Archive for Sound Design

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.


Sound Production Links

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 11, 2013 by fgitler

I haven’t updated this blog in quite some time. There is not too much to report on the Sound Design front, but there probably have a few things I should get around to sharing. In the meantime, I’ve created a list of Music Production links at Stumbleupon:
Stumbleupon Production Links

There’s also a list of places to find new music, mixes, free music, etc: Music Sources


Free and Cheap Theatre Sound Software

Posted in Practice with tags , , , , , on May 16, 2012 by fgitler

I just happened to find this treasure trove of free and cheap sound software:

USITT Sound Wiki

“a project sponsored by the Sound Commission of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology”

Well done! It’s particularly well-timed as I’m just starting a new sound design project.

My Sound Design for Buried Child

Posted in Practice with tags , , , , , , , on March 10, 2011 by fgitler

Tomorrow (March 11th, 2011) is the opening performance of Sam Shepard’s Buried Child, directed by Timothy Trimingham Lee.

It is being performed at Upstairs at The Gatehouse in Highgate, London.

Buried Child

For this show I was asked to create several different kinds of rain sounds, including a sort of rain symphony of the sound of rain on and around an old farm house, for 20 minutes of Pre-show. Creaky porch doors, birds, and electric clippers transformed into a nightmare were other sounds required. I’ll try to describe more about the construction of these sounds in another post soon.

Tickets and more info

another free music application

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on November 15, 2010 by fgitler

I just came across Myna, the audio editor from Aviary.
I’m just amazed that all this stuff is out there and free now.


Aviary software's Myna audio editor

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!

Sound software for free (or cheap)

Posted in Practice with tags , , , , on May 4, 2010 by fgitler

In my post on recorded sound effect sources, I mentioned that you’ll need software to edit and manipulate audio. Below are listed a number of free (or almost free) software packages for manipulating (and creating) sound effects, speech, music — any audio. Many of the programs listed will be designed with musicians in mind, but anything that works with sound is a potentially useful tool for a sound designer.

I have not used most of these programs — these listings are a resource, not an endorsement.

Apple’s cross-platform, ubiquitous audio library software has many good features for sound design. It can burn CDs, sequence tracks, adjust track volumes, play mp3, wav or aiff files, and it can import files in multiple formats. I’d write a whole post on these features except they’ve done that job already:
More about iTunes features

An open source iTunes-like product that’s “part music player, part Web browser, and all about music discovery, management, and playback.”
More about Songbird

Audacity is a very basic, very useful sound editor. I use it all the time. It’s limited, but easy to use.
More about audacity

Reaper is a full-fledged audio and midi music production system, that is priced at $60 for personal/unprofitable small-business use, $225 for commercial use. The demo version is free, full-featured and does not expire.
More about Reaper

Let’s Mix Editor
A.k.a. the Pacemaker Editor, this free software is intended as the desktop component of an iPod-like DJ device, and is an easy way to line up multiple songs in a row, overlap transitions, even beatmatch and add effects. A quick way to build a pre-show program of music if you want it to be more ‘seamless’ than you might get straight out of an iTunes playlist.
More about the Let’s Mix Editor

“Wavosaur has all the features to edit audio (cut, copy, paste, etc.) produce music loops, analyze, record, batch convert.” Windows only.
More about Wavosaur

Another all in one package like Reaper, developed collaboratively. They ask for donations/subscriptions, but allow you to download without.
More about Ardour

A “customizable sound triggering device and realtime digital audio performance tool.”
More about Soundplant

“A complete music studio”
More about MU.LAB

Kristal Audio Engine
A “multi-track recorder, audio sequencer and mixer” (Free for non commercial use.) Currently Windows only.
More about Kristal Audio Engine

From here on I’ve listed some additional software resources that have been recommended to me by musicians, audio engineers, and sound designers, but may be beyond what a theatrical sound designer is going to find useful. These links are just the tip of the iceberg–there are new sound programs being created and updated every day.

Pure Data
A “real-time graphical programming environment for audio, video, and graphical processing”. Sound complicated and open-ended? I’m sure it is, with limitless possibilities.
More about Pure Data

Buzz Machines
“Modular software based synthesizer.” Free, unless you want to use VST plugins, then that version is $35. Again, not for the faint of heart…
More about Buzz Machines

A “networking system between max patches”. Programmers making sound modules.
More about Ppooll

Linux apps
29 music making applications for the Linux OS
from Audiotuts+

“If you enjoy droning, ambient sounds that go on forever and ever, then this just may be the right app for you.” Mac only
More about Mlooch

Collaborative music making — in a browser.
More about Audiotool

KVR Audio
News info and more about audio plugins.
More about KVR

Thanks to the forumites at Ninjatune and Propellerhead for their help in assembling this information.

this link also has good info on this type of thing: free music software