📅 Jan 2004 | Music Technology Projects
The video to Star Guitar by the Chemical Brothers takes the listener on a perceived journey through industrial landscapes and open land, until arriving at a railway station. The video itself uses the music as a way of offering a visual score. This version places the viewer in the same perspective as the original video; only this time when the buildings/machinery are passed, they trigger sounds that give a perceived momentum/description to the journey.
Analyzing the opening scene brought immediate awareness that the final piece could end up as nothing more than randomly triggered sounds. It was therefore imperative that the sounds used were easily altered to cater for the situation. For this reason I opted to use Rogue a free VST instrument (VSTi). This dual oscillator synthesizer offered a limited but versatile environment from which to create the first few sounds. From this starting point further timbres where obtained from the native VSTi A1. This is also a two oscillator synthesizer but offers more manipulation on parameters such as modulation.
While in production each individual's timbres main percussion sound would not collide tonally with any of the others in relation to their position on the frequency registry. Male I is a high snare sound, Female I is designated a low zap type drum while Female II is given middle range timbre bongos. Essentially when placed together a new percussion loop will be created, at the same time placing a degree of motion within the piece as different parts of the hearing registry are emphasized.The initial sounds laid down began to show that the video was very synchresis, creating an initial concern of unintentional rhythm emerging.
The rhythmic aspect is dampened with contrasting low tonal sounds, or timbres that avoid frequency positions already present. The result has allowed many of the buildings and machinery to be synchronized and heard separately. This combination introduces a narrative that is driven by the concept of sound imitating the architecture of the buildings and machinery, evolving as they enter the scene.
The most challenging aspect to the video was the change from the breakers yard to the open country. When taking into consideration that there is distance between foreground and background images (that together create a sense of motion), it seemed sensible to add a sound that would be descriptive of this. To achieve this perception sonically a single high note is played on the A1 synthesizer using a sharp timbre. The sound is then placed throughout the entire piece as a held note, to create the perception of foreground/background. The adding of a pitch shift along with the effect of Chorusing helps define the background and foreground positions. When the video displays open scenery the pitch is at its highest, with the reverse being true for the foreground objects. This effect is further complemented by the plug-in Chopper (a fast modulated pan that creates the feel of audio being cut away). Using this method has allowed for a timbre that is descriptive of a transition, perfect for creating a transitional perception of motion through sound; visually this can be pinpointed best at the point the train enters and exits the tunnel.
Following this is an open country scene that is dominated by a repeating hut. As it clearly holds a steady pattern, the sound used here needed to have a reasonable amount of synthetic release to create a sense of motion. The sounds used for the wall and the bridge of this scene both have timbres that match the architecture. In the case of the bridge this a deep timbre that rises as it decays, with the wall having a slow building timbre that widens as the building alters shape. When the carriage train of this scene is introduced the same concept is used that was used for the hut. However the timbre of this instrument uses more of the noise control from the VSTi A1 which has enabled the sound to feel as if it is passing by more swiftly than the hut. This effect when heard alone is not that narrative but when combined the timbres of the wall and bridge however give this section a very convincing feel.
The section that follows is almost self narrative using a sound that matches the outline of the mud hill. The change from day to night takes the same approach as the video by giving a perception that a return to scene one has happened. This is achieved by using some of the sounds from scene one, as well as adding new sounds that represent the new buildings and machinery. To give a feeling of moving from day to night the audio channels are all sent to a group channel, except the channel representing distance. Inserted into the group channel is the GRM plug-in Band-pass, following the transition from day to night a deep frequency is used before returning to a full band-pass as day returns.
When arriving at the station the first syllable of a humans voice is used as a way of representing each person. This process is triggered as an individual is passed with the addition of a separate pitch for each person. Further effect is given to this process by means of the GRM plug-in Pitch Shifter.
The windows and doors of the train station are represented by using automated EQ rising at 400 Hz, this adds further to the slowing of preserved motion. The sounds used for passing trains are isolated as the view is obscured by one. This process stays the same when exiting the station before concluding with reverberation being added to create a coda effect.
The creative process taken has allowed for individual sounds to be created from single and dual oscillators making new and interesting timbres. At some stages this has continued three or four times. Although the process required for such a project can be time consuming, the reward comes from the moments where sound merges giving a perception of evolving from within one another. There are also sounds that can seem almost hidden to the first time listner, following much the same concept as the original video. The final production has therefore taken on much of the same ideas as the creator, only in a reverse scenario of audio.
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