Forms of Air | Blog

Occasional Ramblings on Sound and the Creative Process

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Thanks to the Media Arts Technical Assistance Fund, a regrant program of NYSCA Electronic Media and Film, administered by free103point9, I am currently in New York City, attending the Megapolis audio festival! Per the festival’s website, “The MEGAPOLIS Audio Festival is a weekend-long event dedicated to the art of sound. Artists including documentarians, technologists, musicians, educators, urban planners, scientists, radio producers, and fans interact to share secrets on producing and presenting challenging audio works online, on-air, and on the stage.”  After my first day at Megapolis, I can definitely say that there is a very interesting mix of different types of media-makers here – it is very refreshing to be working with people from so many different backgrounds!

Currently, I am nursing sore feet and a completely blown mind at my hotel – so many great ideas/sounds to play with/share!  For example, check out this neat online sound tool – (use Google Chrome browser for best results, per the programmer Ben Lacker).  You can use the sample jazz drummer tracks to create interesting sounds by dragging the sliders up and down, or head over to someplace like and grab an mp3 file to load into the program to create something even more unusual-sounding.  The tool will first sort through the file, isolating eight different groups of sounds according to their timbre (each slider corresponds to one grouping of sounds with a similar timbre, for a total of eight groups).  Once the processing is complete, you can hit the play button to begin playing a loop – use the sliders to add or subtract sounds in real time from the loop.  The higher the slider, the more clips of that timbre will be included in the loop (this baby gets LOUD).  I will definitely be playing with this tool more in the future – I am curious what it would do with voice or piano.  It definitely does very cool things with drums.

The other session I attended today was “The Way Things Travel” with John Roach and Aaron Moore.  In this noise-making extravaganza, we created several instruments using various odds and ends.  Check out two of my instruments below:


The stringed instrument in the front can be hooked up to a simple piezo pickup and – voila – you have a very interesting-sounding electronic instrument made with rubber hands and a resonator made of an old DVD security case.  Also in this picture is a “bow” made of soft plastic tubing with a piece of wire stuck through it and a “saxophone” made with a straw and an old spool.  I am amazed at the varied and interesting sounds these instruments produce.  I also took notes on how to make another really neat instrument out of a cigar box and some wire – I will most certainly be recreating something like this at home!  I will need to figure out how to create a piezo pickup – the ones we used today were very low tech, something like what is described in this article.  Looks like a trip to Radio Shack for a couple of buzzers/cables and some tutoring in soldering technique from my husband is in my future!  In the meantime, tomorrow the group of us from the first “The Way Things Travel” session will perform for an hour on our new instruments.  Fun times!