Monthly Archives: October 2013

Introduction to Sound Design and Music

Introduction to Sound Design and Music was a course in Media Lab that gave us a broad view on topics around sound design and music. In overall I really really enjoyed the course. There were two assignments that were part of the course that gave us extra credits. I was quite excited about both of them.

The first assignment was a field recording in the Helsinki Baltic Herring Fair. The recording needed to be a one-minute unedited recording, cut to the length from both ends, not from the middle. That was the only brief we had.

In general, I haven’t done much field recording but always been planning to try out how to do it properly. I borrowed a Zoom H4 from a friend. At the market I realised I didn’t have a wind shield for the recorder. It was very difficult to catch sounds without the wind disturbing too much. After all the last attempt of the day was successful:

However, the recording above wasn’t the one I wanted to present for my classmates. I went to the marketplace a few days later and tried to focus on recording the ambience created by the chatting people, but without concentrating on individuals. This was the recording that came out of that session:

There were several challenges in capturing a good moment on the tape. First of all the use of windscreen is a must. It’s very difficult to catch sounds without the disturbance of wind, even if there’s just a tiny bit of wind. I thought it was even more of a problem when doing a recording as long as minute.  Second challenge was to set a decent recording level. With poor Apple headphones it was difficult to listen if the the recorder was on a good level. Additionally, adjusting the input level with zoom is almost impossible on the fly because of the noise it creates when turning the level knob. (That was the biggest reason I decided to buy Sony PCM M-10 recorder).

The second assignment was a composition with the same lenght, 1 minute. The brief was to use MIDI as much as possible. I thought it was a very brilliant task. How to create an interesting but solid composition that is only 1 minute of length?

My approach was to teach myself away from the major key I always tend to have in my compositions. I planned to start with minor key and then create a bridge that would turn the key from minor to major, sending the listener back to the field of happy major chords!

I was very proud of the end result. I liked the sounds I selected. The Roland 808 model of Ableton Live accompanied the synthesised sounds quite well. The arpeggios for the midi notes work quite well together, keeping the song alive and breathing. The bridge from from minor to major leads to the last melody that tends to stay echoing in your head still long after hearing it.