You Speak, I’ll Listen

Where I Come From

I haven’t seriously worked with audio since high-school. Back then I was part of a band and temp-ed in my older brother’s band when his normal bass-player could not show up to a gig. In addition to playing in bands, I also sold merchandise and did recording. While I was not particularly experienced with recording, I did my sixteen-year-old best to setup mics, queue musicians, and mix tracks to form whole songs. I even recorded my own songs for school projects. The process of recording every track with different instruments by myself was not easy: I often found myself editing out the short strings of curses that followed me tripping over mic cables on my way back to the mixer from the drum kit at the end of a song.

Becoming Part of the Process

Jad Abumrad speaks in the first video about co-authorship between the writer/orator of a story and the listener. I have certainly experienced a great deal of this in my recent experience listening to the Lockwood and Co. series audiobooks. Jonathan Stroud builds a complex world with a ghost infested London and invites his audience to experience this reality through the eyes of the main character Lucy. While his descriptions are vivid, the only visuals that I had as a listener were those of my own creation. Weeks after completing the series, I was still ruminating on the final chapters, seeing Lucy and the skull battle the final villains. The scenes I was remembering, though written by Stroud, were my own.

In the second video, Abumrad also discusses how creators mix and modify pieces of audio to create works that are otherwise impossible or impractical without modern audio technology. While that sort of power opens new doors, I still find the spoken-word, spoken well, to be more enjoyable and impactful in the context of audio.  Though eerie effects, subtle undertones, and strong notes can evoke intense emotions in listeners, the most intimate avenue for story telling is conversation, where the listeners are so wrapped-up in the story that all they can do is wait on the next word from the storyteller. Outside of music, I usually find highly doctored audio stories distracting.

However, I appreciated the techniques showcased in the detective stories clip by cogdog. The use of repetition and fading drew me into the audio. I was not listening to a story though; the entire point of the video was to exhibit techniques. I feel like I would have been distracted from the story of the un-cut audio had I listened to that first.

Wow, That was Original

I never realized that so many of the screams in the Star Wars movies were canned. That, I guess, is one of the advantages to manipulating audio beyond the mic: layering and mixing techniques allow for successful noises like the Wilhelm Scream to be re-used again and again.

Also, I had never heard of Foley Sound.  I knew cartoon movies and special-effect-heavy action-flics require sounds to be added after filming, but I figured aside from over-exaggerated punching-noises, film sound was recorded live with the video.  Watching the two men mimic the sounds of the film clip was both fascinating and entertaining.

New Tools

In high-school, I had a sixteen-track mixer and a set of recording mics that my brother and I bought from a stranger in a Guitar-Center parking lot. Now, I have a MacBook Pro and a set of Beats wireless ear-buds. After watching the video on layered audio-editing with Audacity, I see how much easier recording would have been if I had a computer back then. While the mixer was very powerful, its interface was limited, and its menus were difficult to navigate. With Audacity, the menus are arranged in a familiar format, tracks are easily viewable on a “real” screen, and copy-pasting isn’t done with complex button combinations.

Going Forward

This week, I will keep an open mind to blending complex audio with stories, partially because I will obviously have to for assignments, partially because I want to change my mind. I see both the potential in blending stories with supporting audio and the ease with which such blending can be accomplished with modern technology. The last two weeks I have had to work on opening my eyes; I suppose my ears will be next.

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