Archive for ambient

Soundscaping, a sound designer’s mix.

Posted in Practice with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2013 by fgitler

Here’s how I described this mix on Mixcloud:

A collage of electronic, classical, jazz, spoken word of different types, soundtracks, and sound effects. 

An incomplete list of the artists included in this mix: Aphex Twin, Autechre, Bill Laswell & Tetsu Inoue, Boards of Canada, Brian Eno, cineplexx, Daniel Carter & Reuben Radding, David Lynch, Delia Derbyshire, Direwires & Freder, Eddie Harris, Edwin Morris, Faust, Funki Porcini, Gil Melle, Gil Scott-Heron, Glenn Gould, Grohs, Jean-Michel Bernard, John Cage, John Lee & Gerry Brown, John Lurie, Journeyman, Kevin Shields, Kraftwerk, Loscil, Marshall McLuhan, Michna, Miles Davis, My Bloody Valentine & Skylab, Neotropic, Nine Inch Nails, Patterns In Plastic, Pink Floyd, Regolith, Sigur Ros, Spectrum, Sun Ra, Surround2011, Techniken Defunkus, The Cinematic Orchestra, The Crane, The Future Sound Of London, The Orb, This Heat, Throbbing Gristle, Tom Waits, Toru Takemitsu, Transcend, Vangelis, Vorpal, We, and woob.

Soundscaping cover art












It’s a mix without any drums at all. They’re all “ambient” tracks: if that description includes spoken word, classical, jazz, rock, soundtracks, etc. At least two things are playing – in layers – at all times. It gets a bit dense in places. Assembling this mix took me back to experiments I would subject listeners to during the middle of the night at the radio station WCNI, New London. I started working as a trainee at WCNI in the fall of 1992, and hald my own show starting in January ’93. During the fundraising marathon that year, I answered phone lines for a couple of veterans who were doing something they called twisted radio. This sometimes meant playing more than one record at once – but not in a dance music/beat-matching manner. They really didn’t care what kind of collision might occur. Once I got over my initial shock at this (and other antics I witnesses), I found it very freeing, and it inspired me to use my graveyard 3-6 am slot as a laboratory for layering different sounds in all sorts of combinations. Given my overall fascination with collage, this isn’t that surprising in retrospect. One night I do recall playing 4 different copies of a Yes album, all slightly out of sync with each other. This all started before I ever started to do sound design. This kind of experimentation started first. My work as theatrical sound designer started about a year later. I also started to hear some of Negativland’s material around this time – another huge mind-opening experience.

But back in the present, or rather in the recent past: I could have kept working on this Soundscraping mix forever. The first version’s multi-track file was last saved Sept 23rd, 2102, but I probably had started a bit earlier. I stopped working on the last version on December 29th, 2012. That version was the fourth ‘revision’ since I had started. Work really began many months before that, as I sorted through my iTunes Library, bought new albums on Bandcamp and iTunes and from, and ripped tracks from my cd collection. I somehow did not end up recording any vinyl for this mix–there was already too much to sift through. However I did ask the many musical members of Ninja Tune forum for contributions, and yo can hear tracks by Regolith, The Crane and Grohs representing members of that rather diverse creative community.

At the start of 2013 I listened to it for a while, mostly on my iPhone while commuting (and enjoying the continuing “mix” as the sounds around me would blend into the mix as well), and I imagined I’d keep tweaking the mix and perhaps continue to swap out some of the selections.  Then I listened to it again this past week and just decided to call it done and get it uploaded already. I had been waiting until I found time to put a proper track listing together. Maybe I’ll still will get around to that – eventually.

It’s all put together in Adobe Audition, which was new software for me at the time I started this project. Audition let me drop tracks in as linked files, instead of importing them. This cut down on overall file space for what was already a huge set of files. Audition also let me place unconverted mp3 files as needed, instead of conventing everything WAVs or AIFFs. Reason wouldn’t do either of those things (that’s what I use for music-making and most sound design projects). The little free Pacemaker desktop app I use for some of my music mixes never could have handled all this – only two tracks can be layered at once in Pacemaker I think. In this mix with all the layers and long fades I used a 8-track layout, with often three tracks or more playing at one time.

I imagine Pro-Tools would have done nicely, but have never used that, I went with Audition, and found I learned the software much better as a result of the experience.


Memories of an ambient impact

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 20, 2010 by fgitler

I recently found out about an Aphex Twin covers collection by Dave Graham that can be heard at PercussionLab: Selected Orchestral Works

When I was working as a sound designer in my college theatre I used some Aphex Twin and other ambient recordings as the pre-show music for a play called The Adding Machine. The play is basically about the fact we’re born, we work, we die, we’re reborn and have to start all over again–the drudgery of it all. There’s more to it than that, but that’s what really grabbed me as I considered how to create the atmosphere for the production using pre-show music. I’ve written more thoughts on the importance of that elsewhere, but this was really the first time I found a way to create a sense of space and meaning with sound in a way that felt meaningful and instantly appropriate to the text and the direction. And thankfully the director agreed!

I recall that I used Blue Calx (not in Dave’s set) and other Aphex material as well–perhaps some of this–not 100% sure. My idea was this sort of dripping water ticking clock like monotony would evoke the endless cycle–a constant pulse without beginning or end really. Boy, did that blow some people’s minds! I had so many people coming up to me demanding to know WHAT that music was.

One of the theatre students who had to run sound for the run of the show listened to my half hour or so aphex/ambient mix that started the show every night for about a week. His name is Tim Lee and he’s become a director. I’ve since done sound for over a dozen shows with him.

So Dave Graham’s lovely set takes me back to a pleasant point in time–when I first received what felt like meaningful public recognition for my music selection, not at a party, not on the radio, but in a theatrical setting–it was powerful. It obviously stayed with me. Thanks Dave!