Tag Archives: engineered ambience

Sound Looking

I recently discovered the work of Kim Kichul and boy am I impressed. This piece is a particularly good (and hypnotising) visualisation of sound energy

Check out Kim’s website for more incredible stuff in the same vein.



Singing, Ringing, Tree (Panopticons) - Photo by WikiCommons

You might notice a wee trend creeping into my posts in the next few weeks. I’m currently doing some research and preparation for my masters thesis, which I’ll be writing in the coming months, and a lot of the stuff I’m digging up is interesting indeed.

Like this wind sculpture in England’s Northwest. It takes a simple meteorological constant and turns it into a beautifully eerie, aleotoric piece of sound art. Check it out in action here.

I’ll be talking more about my thesis in the near future…


Trimpin's Klompen - Photo by Thomas Crenshaw (CCBY)

It’s film festival time in Dunedin again and what a good time of year it is. Among my personal highlights so far was Oscar-winning ‘A Prophet‘ and Oscar deserving ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop‘. You owe it to yourself to see both.

Those of you with an interest in D.I.Y. acoustic sonic wizardry also ought to head along and see ‘Trimpin: The Sound of Invention’. Trimpin is the single-name moniker of the eccentric German-born inventor/artist/musician whose life and work is documented in the film. And this guy is serious about his life and work. The sheer number of bizarre contraptions and gadgets he calls his own is astounding. Tours of his studio reveal the kind of cluttered wonderland usually restricted to fantastical kid’s movies. That probably has something to do with his child-like curiosity – he talks of his life being one big experiment that’s still very much going on.

The filmmaker followed Trimpin for two years and managed to capture some pretty great stuff, including the evolution of a musical collaboration with long-time envelope pushers The Kronos Quartet.

Official website here.

Structured Noise

Sound-collage artist Kutiman, creator of the brilliant ThruYou, has just released a new two minute track consisting only of the sounds of construction tools. It’s predictably great and serves to remind one of the vast sonic resources at the disposal of anyone with a microphone.

Manufactured Jungle

Whispering in the Leaves is a fascinating new sound installation by stalwart field-recordist (and ex Cabaret Voltaire member) Chris Watson. Through the use of field recordings typical of a South American rainforest, Watson has carefully recreated a jungle soundscape.

Let’s hope that in a few decades this isn’t the only way we’ll be able to hear a jungle soundscape.

Thanks to Tim @ Music of Sound for the tip.

The Singing Tree/horn/thing

Photo by Keith Marshall

Continuing in the same vein as my last post, I’d like to draw your attention to a wonderful piece of engineered art that makes a positive contribution to what is presumably already a beautiful soundscape.

Jem Finer has created an autonomous musical instrument and ongoing composition dubbed, “Score for a hole in the ground”. The project works purely by the processes of nature and at least in theory should require no human intervention to continue performing as designed for many years. Water drips sourced from an uphill reservoir are the closest the composition has to a performer. As they drip and trickle onto metallic plates carefully placed by Finer many metres under the ground, their echoes and resonances travel up several pipes and are then amplified and broadcast to the forest by a giant retro gramophone trumpet. Just imagine wandering upon this while taking a stroll in the forest.

This kind of project is admirable for two main reasons. One, because it has a one off cost and provides a constantly shifting, continuous performance, enhancing awareness of the soundscape it’s situated int and two, because it uses only natural processes. This leads me to a question:

Can anybody think of some more cost-effective ways to make use such natural processes to create objects such as this? The cheaper and less technical the object is, the better.

There’s more info over at Finer’s site as well as an absolutely stunning explanatory video over here

Manufacturing Emotion

One of the most interesting articles I have read in recent weeks is this little gem about the man tasked with conceiving and designing the ambient sound experience at Disneyland.

Here is an example of a ambient sound system designed in support of an even greater engineered environment spread across a vast physical space and dictated by a wide range of thematic and emotional content. The designer talks of the difficulties of creating a seamless sound experience across such an environment. It’s a fascinating exercise in sound design, especially in the pre-digital era.

The important point I noted here is that in situations such as these, a successful ambient environment is never consciously acknowledged by its listeners. Instead, it should unconsciously bring about a desired state of mind. In the same way that the designer tweaks the individual parameters of the sounds, so he tweaks the feelings and emotions of those listening to them.