Silent words

CD image

Reading a book seems quite divergent from listening to an aural presentation. In many ways this is why the idea of creating an audio piece as a tribute to a book’s climax is so alluring. The sensation one gets from the crescendo of a book is not so different from the racing pulse and throbbing sympathies a person feels while an aural piece reaches its apex. I want to capture the feeling of one world, the real, non-prose one giving away to the thrum of literature. It is something almost religious for me. Considering all of these aspects, I have developed an idea of what prominent elements I wish to record and utilize:

- pages, turning, flipping, slamming closed
- breathing, slow to fast
- heartbeat, probably just a drum repeated
- chords, of the harp
- choir, courtesy of Hendrick’s Chapel.

cd image


When I began the Abstract Audio project, my goal was to bring the sensation of written words, the climatic feel of a good piece of literature into an aural sphere. It is an engaging idea, no? Words can mean two things – that which we hear and interpret or that which we read and interpret, giving a meaning based on our prior learned experience. Two different senses are employed to make sense of reflected light or of air pressure changes, then come up with a coherent meaning. That is fascinating. 

Did I accomplish this? Well I absolutely fell in love with what I made. In that way, maybe I did. When I get a hold of a good book, I fall head over heels. I devoured the final two Harry Potters in a night each. 

But, back to “Read Me.” I think this piece has a really strong opening. The next thirty seconds really are not as good. I like the ending a lot too, even though it may have changed a lot from the project start. 

My piece has a lot of "false endings." Ever read a book that seems to have a chapter too many? That’s what I might call some bits of the middle. It all flows. I wanted to capture the climactic feel of reading an exhilarating piece. I imitated a heart beat by knocking on the side-board of a harp. I wish I’d been better at weaving in the harp chords I also recorded. One of my all time favorite sounds is the successive chords, each in a lower pitch. I didn’t fool around with pitch until the last half of the audio piece, which really gave the ending a new vitalization. It is a bit more fantasy and cult-action.

The turning of pages is useful for giving the piece a continuity, I think. The rustling is never center stage. I used it to bridge some of the transitions. I imagined flipping ahead a chapter, or back to one of your favorite parts in a novel. Thus, the texture would change a little. 

The Chinese beat boxer really carried my piece, even though I had not originally intended to use sounds from the SU’s Chinese cultural festival. It seemed to accentuate the heartbeat I had already tried to create. It symbolizes the personification, the life we pump into the stories that take ahold of us.

I used also some chorus from Hendrick’s Chapel’s choir. I happened upon their practice one day and had a rode lav with me (I always carry it, even if the input is not quite awesome). My hope was that the angelic chanting might convey how religious an experience can be with a good book. In reality, it may have missed the mark entirely.

I really liked this assignment. I produced something, that, if a little rough, is quite interesting. It has opened my eyes and ears to the way that pitch harmonics can be manipulated. I also am especially wary of noise interference.

One other thing I utilized to great success was the use of High and Low passes to cut out extraneous noises. By removing the high pitched sounds from my beat boxer, I produced a much more percussive audio, of the ilk I had sought. 

  cd image

Bridget Rogers
Bridget recorded her washing machine and several other household items in order to begin a project intending to distort the ordinary. To be honest, we seldom pay attention to the things around us and their constant hissing, buzzings, etc. Thus it will be an interesting project to take what is already missed and draw it the fore in new and unique ways.

I think this will giver her an advantage at least in the relative ease of accumulating elements to work with. That is, however, a double edged sword, for then Bridget will also have to choose and make meaningful selections. Sometimes too much is temptation born fruit. I cannot know what her ultimate soundscape will look like yet, but there is plenty of wiggle room for her and she is hardly limited by directions to choose from. It will be a matter of narrowing into a cohesive concept.

Cory Crater
I liked the arrange of sounds Cory collected. Already he could have created a waveform like those we did for the first project. His theme is "sleep paralysis" which is a beautiful topic. There is something already nightmarish in the subject, which with proper audio accompaniment may make for an incredible piece.

If he is to have any difficulties, it will be in conveying his own experience. Sometimes the subjective is a thing we can really struggle with. Have you heard of the Old Hag syndrome? It is one of the myths that goes along with sleep paralysis. Scientifically speaking, sleep paralysis occurs when one awakes and the chemicals that paralyze a body while not awake do not dissipate. Because of the subject's groggy state, victims also tend to have vivid hallucinations. They feel heavy ad sluggish, with blood in their chests. Thus feet feel light and sometimes a person will feel as if something sits on their chest while they are being dragged away, pinned and unmoved.

Joe Miranda
What an excellent handy dandy pictorial aid. Topic: "Perfecting the Idea;" Elements: Fire, ticking, anvil, crank, gears, etc. Idea creating is such an abstract thing–I'd have to say he elected the correct project to debut this.

Absence->creative fish hook->realizing idea->failing to realize->perfecting->Realized perfect idea It is pretty lengthy. How long would each section be if the whole is 2-3 minutes? I think the creative fish hook, the realizing idea, and failing are a bit sketchy. Actually perfecting and realized perfection could probably be combined too. Make "perfecting" the transitory step?

I liked the cranking sound, because it does indeed summon the image of gears shifting inside a brain. Ever see a graphic of a hamster running in a brain? Like so. Work in progress.

The visual image classically associated with "realization" is a light bulb and a quick, clear "ping."

What are adjectives that fit each segment? What sounds also can be labeled by those descriptors?

This is a hugely personal experience for ashli, her foot agonies. She quite literally possesses an "Achilles heel." Or two. Her material will largely be metaphorical from what I can gather. She emphasized the "first two steps" of the morning which are most painful.

I wonder if this will end up being a personification of her feet or something more voiced by a individual owning such wayward feet. It could be neat to take the disease from the point of view of the feet. It would be easier maybe, to convey sensation. That said choosing the nature of said sensation would have to change in response. I think she has taken the project seriously and will be meticulous about the idea. From listening to her waveform piece, I know she has an interesting sense for sound.

What is difficult will be in selection and use of materials. So both things. If she wants rouse metaphorical, foot-based options, her array is limited. Shoes make so many noises. That said she understands reaper well enough to probably kick some butt.

If the pain is a constant day nuance, how much of said day is she paying homage to? Will it achingly trail off?

cd image

Ashli F
Not a filled out project, per say. Ashli has mostly mapped the gist of her piece, as compared to buffing it out with all the individual sounds she will use ultimately. Her idea is to create the sound of her foot pain. Bring a beauty in oral tones to the agony of a body part. I would recommend appealing to the medium – using her feet as instruments. Honestly, even if she just tap dances and adds a crazy rhythm with that, she is onto the right road.

Pain is sometimes represented with a creaking sound. It makes us think of ship galleys in a storm, great trees, resisting a hurricane, rusted hinges and cold floor boards. They protest strain using noise. Feet are not so loud (in a literal sense), but luckily in the world of audio metaphor, they can be screaming.

What is the intensity of the pain and when will this be represented in the piece? High frequencies and crescendos may offer a may to express these?

Best of luck!

Okay, the beginning was interesting, the composition of household items, but the last half really de-climaxed. I lost interest. You have plenty of materials to work with, but currently it’s missing a little “zing” for listeners. Half-way this isn’t bad, but it certainly needs some refining. Your piece is not musical, in the traditional sense at least. It is very mechanical. That makes sense – you’ve made a piece of machinery. The ending sounds are not too distinguishable, and I couldn’t probably pick apart what sounds are what, but as far as “comfort” goes, I think you’ve made the item.

There is nothing displeasurable about the audio track. It is relaxing in a curious way.

Your project is very complete. I was impressed. It had a very strong beginning and end. The piece opens with dreams gone sour. I like that the music lowers in pitch, becoming super dark and ominous. The barn animals work for a theme of “dreams.” I think about counting sheep and the “Ei-I-O” song is iconic for the world of childhood. Freud has a lot to say about childhood and the subconscious, so you are probably on the right track there.

The middle is somewhat lacking in zeal by comparison. I cannot pick out any outstanding moments. It was a little edgeless. This is alright, I suppose, if the goal is to emphasize “paralysis.” One strongly held note for instance? Or just make the piece somehow unnerving, like a vase balanced to fall off a table, teetering now, but not yet crashing.

The finale was strong however. The use of an alarm to bring the piece full circle into wakefulness was clever. It goes from eerie and uncomfortable to a normal sound. Still unpleasant, as most alarms are, but human, of a real and tangible waking world. I think this piece has great potential! Keep at it.

Paul W
Wow! That is such a cool way to go about creating sounds, using photo data, rather than audio recordings. You really are in a realm of experimentation.

It is coooooooooool. I guess the material is more about discovery than selection for you. It is interesting, philosophically to hear how your image is read by a computer. It reminds me of Synesthesia. (If that was the whole objective, my bad.) The mixture of senses allows for a new look at reality!

I liked the ping sound best. I wish it had been kept throughout the piece. It dropped off suddenly. I found myself asking, “Where’s it go?” and not giving my full attention to the second part. Still, I think you have a very interesting project. I would like to see some visual accompaniment, if you ever feel like overdoing it.

cd image

Tania Ginger Snap"
Experimental tooth decay. The first thing I got stuck on was the mouth washing. Yum, Listerine. There is a feeling of repetition, which really makes sense for tooth care. We ritualize our dental ceremonies. However, I came up with the thought that this was a piece about things you do in your bathroom. Minus eating chips. Or maybe eating chips. That could be a thing. Just not for me. I thought I heard mouth wash, showering, snorting coke. YEs, I kept wondering if there was just stuffy noses or if someone was cocaining.

I guess it is interesting that the piece builds in intensity. That said the ending was the most engaging for me. I like the chaos a bit more than the emptiness. A “slow growth” as Mathew says.

I could have used a sign post at the beginning of the piece. Something to point me, as a listener towards the main idea of the audio construct.

Wow that was super gross! In the best possible way. The medical beeping was awesome. Really this piece was almost narrative in its intensity. I could clearly picture things going down. Hacking coughs, that get really weird and messy, are matched with the heart line’s ebbing. Then it gives way as the patient flatlines. Or would it have been many lives. The cough was so echoing, as if the whole world was sickened.

Then what–? Does someone try to shock them back into life? At any rate it does not work. I am inclined to say the tortuous screams of ... agony ... were internalized. It is just very yuck. Yuck. Kill her already, I thought. I would have preferred one long drawn out scream as compared to the repeating waves. Scream, dwindle away, scream again. Etc.

The ending was great. I think the transition between “Oh no this hurts” to eternal bliss was weak, but that does not detract from the brilliance of your conclusion. The whistling for a dog was kind of weird, if only because I did not know whether the subject was whistling or being whistled at. “Get over here, rover!” says God.

Are you listening?