In The Fields / Finalist in Category 2: Contemporary Music, Computer Music
In The Fields is a contribution by David Stockinger (Austria, Kunstuniversität Graz).
ICSA 2017 / 3D Audio Production Competition
Over the last year I made several excursions in the field for field recordings. In that time I developed an interest in this realm, so I variied in different recording techniques and recorded a lot of different places. Especially as a sound designer it is essential to have different types of recordings but also the knowledge of how different environments sound, what sounds they contain and also how they interact with each other.
With this mindset I started to work on the 3D Audio piece for the competition. I wanted to make a piece that builds up on my field recordings, but not just to set them in a digital 3D Audio setting, but rather to create something new.
Setup of the piece
As mentioned in the abstract, the piece consists of five parts, that have own backgrounds and themes:
Aligned upon this are special foreground sounds, that should fit in the theme. The parts where choosen first for their special inherent sound structures and second for dramaturgic purposes, to have parts with different atmospheres and tensions. The parts have nearly all the same length, about 50 seconds. Every part should go smoothly into the next. This was very interesting for me because of the different tensions, that change also smoothly in this way. The frogs in the first part exaggerate more and more over time to created a dense and oppressive atmosphere. After this first climax, the forest is a very soft and mellow part that cools the heat of the first part down again. The river builds this atmosphere up in a more broadbanded sound field, that also prepares for the next part, the storm. After this loud and wild climax part, the crickets come in an relax the situation again, when the storm had moved on. So the piece starts with animals, the frogs, and ends with animals, the crickets, but with totally different moods, created by them.
With the Ambix Plug-Ins, the background could be created very interesting. For every background the same track was tripled and about 20 - 30ms time-displaced arranged. The first was set on the left side, one above the listener and one on the right. So if for example a frog or a bird shouts, this echos through the hole room and therefore there is a comprehensive sound impression construated. The exception is the third part, the river. There a stereopair of microphones with an additional MS Mono centre is used. The stereo tracks where set one to the left and one to the right side, the mono is centered above the listener. This creates a more realistic space impression, so this part is special. It also is this center of the piece and is surrounded by a excited (frogs) – mellow (forest) and a excited (storm) – mellow (crickets) part. Every track of the background has a little widening effect to glue the single tracks more together and make a more consistend impression.
The foreground sounds mainly use nature and animal sounds as their sound source. This was quite interesting for me because a lot of sounds have a very special structure and timbre, often not expected they could sound like this (e.g. the frogs). Yet they are often processed. But the main idea was to constitude the sounds in a new created environment, created by the arrangement and mostly by the sounds themselfes and their characteristics. The foreground sounds of the first part consists of some special sounding frogs, that stand out compared to the rest. They appear for example behind the listener to create tension, and also moves around the listener. Often they are processed with pitch shifting automations. As the tension grows in the part, the movement of the frogs also goes more fastly.
The second part foreground sounds consist mostly of birds, that are flying around the listener. Their movement is similar to the frogs, but there is a totally different atmosphere created because of their sound. The background birds come with waves and the foreground birds consisting of a „normal“ forest bird and a more processed bird. There are a raven and a owl, that wander around more far away from the listener and differ from the other birds in their sound. Also a bongo was recorded to immitade some kind of woodpecker.
The third parts foreground sound starts with a shaker and the forest birds get replaced by a far above sounding water bird. The climax of this part are two big stones, falling into the water from left and right and get drawn towards the middle with a widening automation. The first stone starts a gurgling little river wanders with a subtle pitch shift up and down automation around the listener. Also a fly flies above him.
The storm part is a climax in tension of the piece. A lot of oppressive sounds (pan flute, squeaking door, the raven reversed) are flying around the listener to create a wild, stormy and dangerous atmosphere. Also a dog barks at him. After a bell-like shaking above him, the salvation sets in.
The last part is just supported by the two, throughout the piece sounding sounds. But they are also getting more mellow and quite so the piece goes towards a good and calmed end.
To create a new environments with a special atmosphere, I supported the sounds of the nature with some studio recordings. Most important are the atmospheric guitar sounds, that can be heard in every part. In the parts of more tension they get more dissonant and threating, but because they are just far in the background, often appeal subtle or subconscious. Also in the end it dissolves the piece with very mellow and calm sounding chords. The guitars where strongly processed, so they sound more like something created with a synthesizer. Mainly they were stretched and reversed and processed with a lot reverb, so they are more atmospheric and drawn through.
A hit on a metallic drinking can symbolizes every new beginning of a part. The bell-like metallic hit was processed with delay and it should give the piece a more mysterious note, because in the beginning it is strange to hear this next to the animals sounds. Also the sound source can not be identified clearly, if not known what exactly is.
All Recordings of „In The Fields“ where made by myself in Graz, Graz surrounding and around my hometown Pocking in Germany. For recording I used mainly a Zoom H6 handheld recorder. Also some recordings had additional microphones, a pair of Rode NT5, that I used with the H6 and sometimes I used a Zoom H2N Recorder.
Most of the recordings were not ecspecially made for the competition. I made them for different courses of my Master degree course and for my own pleasure. But this was an interesting starting point: to have a sound pool of sounds, that have often nothing directly in common with each other, what also supports the idea of creating a new environment in a 3D audio setting.
The five soundscape recordings I used as the background for „In the Fields“ where made with different recording equipment. For the frogs in the first part and the forest in the second part I used the Zoom H6, with the XY attachment in an 120° microphones position to get a preferably broad sounding recording. The frogs where recorded in my hometown pocking in germany. This was a quite special recording for me. Pocking is a small town on the country side of bavaria and in its surrounding, it has a lot of little lakes for fishing purposes. At one point where three of them are very close together I made a recording of the frogs at two o'clock in the morning, where are no street or other sounds interrupting. The forest is recorded in Graz near the Rettenbachklamm, where I used to hike. Although it is quite near the city and the recording time was late in the morning on a thursday, the city does not sound in the recording.
The river in the third part was recorded at the Mur in Graz. For this I used the H6 with the MS attachment and the additional Rode NT5 stereopair in an ORTF position. The MS was later used as mono in the middle in addition to the panned to side stereo pair recording to get a very broad panorama, but also with no hole in the middle.
The storm and the crickets where recorded with the H2N. The storm was recorded late at night from my home window in Graz. The crickets where recorded at a hike in the surrounding of Graz on a big field surrounded by a forrest.
Some of the foreground sounds in the piece where taken out of this longer recording sessions or, when something ecspecially interesting sounding happened, this was focused on. The raven in the seconrd part was recorded in my green backyard, that is quite big and surrounded by houses. It flew from far away towards the microphone, always crowing in the meanwhile.
All of the not-field recordings where specially made for „In the Fields“. As mentioned before, I wanted to support the created atmosphere of the respective part and also create this atmosphere with these sounds. For recordings at home is used a Rode NT1 condenser microphone. The three sounds that are playing constantly throughout the piece are a metallic water can, metallic spheres with a bell-like sounding, if smashed together, and some atmospheric guitars. In the second forest part, a door can be heard as a little bird. Also there is a shaker in the third part, that comes three times in the piece. In the fourth storm part a squeaking door, a panflute, a basedrum, a kalimba smashed on the back and the metallic spheres shaked can be heard.