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Close Encounters of a Special Kind – Part 10

sound design 101

Close Encounters of a Special Kind – Part 10

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More About Random Rhythms

Another interesting source of random rhythms in sound design is rain. Rain is even more fertile, as it can give us a suggestion of different percusion, different percussive instruments and an idea of how to use them, how to divide the gained random rhythms between the different kinds of percussion. What I do is placing cans of different sizes, and other things that produce sound when hit on the balcony or in the garden.

sound design 101

I take care that there are at least 50 cm distance between an item and its neighbours. Then I set up my microphones in front of the assortment under an umbrella, which is covered with a thick piece of textile to avoid the raindrops making sound on the umbrella s well. I don´t want this. I only want the sound from the raindrops falling at the diverse cans and items on the balcony (small assortment) or in the garden (large assortment), Even the recording of a short shower provides me with a couple of interesting random rhythms. After cutting the recording into suitable pieces I can either use a few envelope follower modules with their gains adjusted to different levels and which trigger different percussion modules, or – a bit more interesting – I use a frequency splitter (e.g. 3MS Spectral Multiband Resonator) at first, so that I get trigger pulses at certain individual frequencies, which can trigger different percussion modules.




sound design 101You will have understood by now: I prefer mother nature – even in form of nails (see last article) – as a generator for random events to purely electronic or software random generators. And not only to produce rhythms, but also to produce CV, control voltage, of all kinds and for all purposes. Birds for example, give a good source as well. But the recordings of bird songs need a bit of processing to give a potent source for random voltage. The frequency range is quite small. The spectrum of the voices of the birds is too narrow – at least the partials with the dominant amplitudes – to be efficiently split into bands to generate CV developments. But with a capable granular sound processor like Granite or CrusherX we can spread the frequency content. And if there are no birds at hand – you may live in the cetre of a big city – then a squeaking old door will serve quite well. And even my terrible chair in the office (you may have heard its sound in some of my interviews) can substitute missing birds. Just tune the recording down and play it back very slowly before you send the recording through a frequency splitter and envelope follower combination.



sound design 101Even if we are not always aware of it: we humans are also a part of the nature, we with all our biological and intellectual activities. And so I use a more statistical method to generate randomness in my – mostly generative – productions – from time to time. I record the talks in a pub (with a hidden microphone/recorder, because I don´t want to take influence on what the people say). Then I make a transcription of a small part of the recordings, count e.g. 64 letters, each representing one 1/64 note, and say each letter “e” (just an example) shall get a hit on an open hihat, each “r” a kick drum, each “a” a snare etc. Instead of letters I use whole words and a longer transcription sometimes. It is extremely interesting, how the character of the such gained random rhythms change, when I take recordings from a pub or from a restaurant, or from the travellers in a bus.

Other sources that can serve for the same purpose are bubbles from water, which is beginning to boil (wildly boiling water is not that suitable here). Or the sound from a mechanical coffee grinder (you never manage to turn it regularly – fortunately for our purposes). The gained rhythms are a bit more regular in both cases (water or grinder), but nicely off beat often enough. In all of the described cases I don´t always slavishly stick to the “natural” events though. Some “artful” corrections of the rhythms here and are are allowed of course. And sometimes when I listen to one of these rhythms from mother nature I get an idea, a completely different idea, and construct a quite different rhythm, not random any more, even for another piece often enough. But the initial idea, it came from mother nature. So, let nature inspire you on different levels of your artful activities. And don´t forget: there aren´t any rules that cannot be broken (I said “broken” or “changed” not “neglected”).


to be continued

to part 1: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/337

to part 2: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/345

to part 3: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/353

to part 4: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/362

to part 5: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/367

to part 6: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/376

to part 7: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/383

to part 8: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/388

to part 9: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/394

to part 11: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/409

to part 12: https://www.dev.rofilm-media.net/node/417


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