Diving deep down to the sea to see ratcheting skeleton fish, cold undersides of icebergs, and impenetrable darker and darker blue: submergence.
View our video at: https://vimeo.com/118933345
Our sound collage piece explored manipulating the interior sounds of a library, a symbol of human knowledge and comfort, into sounds that conveyed an unknown, cold, natural environment. As we manipulated the sounds we recorded in Max MSP and Alexander affected the edits in FL Studio, we uncovered beautiful and haunting sounds that conveyed an experience of descending as a lone diver into ice-covered waters of a frigid, dark, ocean.
Download Max 7 Patch & Audio Files: https://www.dropbox.com/s/vitzuglb126l04l/Arctic%20Aquatic.zip?dl=0
When we were scouting for sounds on the first day of this project we followed our ears rather than a concept. Searching organically enabled a level of play that planning in the beginning would have stifled, and it also got us acquainted to the personalities and tastes that composed our group. We first wandered into Hunt Library’s cafe where we were lucky to catch the ringing of a running espresso machine, then turned the corner to record the sounds of a printer. We then went up to the fourth floor and experimented with running bookends against the built in slot-shelving, giving us strong scraping and clicking sounds. Afterwards we mashed keyboards as a group.
As we started reviewing the files and editing them, both individually and as a group, somber and cold sounds began to emerge. We also came to realize we could expand the interest of our piece by adding some sounds to the mix like Tyler playing his bassoon and producing multiphonic sounds using the bassoon reed. Alexander composed a short piano piece that can add a haunting but beautiful tone to the otherwise dark and raw sounds. But because we had to derive the sounds from field recordings, Alexander manipulated sound that came from striking a pair of scissors against a table leg, creating a beautiful chime. All of the members of our group took turns in editing files in Max MSP, and tweaks were completed by Alexander in FL Studio.
Once we had all of our sounds together Tyler brought them into Max MSP and acted as the operator, directing the sounds as well as creating the real functionality of the patch. Every group member contributed to the composition as we built the piece organically, but Tyler and Alexander’s ear for sound were tuned into the details and made it spectacular sonically. We all took part in arranging the direction and movement of sounds. Alexander continued editing and cleaning up sounds as we worked and discovered new possibilities.
“Affected Coffee” – Hunt Library Cafe Espresso Machine
Created by Alexander Panos
“Ambient Typing Pad” – Keyboard Typing
Created by Alexander Panos
“Processed Door Ambience” – Hunt Library front foors and typing
Created by Julia Wong
“Reversed Bassoon” – Multiphonic sounds on bassoon, reversed
Created by Tyler Harper
“Metal Melody” – Scissors against table-leg
Composed by Alexander Panos
“Reversed Metal” – Scissors against table-leg, reversed for conclusion.
Created by Alexander Panos
While Tyler finished the final patch arrangements in Max MSP Julia and Joe started to brainstorm concepts for how to share the themes of the piece in a presentation. Joe suggested hanging simple black and white pieces of prints on the speaker cords and playing with the physicality of the space. Eventually we decided on directly incorporating snow and ice. Originally we planned to have the audience simply view melting ice, but we quickly moved to more individual, tactile experiences for the audience. Julia and Joe grabbed some snow from outside and tested to see how long it would take to melt in one’s hands in accordance to the piece. We felt this really complimented the collage in an almost uncanny way: the physical sensation matched the feelings of the sound directly. We planned to incorporate a petal into the middle of the snowballs, when we moved to ice we thought about adding mints to the centre.
Unfortunately there were some issues with holding the ice. It caused the floor to get wet and had unpredictable melting times. We needed more control over when it would melt. After discussing alternatives the conversation led to Joe’s suggestion of placing ice-cubes on the tongue. This kept both the physical and sonic sensations in the head, and we agreed as a group it was a good route to go. We tested it a couple of times and found ice cubes of a perfect size that melted at the end of the first part of the piece. The sensation stayed with the listener and set the tone for the rest of the sound collage.
Figuring out the perfect set-up for an optimal experience
Tyler as our Max operator
It was really late at night and we were having fun
After our performance of the piece on Monday, these are some of the feedback we got:
“the ice was a brilliant idea, and helps color the whole experience even after the ice has melted”
“allowed for more imagination”
“kept the feelings in the head”
The audience felt that the sound “was cinematic,” and they wondered how we had created the ambience of the piece.
Alexander Panos and Tyler Harper: Sound editor and sound designer
Joe Mallonee and Julia Wong: Director and Scribe
We all worked together and shared ideas, but our respective skills came in handy in our different roles.