Instructors: Rockmore and Polansky
Dartmouth College, Spring, 2003
1 Minute Composition
using only one sound, digital editors, soundfile processor
Assignment 1: Given: Tuesday, March 27
Due: Tuesday, April 8
Assignment #1 : A Short Piece Using Soundmaker, Goldwave,
CoolEdit, Protools, Soundhack (or equivalents)
& 1 Sound off the Bregman Website
This assignment is to make a short (about 1 minute) "musique concrete" work using only 1 sound from the selection on sounds website, one of the digital editors (Soundmaker, CoolEdit, GoldWave, ProTools), and SoundHack (or a PC equivalent) for additional processing. The final form of the pieces should be:
Go to the SOUNDS site from the cc11 front page, and you'll see a list of oddly named short sounds (all AIFF, some stereo, some mono). Listen to them (you'll have to drag them over to your machine first, unless you have some sort of web-AIFF player), and pick one -- any one, it doesn't matter. For this assignment, the source sound itself is not important, it's what you do with it.
Make an interesting, inventive, technically brilliant one-minute (more or less) piece using only that sound. Use cutting and pasting, clever editing, overlaying, etc. Use Soundhack or features of the programs for soundfile processing (of the whole thing or pieces of it, or aggregates of it that you create in Soundmaker and the other editors), and make a pallette of sounds to work with. Use the sound editor to edit and mix all your sounds into the pieces. Or, try to use these programs in innovative ways perhaps counter to your intuition about how they should be used.
Before you start: What's important is to try and let some kind of overall sense of what the piece should be inform your choices of what to do with the individual sounds. It's fine, and important, to play, experiment, and fool around semi-intentionally, but it's also important to combine that with large- or small-level intentionality. Don't just slap together ten sounds that kind of sound neat by themselves, they probably (almost definitely) won't sound neat as a "piece", and that's what we're trying to accomplish.
Use your imagination! Cut, paste, mix, slow down, pitch change, echo, recontextualize, convolve, morph, varispeed, fade &emdash; all are possible, and in lots of combinations. Try to make the most out of the least: lots of effects are not necessarily best. Keep it elegant, clear, and have a real "compositional" plan. It might help to consider how you would make a visual collage out of just a few objects, or an abstract painting out of a few colors. Change the concept of space to that of time, and you have a nice metaphor to work from if you've never tried to make a piece of music before.
The actual sound(s) you choose to use in your piece (remember, only 1) is not really the issue. We know all these sounds pretty well, so just hearing them is not very interesting. The art of your piece will occur in how you combine and transform sounds, how you plan out the work to make some kind of (musical or artistic) sense out of sonic transformation.
One thing to consider is your approach to semantic content and connotation. One hearing of a piece that makes a simple joke with the semantics of a sound (especially one that has a strong, definite context, like speech) is cute: later hearings can be cloying and call attention to oversimplified aesthetic imagination. In other words, don't let whatever you think the sound refers to imbue too much to your piece. This assignment is about your ability to transform and transcend, not highlight. For example, a piece which used a Bart Simpson quip is only interesting if it actually is funnier and more interesting than the Bart Simpson line, not if it needs the inherent humor in the original to supply the piece's interest.
Even more importantly, don't try to make something that
you think sounds like what others might consider "music." Rather, let your
intuition and creativity loose and make something that is interesting and
expresses some sonic idea that YOU have. Have fun with the compositional
end of it.
Technical Things to Avoid
See the detailed instructions on the CC11 front page for where to put the assignments, and how to name them.
Your pieces should be about 10 megabytes (give or take 1 or 2 megabytes). If it's not, you have the wrong sampling rate, wrong number of channels, or something else is screwed up.
To illustrate the above:
Watch out for ProTools — ProTools "sessions" are NOT soundfiles, you need to "bounce" the session to a soundfile.
I had some students asking about pops and clicks. Here are three sound files that exemplify some problems that may occur while editing and processing your sounds.
Look at the examples (attached) that I've made with a piano sample.
some informal thoughts from students in previous years who've done this assignment