Monday, 23 April 2012

Mixing the sounds for BADDA 4386

I am now at the point of mixing the sounds and the interviews in order to produce Sonic Wallpapers. Today I am working on the design that inspired the recordings in the BDA Museum, and some of the recordings in Barnet Museum. The accession number for this wallpaper is BADDA 4386. I'd be really interested to hear what you think the design looks like, based on the sounds...

 ...based on what people said about BADDA 4386, the sounds of pearls and vintage dental instruments have been recorded and layered to create a specific kind of sonic texture. I have mixed down one minute of sections purely comprised of sounds, so that you can hear the field-recordings mixed together without the words. You'll notice a kind of low-level hum which fades in and out of the other sounds; this hum is the sound in MoDA's study room, and is comprised I think of air-conditioning, electronic circuitry, and computing equipment. If I do not use this sound as a texture beneath the interviews, there is a very hard sound as the recordings of people speaking enter and leave the mix...

...this little section of background noise acts like a kind of sticky plaster, which can be used to match the joins between pure field-recordings and people speaking in a room which is not completely silent.

Because the inherent soundscape of MoDA is both noisy and quite bassy, and because all of the imaginative associations with this wallpaper were contrastingly light and delicate, I did some things that I do not normally do; I processed the interviews to try and remove some of the background noise; I added a very tiny quantity of artifical reverb to evoke the sense of being in a shinier space (like the one referred to by interviewees in the discussions about this design); and I used the graphic equalising tool in Adobe Audition to very slightly accentuate the higher frequencies. The decision to process the sounds in this way was led by my not being very happy with the relationship between the delicate associations and imagery evoked by the interviewees, and the monotonous bassy traces of the MoDA study room in the final audio. I hope I have not processed the sounds into feeling too alien, and that the acoustics of MoDA and the natural voices of interviewees remain. Have a listen to this first example, and let me know what you think about the effects of the processing on the piece overall; I'd love any feedback on the work I have done here.

I also produced a second version of this Sonic Wallpaper design, in which the field-recordings have been layered slightly more densely, so that the references - to pearls, to antiquity, to time, to the dentist, to teeth - are emphasised. Can you hear the differences between the two recordings, and which one do you prefer? To my ears, the encoding process which Audioboo uses has given the files a slightly lossy, mp3-esque nastiness, but other than that I am quite happy with the results.

If you leave a comment, would you mind noting what you are listening through - i.e. studio monitors, headphones, (what make?!) PC speakers, laptop speakers etc. Thank You for listening, and stay tuned for forthcoming Sonic Wallpapers!


  1. I don't think there is any problem using post processing to help create the effect you are after. I find it useful to distinguish between recordings as 'data', where you are trying to capture an accurate record of time and place, and recordings as 'food' where the recording becomes part of a bigger experience.
    I don't notice a huge difference between first and second editions listening on my headphones (beyer) -
    Look forward to hearing more

  2. Thanks for your comments, Greg.

    I very rarely apply post-production to my recordings beyond normalising and a little volume-boost wherever I deem necessary, so this forray into EQ, artifical reverb etc. is a bit of an experiment.

    Your analogy "food" vs. "data" is very interesting, as there are definitely times when I want to preserve the exact acoustics of a space where I created a recording... I guess that's what you would call "data". That is true for the acoustic in Barnet Museum, for example, where I recorded the sounds of the pearls for this track. It's a lovely old building, very creaky, and sonically congruent with wallpapers from earlier eras.

    ...But it is less true for the specific sounds in the MoDA study room of building works outside; noisy air-conditioning; and droning electronic equipment. These sounds tend to dominate over the subtler acoustics in some of my field-recordings for this project, and so perhaps I can see the interviews as "food" for the field recordings.

    Cheers for taking the time to listen an give some feedback!

  3. Very nice site Good work and keep it up

  4. Beautiful Wallpaper, thanks to share with us such as important information, must visit again. Thanks