MD Series: The Importance of Music

Music is a very important tool for setting the tone of a piece. It changes how the audience views a piece, how it makes them feel and how they feel the characters are meant to feel in a scene.

You only have to look at this famous clip of Star Wars without music to see how important music is to a scene:

Do you feel how awkward that is? Well, it’s no different when you’re putting together a soundscape. Particularly ones that centre a lot around music.

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MD Series: How to talk like a Victorian

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Possibly the biggest challenge with this Soundscape is how to write the script so it both reflects the language that the Victorians spoke but is also understandable for you and I today. Saying something was “well cool!” is a phrase that would be as foreign to the Victorians as the invention of the internet. So, how am I going to do it? More research!

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MD Series: Chasing historic records

Today we take social media for granted. Generally, somewhere a person has left a digital trail so you can see how your classmate from first school is doing now and vise versa. But, in the 1850s social media didn’t exist. Heck, the internet wasn’t even a pipe dream. You only have to watch a few episodes of ‘Who Do You Think You Are‘ to see how easy it is for people to disappear, re-marry, emigrate, change their name etc. So, how am I going to trace one person through the historic records to find her?

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Tributaries application

The Tributaries application is an Augmented Reality mobile/tablet application created in collaboration between Tyne and Wear Museums and Archives and sound artist and musician, Halsey Burgund. It aimed, through using historic documents from personal diaries to shipping reports to tell the stories of the people of Newcastle in the First World War both from a home front and front-line perspectives.

Earlier in the year I was lucky enough on my masters course to travel to Newcastle and test this application for myself. It promised to be personal, thought provoking and really grounded in the community. This is what I found when using the application.

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Blindscape

So, whilst doing some research for my dissertation I came across this application called Blindscape. Which you can find on the Play Store and the App Store.

It’s an interesting application in that the main protagonist is blind. So, the screen throughout the entire game is black with an exception being made for if you need hints on gameplay. The game, when you load it can seem quite sinister for this reason I think (I kept waiting for a jump-scare!) but, it’s actually really beautiful! So, don’t let the start put you off!

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MD Series: Planning a Soundscape

16465316_830187407131732_81770911685935104_n-minA lot of planning actually goes in behind the scenes to create and execute soundscapes in Archaeology. You’ve already gained some ideas as to what that involves with the posts about what existed in the 1850s and researching old maps and photographs. But, there is still more to it than all of that!

Working out the concept

books-441866_1280With soundscapes, you still need an idea about what you are trying to get across to your listener. It’s not good enough to just say that you want to tell the story of a particular place or a particular time, you need to know which narratives you are bringing to the fore. Do you want to tell the story of one person or do you want to create a general ambience piece? Is it artistic or historical in execution? What is your intended audience for the piece? All these things and more need to be considered.

You also need to consider practical elements such as the time of day the soundscape is occurring in and the general timing for the soundscape.  How long does it roughly take to walk from the road to the river etc.

landscape 1

You also need to consider if the soundscape is an MP3 file or whether it is something that will be geolocated. This will effect both the timing and execution of the soundscape.

Collecting the sounds

So, you know what you want to achieve with your soundscape but now you need to build it. You need sound!

Now you can record sounds yourself, recommended if possible, but there is a wealth of free sites out there on the web. Here are a few I’ve been using so far:

Freesound

  • All the sounds are free to download when you create a free account
  • Easy to search system
  • Easy to reference the sounds as all sounds include a title, author and publication date
  • All sounds tell you how many people have downloaded them and have a five star rating next to them
  • Can preview the sounds on the search result screen or click to their personal screen where you can download the content
  • My favourite site to use thus far!

Site can be found HERE

ZapSplat

  • All the sounds are free to download once you create an account
  • Easy search system
  • Referencing not quite as easy. Author and date often missing
  • More limited in number of sounds but have found some good quality content missing from FreeSound
  • Can preview the sounds on the search result screen or click to their personal screen where you can download the content
  • A useful alternative to FreeSound

Site can be found HERE

Putting it all together

I’m using Audacity to layer and edit my clips together into a soundscape. This stage involves a lot of trial and error to get the sound levels, directions, number of repeats etc. to get right. A stage that I’m at and learning from right now!

I will talk more about this stage and later stages i a further blog posts in the near future.

Keep up to date with the new series. There will be a new post on this blog every Wednesday at 12:00 GMT. 

MD Series: The Wilberforce Memorial School for the Blind, York, UK

So, I realise somewhat belatedly that I haven’t fully introduced you all to the subject of my soundscape (though it was mentioned briefly in the first post of the series). Without further ado, I’ll give you a brief history of the Wilberforce Memorial School for the Blind.

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Photographs showing sections of the front part of King’s Manor

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