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Frank Dufour School of Arts and Humanities Arts and Technology Description of the course: “Introduction to Sound Design” Each 3-hour class will be divided into 3 sequences Seq1: History and theory related to sound (Acoustics, psycho-acoustics, electroacoustics, music…) Seq2: Commented samples: Listening, viewing, and describing. Seq3: Performing workshops. Students will be working within groups of 3. Assuming that the class is held on a Tuesday, each project shall be finished and turned in by that Friday by sending project to me via email or made available on a web or ftp server. A global evaluation of the project will be provided at the beginning of each new workshop and a personal evaluation will be communicated. The duration of these sequences may vary. (Sequence 1 is expected to be longer than 1 hour for the first classes and sequence 3 is expected to become longer.) I wish, if possible, to evaluate the students on a three-thirds method organized as following: 1third based on the presence and activity during the classes. (This evaluation being calculated as following: 2 thirds of the grade comes from me and the other third from the student’s self-evaluation.) 1 third shall be based upon the participation in the workshops. (This grade being calculated idem to abouve). 1 third based on a final examination.

1 Introduction:
General description of the class. Goals and aims. Explanation of the evaluation of students work. Seq11: Acoustics and History What is sound? A general definition of sound as a mechanical vibration transmitted by air or any elastic medium and perceived by hearing. The main characteristics of sound regarding its physical definition: frequency, amplitude, duration, and complexity. What is Time? Early Middle-Age Music. Extension of the Present as a perception of Time. The Augustinian conception of Time. Seq12: Samples

Music from the 12th and 13th centuries. Feeling the movement of time. Listening to the acoustics. Describing the sensation. The voice as an instrument. Questions: What gives, in this sample, the basis of duration? How many different voices have you heard? How would you qualify these different voices? Electroacoustic music from the 70’s Introduction to the problem of notation. The invention of the Scale as a relation between Science and Art. Seq13: Workshop From sound to images Choose one or two of the previous samples and try to imagine a physical environment for this music (is it open, closed, narrow, wide, empty, full, still, agitated?) Try to imagine moving beings or shapes. What would their movements be like? (Flying, swimming, walking, running. Would these movements be slow, fast? ) The answer to these questions can be a drawing, a sketch, a literal description; it can be created or taken from existing pictures or movies.

Seq21: Acoustics and History Acoustics and psychoacoustics What do we hear and how do we hear it? The relationship between the physical characteristics of sound and our sensation (Intensity, Height, Duration, Complexity, Location…). Units used to measure sound characteristics and our sensations. Notation of Time The problem of notation in music. Relationship between the physical characteristics of sound and the notation. The specific issue of writing Time. How to consider Time as a value or as a measurement? The Scientific description of Time (Aristotle to Descartes). Abstraction of the Sign. Extraction of the Author (described as the one who creates the sign) and of the Spectator (described as the one who deciphers the sign). Seq22: Samples Music from the 15th and 16th Centuries. Extension of the Polyphony. Normalization of the instruments and voices. Comparison to the Painting of the same era. The organization of representation of Space and Time from a Point of view located “outside” Space and Time.

Seq23: Workshop The Basic Use of ProTools. Creating a session. Creating a Sound Track. Importing an audio file chosen from the samples previously heard. Using the main tools provided by the interface (play, pause, rewind…) Saving the work done in ProTools: difference between the Audio Data and the Session.

Seq31: Acoustics and History Acoustics: Propagation The acoustics of rooms. Reverberation, absorption, diffraction. Stationary waves. Material and their acoustic properties. The acoustics of music halls and theaters. The acoustics of technical rooms. Classical Representations of Time The Classical Era: establishment and development of the traditional musical forms (symphony, opera, concerto). Perfection of representation of time in Literature. Seq32: Samples Music from the 17th and 18th Centuries. Seq33: Workshop Editing Using the “cut and paste” options of ProTools to assemble sections of music. Using the “fade In / fade Out”. Setting the levels of the different sections. Each student will have to create a session composed with, at least, three different music samples, for a total duration of 3 minutes. The session will include 1 Fade In, 1 Fade Out, and a “cut” transition. Exporting the session and making available for other applications.

Seq41: Acoustics and History Analog recording The principles of early analog recording. The different types of microphones: how they work, how they sound. The Conflict between Representation and Life The effects in music as an alteration of the abstract representation of time.

The Goethean issue of narration and the Conflict between Representation and Life. How to tell a story by using fragments of reality? Comparison between the noise and the effects used in Music and the Fragments of reality used in cinema. The concepts of “image mouvement” and of “image temps” developed by Gilles Deleuze. The end of 19th century as a key Era in the History of Humanity regarding the Representation of time. Photography, Cinema, and Sound Recording. Seq42: Samples The Romantic Era. Extension of time and reintroduction of “noise” in music. The Beethoven Four last Quatuors. Brahms. Seq43: Workshop Recording the human voice. I shall provide written texts in English extracted from movies, video games and plays. The length of these extracts would not exceed 15 lines or circa 1 thousand characters for a total maximum duration of about 40 seconds. Students shall be working within groups of 3 students. Each group shall have to choose a text (the same text can be chosen by several groups) and a speaker inside the group. Before recording they shall have to describe in a few lines the atmosphere they want to create with their recording. While one group is recording, the other groups are watching their work. Artistic and technical aspects. The choice of the microphone. The distance between the speaker and the mike. The voice. The breath. The rhythm. Reading. Standing. Sitting. Listening to radio speakers. Listening to movie actors. Whispering. Speaking. Shouting. Alone. Groups. Silence. Listening to an actor while recording. Speaking to an actor while recording. Taking notes while recording.

Seq51: Acoustics and History Electoacoustics: analog recording Loud speakers Stereophony and multi-phony: the simulation of space. Impression and expression of Time The issue of representation questioning the tonality. The end of classical forms in Literature. Proust, Virginia Wolf, James. Psychology and Literature. The inner spirit conception of Time.

Extension of the subjectivity. Impressionism. Phenomenology and the question of Object and Subject. Seq52: Samples Music from the end of the end of the 19th Century and early 20th. Ravel, Debussy, Bartok, Stravinsky, Schoenberg… Seq53: Workshop A loud voice is not a scream A light voice is not a whisper ProTools editing functions. Organizing files for editing. Editing “around” the file (beginning and ending) Editing inside the sound (removing lips noises, hums and breaths) Replacing parts of words

Seq61: Acoustics and History Electoacoustics: analog processing Electric transformation of the acoustic signal. Amplification. Filtering and different types of analog signal processing The subject and the object The concept of temporal object and of sound object. Umberto Eco and the “open artwork”. The “nouveau Roman”. Alain Robbe-Grillet. Seq62: Samples Futurism and Concrete Music. Seq63: Workshop Effects to apply on a human voice. A simple and effective version of these following effects can be provided by simple software: Dynamic effects: Compressor, limiter, and expander Frequency filters: graphic EQ, parametric EQ, Low and High Pass… Pitch shift Time compression/ expansion. Echoes, delays and reverberation Backwards reading Chorus, flange, phasing.

Seq71: Acoustics and History Digital Sound section 1 The invention of PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) The mathematic principles of digitizing. The 2 phases of digitizing: sampling and quantizing. The different types of digital sound formats. Their use. Compression: the principles of compression.

Serialism The new relationship between music and mathematics. Seq72: Samples Serial Music. Berg, Webern, Boucourechliev. Seq73: Workshop Creating short temporal forms #1. Sound objects (duration < 10 s) Students, during the 8 following workshops will create sound objects, patterns and sound-scapes in order to produce a coherent sound track for a sequence taken from a silent movie. The sequence should not be longer than 10 minutes, the ideal duration being around 5 minutes. The students will first analyze the sequence; describe its length, its rhythm, the number and length of all the shots used in this sequence, the movements, the meanings, the intentions, and the actions… They will then identify all the sound objects or events present in this sequence, their position, and their qualities… From this a list of all the sound events should be drafted. This list should be presented as a musical score showing the position (in time and space) and duration of all these events. In this list the students should identify common properties of these events and imagine links (harmonic, rhythmical, symbolic…) between them. Recording Using the microphone as an instrument.

Seq81: Acoustics and History

Digital Sound section 2 An introduction to the digital audio synthesis: The theory and History of sound synthesis. The principles of Pure Data. From Serialism to formal Music and Computer Music The work of Max Matthew and Jean-Paul Risset. The language Music 1. The temptation of an abstract model for music, literature and art… Samples from the French Oulipo. Combinatory literature. Seq82: Samples Computer music. Formal Music. Iannis Xenakis. Spectral Music Seq83: Workshop Creating short temporal forms #2. Sound objects (duration < 10 s) Editing. Creating or enhancing a dynamical envelope. Organizing the files Naming the different versions Archiving Creating a catalog of sound effects.

Seq91: Acoustics and History The MIDI format. The various components of the MIDI format. The digital Object and Synesthesy One of the consequences of digitizing the audiovisual has been to generate the illusion of the creation of a universal abstract domain: the digital domain. Seq92: Samples Art Work from the group of artists named “Transitoire Observable” Samples of generative music. Seq93: Workshop Creating short temporal forms #3. Synchronization

The chosen sequence shall be imported in ProTools and the students will begin working on synchronizing the events with the related images…

Seq101: Acoustics and History Musical Instruments: theoretical definition of an instrument. The “European Instruments”: How they sound, how to record them. Seq102: Samples Music using traditional musical instruments in an unusual way or “enhanced” traditional instruments. Exploration of the complete range of sound production. The “prepared piano” from John Cage. Seq103: Workshop Creating medium sized temporal forms #1 Sound Patterns Combining short sounds to create continuity. Focuses on tonal and rhythmical relationship between sounds. Organizing the tracks in the mixing window of software. The relative levels of the different tracks.

Seq111: Acoustics and History Musical Instruments: “other musical Instruments”; extra-European, electrical, electronic… The issue of the classification of Musical Instruments. Presentation of the Hornborstel and Sachs classification. Seq112: Samples Listening to various non-European Music Seq113: Workshop Creating medium-sized temporal forms # 2 Students shall explore the issue of continuity. What gives its unity through Time to a sound pattern? Is it the permanence of an instrument or a set of instruments? Is it the permanence of a movement? Is it the permanence of an intention?

What gives its identity to a sound pattern inside a flow of sound events?

Seq121: Acoustics and History Sound and Cinema Sound and cinema: the technical issue. History of sound and cinema. The presence of sound in silent movies. Sound, narration, and illustration. Sound and cinema: the narrative issue. The three different types of sounds in cinema: Direct-In (the cause of the sound is visible in the image); Direct-off (the cause of the sound is not visible in the image but belongs to the space surrounding this image); differed-off (the sound comes from another time and space that the ones shown by the image. Seq122: Samples The temporal narrative forms: flashback, flash-forward, transversal ellipsis, and longitudinal ellipsis. Definition of sequences regarding their temporal function and format. The temporal classification from Genette: Isochrony and Anisochrony. Samples of classical films and “image mouvement”. Movies from Robbe-Grillet, Resnais or Duras (India Song). The concept of “image temps” in cinema. “Les triplettes de Belleville” by Sylvain Chomet (2003) Seq123: Workshop Creating medium-sized temporal forms # 3

Seq131: Acoustics and History The different components of a movie sound track: voice, sound effects, and music. How to analyze a movie sound track? The different ways to qualify sounds. Relatively to the window: is the sound related to a visual cause that can be seen in the window? Is it related to visual cause that is not seen in the window but is suggested “outside” the window? Relatively to the visual moment: Is the sound contemporary of the visual moment? Is it located in the past or the future of this moment? Relatively to the Narration: does the sound belong to the diegetic universe? The diegetic universe is the universe that is created by the Narration: space, Time, characters…

Type of sound




In, Diegetic Off, Diegetic Off, Diegetic diegetic


Dialogue, monologue id extra Comments, narration supported by a character belonging to the Diegetic world or not (extra diegetic)



In, Diegetic Off, Diegetic Off, Diegetic diegetic In, Diegetic Off, Diegetic


extra Reinforce the reality of the scene Contributes to create a consistent space around the window

Off, Diegetic diegetic



This is a proposition for a grid to analyze a sound track. Another proposition could be based on the way the sounds are produced. Type of sound Dialogues Production Synchronous: recorded together with the image Non synchronous; recorded after the image Synchronous Non synchronous: foley, effects Synchronous Non synchronous

Ambiance and effects Music

Seq132: Samples Films from Jacques Tati (Mon Oncle). Sound Tracks from Michel Fano. Seq133: Workshop Creating long temporal forms #1 Sound Scapes The students shall focus on the atmosphere of a sequence, of a place, of a moment. Analyzing color, light, internal rhythm, dimension, density… Emotion, sensation, and meaning.

Seq141: Acoustics and History The issues of a Sound Library: How to describe and to classify a sound? How to create consistent collections of sounds? How to access to a sound or a category of sounds? The indexical, literal, and abstract approaches. The scientific approach. The phenomenological approach. Semiotic Temporal Units: introduction. Seq142: Samples Complex movie Sound Tracks: David Lynch (Eraser Head, Lost Highway) Complex cartoon Sound Tracks. The relationship between visual movement and sound. The relationship between visual effects and sound effects. Seq143: Workshop Creating long temporal forms #2

Seq151: Acoustics and History Semiotic Temporal Units: their use in sound analysis, description and classification. Seq152: Samples While listening to music the students shall have to divide what they hear into consistent fragments and then analyze these fragments as STUs. Seq153: Workshop Creating long temporal forms #3 Synchronizing audio and video Mixing the different tracks and exporting the result making it available for other applications.