Back to the Garage

What does it mean to push sound to it’s limit? Sound doesn’t have limits except maybe 20-20kHz. The imagination however is extremely limited.

This piece doesn’t even begin to push any of these.

But the sound design for music workshop was a valuable reminder that paying attention to how sounds are arranged on the micro level can yield very good results.

I also explored in a more limited way how many directions i could move a sound at once.

Self Directed: 2HandedGrainThang

My goal for this project was to use the Leapmotion controller to create a rhythmic composition. I’d tried a few different kinds of drum sequencers with varied and less than musical results, and was on to trying to use it to ‘play drums in the air’ when i got the idea of using the Grabstrength and Pinchstrength measurements from the Leapmostion object to edit parameters.

I mapped the angular position of my hand to the playback position of a pinch of audio I’d loaded into Grainstretch~ and used Grabstrength to select a point to Jump back to periodically. I could then Pinch and drag vertically to lengthen or shorted that period.
I threw that on top of a rhythmic delay loop I’d built earlier in the semester and just jammed. The controls are still a little sketchier than I’d like. Future development will include different systems for monitoring data from pinch and grab strength and maybe more specific machine learning for gestural control. (apologies for the glitchyness of the video, I couldn’t hear the output and my computer my computer was running a little too hot)

Norman McLaren and Synesthesia

Golan Levin’s guest spot on visualizing sound reiterated for me how much of my interest in sound is guided by synesthesia.

It honestly makes the whole topic of visualizing sound somewhat frustrating because I have a very strong connection between sonic and tactile texture. It’s influenced how I understand sound and what I tend to gravitate toward aesthetically. For instance, I get excited by things that have slightly rough or grainy sound, while on the other, anything that’s passed through an FFT (with audible artifacts) tastes/feels like the hand soap from a public bathroom. Long story short, I have predetermined expectations of what a sound looks and feels like, and it’s profoundly distracting to when what I see doesn’t match what I hear.

However, it is with some surprise that I have to say I’ve learned a lot about what works for me and what doesn’t from delving into Norman McLaren’s work.

The first thing that jumps out at me is that while his most exciting work doesn’t follow the what-you-see-is-what-you-hear approach that a lot of artists take, it still creates an extremely satisfying connection between the sound, image and textures. Norman McLaren is a master of synchresis, a term coined by Michel Chion to describe the link forged in the audience’s mind between sound and image when both happen in the same instant. In ‘Dots’, and ‘Phantasy in Colors’ McLaren’s tight link between the sounds and the visuals creates the impression that one is generating the other. McLaren’s use of synchresis is actually clearer in ‘Loops’ than ‘Dots’ because it isn’t as seamlessly integrated. Unlike in ‘Dots’, not every movement is in loops is accompanied by a sound and leaves a conspicuous voids. Thematically, McLaren’s visuals for ‘Phantasy in Colors’ are much more loosely derived from the music, but nonetheless create a very satisfying relationship. The jerky, hand-made style of the visuals in both pieces matches the squelchy character of the audio. Even McLaren’s drawn-sound score for ‘Neighbors’ couldn’t really be replaced by a synthesized or orchestral arrangement of the same notes because something about the quality of the sound suggests earthiness that connects it to the flower.