Project Four: “This is All in Your Head”

It’s finally here. The big one. The one and only project four. The project which brings together all of our collective explorations from the last three projects into one great, big… Well, project. For my project I decided to explore the concept of meaning itself and how each individual interprets meaning differently.

So here’s my final project (reflection is below it):

A lot of the sounds I used had a similar fidelity to the location, time of day and situation my character was in, but each sound was slightly out of sync with its supposed object of origin, creating an out of sync environment that constantly shifts and adjusts to the emotional tone of the piece. For example, at the end of the piece I blended two separate train trips together to create an appropriate emotional tone. I also used different recording from different locations, times of day and atmospheres to create my spaces, building a very strange and convoluted world. The coffee cup I used had water in it so created a swishing sound not similar to coffee, but water instead. All of this created an off-kilter feeling for me, but the more I asked people about the piece, the more I realised that the exact atmosphere didn’t need to match exactly, so long as it was present and created a logical world for the character.

The piece really evolved a great deal for me as I got deeper and deeper into the creative process. The original concept was more around the way we develop narrative through space as well as through relationships, focussing more on the idea of using space to develop the narrative. But it steadily evolved into a piece that, when boiled down, really explores how we create meaning through narrative and emotional connections to main characters, through whom we see the story unfold, building relationships and developing the world of that character with the character in mind.

Creating an individualised experience and world through ambiguous language and environments in which most, if not everyone can relate in some way and bestow upon the character their own experiences, emotions, meanings, hopes and desires for each situation. By not making the character an individual she has essentially become an individual to every person who listens to it, just in very different ways each time as each person’s unique experiences are reflected within the character’s own, and the world in which the listener and the character now inhabit together, having created it together. Having the ability to give someone else the chance to create an entire world in their own mind is a very intriguing and enticing concept for me, especially the way in which each person experiences the piece, its narrative and inherent connotations differently.

I was really inspired to create this piece after listening to “Remember the Baby” ( by Louis Kornfeld and Jonathan Mitchell. The piece explores the way the inner voice interacts with the external voice during a stroke. I was inspired by this idea of exploring the powerful capabilities of the inner voice, especially when thinking about the layers within which we communicate with ourselves, having almost multiple conversations at once with the knowledge that we are communicating with ourselves.

Through this piece I used a wide variety of techniques to create the inner voice and distinguish it from the external voice. Firstly, during the recording process, I recorded all of the lines for the inner voice as close to the microphone as possible, allowing for a feeling of closeness to be created. This being said, I did the opposite for the external voice, imagining where my voice would drop relative to my own ears, in a way attempting to reconstruct the way we hear and the structure of our heads through sound. From this point I then went to develop the ‘space’ in which the inner voice resides, creating a special reverb setting for the inner voice which created just the right amount of echo and room within the space of the figurative head. I then proceeded to pan the inner voice. This allowed me to create an inner voice that consciously moves around the ‘head space’, disturbing, poking and prodding at itself. The inner voice is the key to the piece and was the most interesting part to create.

For this piece I experimented a great deal with the recording process, gathering my sounds as separately as possible through foley (walking around with a shotgun microphone and a boom pole recording all the sounds of my character’s environment). Once I had gathered all of my sounds separately, I then went through the process of selecting and composing them into the layered and developed piece I have now. This was an interesting process, as in order to create the sequence of events in which a car drives past cat-calling my character I had to record each individual sound separately and then hope that they would layer together properly in post. This meant recording the window winding down, the car honking, the wolf whistle, the car actually moving, and the coffee cup dropping all separately and cleanly in an outdoor environment. However, this was not the case with the voices, as I recorded each of these cleanly in the multi-track studio. This cleanliness of the voice allowed for a much rougher environment, as the focus was on the voice of the character and not the environment itself.

The Connotations of Sound (Part 2)

During the process of creating these pieces, in particular, the ‘Life is Theatre’ piece, it was very interesting seeing how the different timbres of each sound allowed for an emotional flow and progression, while the individual sounds themselves gave off distinctive connotations and painted a different narrative in each person’s head, as each person focused on different sounds to paint a story.

When I showed my first rough edit of the piece to a small group of my peers and Kyla, I asked them whether or not they felt it achieved the kind of emotional tones and qualities I wanted it to and then, for some reason they told me what they each thought the story was. When I was searching for my sounds I only thought about the unique sounds in my day to day life that had a unique emotional timbre which I could use to progress the to the climax of the piece. I didn’t think about the connotations of each sound, as the piece was meant to be purely experimental and emotional, whereas, because each sound used had a specific connotative and semiotic meaning to each individual, all they were searching for WAS the meaning and the story behind each sound. Some people felt it was An ordeal with a knife, made worse by an ambulance stuck in traffic.

When I went before the crit panel earlier today, both of the panel members had interesting things to say about my piece and both thought it was successful on the emotional front, and that the story behind it was a ‘public transport nightmare’, but Miyuki also pointed out some interesting ways to improve my piece, through pacing, rhythm and smoother flow from sound to sound. All of which I fully agree with and can hear in my piece now. I really want to work more with pacing and rhythm, working sounds in time with other sounds as well as emotions and feeling able to manipulate more as opposed to seeing how the cards drop, then just leaving them there. I also love the idea that through connotation and convention of classical storylines (cliche if you will), people are constantly anticipating and expecting repetition within the stories they see and hear, expecting familiarity and a cohesive story filled with meaning to develop, so they search for it until they find it. The constant search for meaning. In sound this is the development of semiotic cues, creating a world which we recognise and understand, which can oh so easily be destroyed with but one stray sound.

Assignment Three: ’24 Hour Folio Part 2.’ The Sounds of Theatre: The Mermaid

This is my second and final part of assignment three as well as my 24 hour folio; my studio based piece, for which I decided to create a short (very short) radio play, with a little help from my playwright friend, Yuki Iwama.

 A short fictional radio drama about the way we each lose a piece of ourselves to the other in marriage, and how that affects the children we inevitably create.

Written and Performed by: Yuki Iwama

Direction and Sound Design by: Alaine Thompson

Featuring sound effects from the following:
. Mike Koenig, ‘Crisp Ocean Waves’, available at
. Zarabadeu, ‘Heart Beat’, available at
. Jamius, ‘SnakeAttackVerbPuls’, available at
. alienxxx, ‘creaking_floor_upstairs’, available at
(All under CC BY 3.0.)

For this piece I chose to collaborate with an emerging writer in order to produce a sound work of her piece. While this sounded like a good idea in the beginning stages of this assignment, and actually did turn out to be a really great piece that I’m really proud of, I found myself wishing I’d had more time to spend with the piece, to digest it and really get to know the ideas in depth so I could explore it more on an in depth level rather than a literal, surface level through the sound design. In hindsight I would’ve worked out the material earlier in order to produce sounds on a more emotional than literal level.

While reading through the piece and speaking to the writer about the kinds of emotions she felt and what she was trying to get across, I got the sense that the piece was a very anxious and intense piece. This anxiety layered throughout not only the writing but the pacing and rhythm of the performance, cued me to layer in a sound I found through the viewing of a recent modern play, ‘Death and the Maiden’ for which the sound design seemed to only be this hollow, echoing, white noise that came in and key harrowing and alienating points. I used this same sound to draw focus and build this feeling of anxiety and alienation inherently present throughout the piece. This sound, while being naturally discordant, also created a nice eb and flow to the piece.

This alienation was also inspired by the theatre technique known as the ‘theatre of cruelty’ which employs a heavy assault on the senses in order to alienate the audience and bring across the point the play is trying to make. I feel both the constant flow of white noise as well as the foley recorded and sourced create an uncomfortable atmosphere, really assaulting the ear drums.

Also, for the match lighting and wave foley sounds in particular, they were first used literally as a kind of atmos and then used in a more metaphorical way to create a mood out of context, as opposed to a space linked to the memory in the words. This was interesting as the same sound created an entirely new and almost haunting effect. This wasn’t really inspired by a particular radio feature, more a large combination of every radio feature we’ve listened to in class as well as the ones that I’ve listened to in my own time, as it is an effective technique to shift the mood in the piece whilst also allowing the listener to remember what exactly you are shifting from, creating a discordant and alienating break through slight variation.

I feel that both of these pieces for project three have really explored the way in which sounds have important connotative values and shape our understanding more than we realise, and while I do feel that I explored this idea well in this brief, I really want to explore it more and see how I can create a narrative in a more connotative way, leaving it up to interpretation and using cues to create a space.

Assignment Three: ’24 Hour Folio Part 2.’ The Sounds of Theatre: Life is Theatre

For our third assignment we had to create two additional pieces for our ’24 Hour’ folio, this time focusing on field and studio sound production. The following is my take on an experimental field piece; ” Life is Theatre”.

A three act short experimental sound piece featuring the serendipitous moments of beauty, pain, conflict and sorrow found in our everyday lives.

Featuring Vivaldi’s ‘Spring Allegro’ as performed by John Harrison with the Wichita State University Chamber Players, available from the free music archive.
Under CC BY SA.

For this piece I really wanted to get across the way in which a theatre piece emotionally evolves over a period of time, essentially each definitive and distinct act of the play. Due to the nature of the piece, using a wide variety of sounds to produce a steady emotional progression, there had to be a great deal of control over the sounds I recorded and used, their timbre in particular, in order to create the desired effect. To do this I mapped out the progression I wanted the piece to take and brainstormed sounds I thought had the right kind of timbre for that section.


The section I had the most trouble finding sounds for was the climactic section, as this required the largest variation in both amount and timbre. However, I feel that I managed to gather enough variations in timbre through my sounds, as the progression in this sequence is like a parabola and eases the listener in.

As the piece is about “the theatre of life” I decided to layer classical music at all of the major sections, as classical music gives an air of theatre, as it is often associated with the theatrical, extravagant and high culture nature of theatre. I used Vivaldi’s ‘Spring Allegro’ to represent the ‘happy bubble’ section at the beginning, birds still heard over the top to emphasise that the sound of birds chirping and other such small moments in life are what inspire such theatrical and musical pieces. Beethoven’s ‘Corolian Overture’ is layered in towards the end of the climactic sequence, to emphasise the hectic and theatrical nature of the climax, timing sounds to the notes towards the end. And a tuning fork is used after the hollow, reverbed, echoing field sound (the point of sadness after the climax) to give the idea of remembrance and moving on, as the piece then returns to the exposition sounds of the footsteps, the birds and the public transport, only this time, instead of a train, it is a tram, and instead of concrete they are walking on gravel. The piece ends the same way it began, with the orchestra tuning up, ready to go again.

I was inspired in part by the way the Kitchen Sisters create their pieces, such as ‘Tupperware’, and the way director Robert Altman created his films, both layering sound upon sound so they are fighting each other to be heard, forcing the audience to pick what they hear instead of delivering valuable information. This instead creates a mood and a presence, using voice and sound for their musical and lyrical qualities.

I was also inspired by ‘Desert Mischief’ by Kerry Fletcher, the smooth transitions and lyrical nature of the field sounds used helped me to envision my own piece and the way that I could possibly match, mix and pair varying sounds together to both create a narrative as well as a flowing emotional composition.

David Bowie is… well, David Bowie

Yesterday I went to see the David Bowie exhibition at ACMI with my mum, and while she primarily brought me along so that she could attempt to bring me back into the same nostalgia she felt when she listened to one of his songs or saw a Ziggy Stardust costume, I had a completely separate, encompassing and profound experience. I felt as though I was meeting a fellow creative who on the surface seemed to be a strange and surreal figure, but underneath was constantly engineering and manipulating that visage for his own creative design and expression. And the only reason I felt encompassed by the experience, by his creativity and genius was because of another genius – a sound designer.

The entire exhibition, with all of its memorabilia scrounged from collectors from all corners of the earth, accompanied by in depth notes and writing about the stories of each piece, was quite honestly not about any of that. That all felt like window dressing. Much like a costume or a character was a message or an overall aura Bowie himself was trying to project through the ether, the mementos were only a small element in creating the world of the exhibition. They, coupled with VJ displays of interpretations of his work (playing along with the music), as well as the video clips themselves, the music and interviews cut into radio features with unique sounds creating a distorting aura all of their own, gave you a sense of the true type of artist Bowie was, rather than treating him like an artifact or exhibit. It really showed you the world he had created, and for someone who had never really experienced Bowie in depth and only from afar, it felt like a very personal experience, like getting to know the individual artist behind the persona and the music, and not just the colourful persona itself.

The most interesting part about the experience was the way that they used location. The headsets were designed so that when you enter the space, the area around a certain part of the exhibit, a specific sound piece will start to play, working perfectly with the visual elements around you and creating a unique cocoon of intriguing sounds and interesting exhibits, coinciding in a beautiful sensory way and creating an incredibly individualised experience, which, for an exhibition about the artist David Bowie, seems only fitting.

The idea of creating sound to coincide with a fixed visual stimulus, that encourages you to explore both visually and physically through touch, creates a very intimate, overall more encompassing and satisfactory experience. It’s also interesting through the idea of guiding the way one of the five senses perceives an environment, which in turn leads the others, especially since there is no such thing as ‘ear lids’, it seems all the more fitting to play with the way we experience location aurally, rather than visually necessarily. After all, cafe’s and elevators play music as though it were a comforting yellow wallpaper.


According to Wikipedia, foley is “the reproduction of everyday sound effects that are added to film, video, and other media in post-production to enhance audio quality. These reproduced sounds can be anything from the swishing of clothing and footsteps to squeaky doors and breaking glass.”

Foley comes from the man Jack Foley who was the first person to utilise sound effects in radio dramas, then transferring them to film later on. People who use these techniques, of purposely creating sounds in a studio to images (as it is now used in film as opposed to radio) are known as foley artists.

Foley is a very interesting art-form, as it involves taking a sound that is well known, and therefore has a very important connotative value, and then reproducing it out of context in a way that is often completely separate to the actual origin of the sound.

As some of the objects foley artists create sound for don’t necessarily make sounds, or are very difficult to capture, the sounds aren’t only captured out of context, separately from the image, but in a completely different environment, often from something that sounds similar, or some feel would sound like that object, creating a simulacra (Beaudrillard, 1981) of that objects sound in popular culture, but not that objects actual sound, all for the enhanced dramatic, emotional and connotative value.

This is a video about the foley artist behind a show marketed as a “live graphic novel”, The Intergalactic Nemesis. As the performance is half radio play, half comic book, the foley is performed live using various machines, instruments and day to day objects to create the sounds needed to immerse the viewer in the world. Immersion is vital  in this type of performance (as they are in any), as you are essentially creating the world around the audience, and the sounds in particular achieve that through developing the atmosphere. The visual stimuli is the window into the world, but the soundscape creates the world, with all the auditory cues allowing you to gain a sense of place in this new world.

– Baudrillard, Jean. “Simulacra and Simulation.” 1981. Available at:

Assignment Two: ’24 Hour Folio Part 1.’ The Sounds of Theatre: A Finite Existence

For my second piece in my ’24 Hour’ folio, I chose to go to Fortyfivedownstairs and interview the artistic director there: Mary Lou Jelbart.

In the space she helped mold and shape, Mary Lou Jelbart, the artistic director of fortyfivedownstairs, an independent, not-for-profit theatre and gallery space in Melbourne’s CBD, shares what she prizes most, as well as some hard truths, about the business she fell in love with so long ago and has stayed involved in for so many more reasons.

Through this piece I really wanted to create a space and draw the listener into that space, as, as we discussed in class, the listener can perceive even the smallest auditory cue, such as the sound a tram makes when it turns a corner or stops, the sound the lights make when the green man starts walking or even a construction site. Because of these auditory cues I decided to record my walk, or at least small sections of my walk towards and down into the space in order to recreate that walk and atmosphere for the listener, allowing them to imagine the same space that Mary Lou and so many (myself included) have come to love. While I used this at the beginning to help establish place, using classical music to give the air of theatre once in the space, I continued the classical music at the end, creating a sort of wistfulness, and then suddenly the classical piano fades out to be replaced by the sound of the lights as you wait to cross. This sound takes over and becomes very alienating as you wait for the green man to appear, and when he does you know it’s time to go home (as this same sound was used at the beginning of the piece, symbolising the sound coming full circle). This full circle of sound, to me shows the true finite nature of theatre, as it only exists in that one moment in that single space, as it does at Fortyfivedownstairs, and then it doesn’t exist anymore and you go home.

I also used a piece of classical piano throughout to add breath to and bring focus to certain parts of the piece. I got the idea to use a piece of classical music from one of the interviews in “The Letter S” as they layered classical piano underneath it simply for textural reasons. However, I feel adding the classical piano adds an air off high culture, which theatre naturally has, but also adds a sadness to it as, as the interview progresses more is revealed about the hard truths and realities of the world of theatre, and the divide of ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture is no longer what matters.

While this piece was broadly about theatre, in terms of the questions I asked, I managed to find chunks of interview that related specifically to place as well as theatre itself, allowing for the piece to become routed in its ultimate focus.

Through the process of creating this piece I feel I have learnt a lot more about how to cleanly cut audio in Adobe Audition, as well as how to create flow and ‘breath’ for a piece.

Assignment Two: ’24 Hour Folio Part 1.’ The Sounds of Theatre: A Vivid Image

For our second assignment we had to choose a location as an inspiration for a ’24 Hour’ folio. For my location I chose Fortyfivedownstairs, an independent theatre in Flinders Lane that I regularly volunteer at and has been open and producing works with emerging and established artists since 2002. Since this folio’s location is meant to simply inspire our pieces, my pieces are centered around the concept of theatre, which I’ll admit is a little broad, but I feel as though I at least managed to capture some of it:

Theatre is a finite medium, it only exists in that singular space, in that one moment and then it’s gone. It has an unequivocal way of inspiring its audience through evoking not only powerful and enveloping emotions, but life changing thoughts as well.

I seek to find the essence of theatre’s vivid image, through the interviews of Mary Lou Jelbart, Philippa Jelbart and Sophie Kahl,all intricate parts of the creative team at the independent, not-for-profit, theatre and gallery space – fortyfivedownstairs.

In creating this piece I was really inspired by the pieces ‘Poetry Texas’ (Pejk Malinovski), ‘The Letter S’ (Chris Brookes), ‘Tupperware’ (The Kitchen Sisters) and ‘If’ (Sherre DeLys and John Jacobs).

I tried to create observations like those of Malinovski in ‘Poetry Texas’, and while they were of a different style, I feel that my musings did add another dimension and layer to the piece, allowing for the audience to develop new thoughts.

Both ‘The Letter S’ and ‘If’ use the voice of the producer heavily through actors as well as through creating phrases relevant to the material and separate to narration, observations and interviews. This use of unique statements repeated throughout ‘The Letter S’ to give a different meaning, such as “are we on the air?” and the use of unique sounds created by the young girl in ‘If’ really create and add new sound textures that add meaning as the piece progresses. I tried to do something similar through my use of acting exercises, such as tongue twisters, constantly repeated underneath the sections of interview, and then faded to silence at the point in the interviews where focus was needed most. I also tried to make the tongue twisters relevant to the content of the interview, such as the tone and the literal words in “she sells sea shells by the sea shore” relating to no one donating any money to the performers in the ballet performance.

I also drew inspiration from ‘Tupperware’ as I layered the tongue twisters underneath the interviews with no music or other sounds, just voice on voice, trying to really get across the intangible feeling that theatre creates.

I started the piece with a quote from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which I feel sums up the finite nature of theatre. For this piece I really wanted to play with focus, so I made this section silent to make it prominent, bringing in the tongue twister over the last word “nothing”, emphasising the words own innateness. For each interview I layered in an acting exercise underneath and faded it out as the interviewees description reached its peak. The first two chunks of interview relate to each other well, as they both speak about the emotional vividness of theatre, but the third chunk speaks of a performance which is instead more ideological as the interviewee talks about how theatre may be enriching for the audience, but those who create it get very little in return. This then connects to the ending of the piece, another acting exercise, vowels being shouted out, layered over with “Do, Re, me” allowing the audience to ponder whether or not acting is the ultimate form of selfishness or selflessness. The final quote, “Exit, pursued by a bear.” reiterates this idea, as it allows the listener to ponder whether it is simply a stage direction or whether the audience is the bear.

During the creation of this piece I quickly learnt about how to clean up a sound file (wind noise) and how not to (handling noise masking audio). I have learnt a lot more about sound frequency and cleaning audio through the process of making this piece. I also feel that my recording skills have improved, as I went into the multi-track studio to record all of my material other than interviews.

The Connotations of Sound

Sound emphasises the importance of codes, conventions and the connotations that develop meaning and story. Certain things are expressed most clearly through different mediums as each medium creates a different aura, just as different languages have different words for different things. Radiogenic is used to describe things that are best conveyed using the language of music, language itself, voice, field sounds and other such sounds that can bring texture to a piece.

Connotation is vital in sound, as we glean so much information from it without realising it. For instance, we can hear the physical distance from a microphone, creating space in the sound’s texture. We also glean other kinds of information, such as generalisations relative to our own life and reality, allowing for an easy transition between our world and the sound-created one, as we are using objects and other such things from our own lives to help construct and give meaning to it. In this way, depending upon our own experiences, when we hear an English accent, that isn’t cockney, we may think that that person is posh or high culture due to certain connotations that come with an English accent (or at least a particular type of English accent). Due to such generalisations which most people’s minds will automatically construct without them realising, creating a sort of aura as opposed to a conscious realisation of the fact, connotation can be used really well to create the right kind of tone and emotion needed for a piece, even if it is a very slight cue, like a word or phrase referencing something, or even saying something in a particular way to create the right aura, such as emotive tone or through scripted, semi-scripted and improvised dialogue (all of which we can actually hear the textural differences between).

Due to sound’s complex, layered textural qualities, we gain so much information and meaning from each second, so it’s worth spending the time to find the right sound, the right way to express your piece through the various languages used, in order to achieve the aura you want and need. Remember, perception is a fickle thing…

Assignment One: Peer Portrait

For our first assignment we had to do a portrait on the person we chose to sit next to on the first day, which was very interesting and proved to be quite a fun challenge. My subject was Aisha Stevens, who I got along with immediately and turns out, like most people, is a very interesting person with a story to tell; you just have to find the story. Here is my reflection and my final piece:

Sense of Place can truly define a person and to Aisha, her place in the world is traversing it in the footsteps of her parents, especially her father and grandfather, all journalists before her.

Whilst interviewing Aisha I quickly discovered that she had a very passionate love for journalism and a very strange sense of place, due to the fact that she had been uprooted so many times. But because of this strange sense of place she almost enjoyed travel and the enticing nature of the foreign as opposed to what she’s already accustomed to. Couple this with the fact that both her parents are journalists and her own vendetta to become one herself, and you’ve got an individual with a world at her feet.

I really decided to focus in on Aisha’s parents and the fact that through their careers as journalists Aisha had been moved around a lot and really developed a very unique and worldly sense of place. Sense of place is a very significant part of identity and through asking Aisha about her favourite places I discovered the type of person she was and the overall tone of my piece. I used atmospheric sounds to create and add textures to certain phrases, combining and then suddenly dropping the layers at different points to allow for greater meaning to be created through subtext. While the sounds used were at times obvious, they did take on a more emotional and subtextual quality as the piece progressed, and the sounds were used instead for their emotive quality rather than physical/location-based quality.

While this was not my first attempt at using audio editing software, it was my first time creating a layered audio portrait and I feel that it was successful for a first attempt. However, I do acknowledge that the recording could have been done in a cleaner room to achieve a clean sound with no white noise pollution, and that my cutting could have been more lenient as in some areas the ends of words were cut off unintentionally. However, I do not feel that this takes away from the overall piece, it is just not good practice unless it is being used for a desired effect.