and solar systems. It is truly one of the more awe-inspiring sights, to see the incredible nature of the birth, growth and death of a star.

This was not meant, however, to be sonically represented, though it lends it self well to this task. To represent this picture of the Eagle Nebula in audio form, I will have to use panning and automation to the max. I picture this project like we would be taking a trip towards the nebula, but in a space capsule with no windows. We hear a low rumble, which builds. There may be some laser type shots passing by. Swirling, water type sounds to represent the gasses. A rollercoaster ride of spacey sounds and effects. The greenish yellow color will be represented by a certain sounds, and really gives off a newborn, curious feel to the picture that I will have to somehow represent with a certain type of effect. The specks of matter will be represented by glass, and breaking sounds, but not in the “Crash!” type of way, more like little "tinklings" that a diamond would give of if illuminated by some type of “audio” light. In the end, I plan on using an explosion to represent the stars coming out and being born,

All in all, I’m excited about this project. Many reverb effects will have to be put into place to capture the idea of “space” and a lot of delay to emphasis the vastness and seemingly never ending nature of the universe.

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

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

Go to the University of Virginia home page
Last Modified:
November 7, 2008