A Sweet Ear – Jackie Sojico

Another audio doco from the Third Coast International Audio Festival entitled A Sweet Ear.


This is pretty cute and heart-warming; exactly what it’s intentions are. It discusses how everyone’s got a sweet tooth… or ‘a sweet ear’… for pop music. It’s proven that certain sounds (like the happy and warming chord progressions played) are attractive to our ears and we can’t help but love them.

She talks about this in terms of ice cream flavours and toppings and bases. While she talks about the ‘pop’  chord progression, it is played underneath, making her voice very warming and pleasant to listen to.

Then she begins layering different pop songs with the ukelele chord progression to show how in one way or another, they all utilise it.

She compares a variety of songs to this progression and different flavours (dark chocolate for Every Breathe You Take, cake batter for Baby by Justin Bieber, then nuts and praline for the heavy metal song).

The weaknesses in the sound design
What is realllllyyyy off-putting to my ear is that she doesn’t change the pitch of the chord progressions to suit each song played and layered, so they sound very off and out of tune. It was alarming and uncomfortable to listen to and took away from the sweetness of the piece. Was this intentional? Secondly, she plays the ukelele along with a heavy metal rock song that doesn’t seem to have any tune to it at all (it is not quite loud enough to hear any sort of melody) so the juxtaposition is just wrong.


Dramatic elements and act structure – week 7 reading

Stories, movies, games, TV shows, plays and books all have different dramatic elements and structures they should adhere to, depending on the format, time limit and audience expectations of the mediums.

Greek plays:

  1. Inciting Action  – event at the start of the story which forces the lead character into action
  2. Complication  – when your character tries to deal with a conflict and faces unforeseen obstacles
  3. Crisis  – dramatic conflict building story momentum – places enormous odds against the character
  4. Climax – peak in the story; they confront the most fateful consequence of the rising action
  5. Reversal – tuning point twists the story in a new direction at the end of the act
  6. Denouement – resolution to the story

Motion pictures:

  1. Act One: inciting action, building conflict, unravels first plot point – 1-15 pages
  2. Act Two: develops story, heighten conflict, second plot point that twists the story in a new direction – 45-60 pages
  3. Act Three: paced quicker; conflict builds to climax; story is resolved in the denouement – 25-30 pages

Half-hour long sitcoms have a teaser of 30-60 seconds and 2 acts of about 10-12 minutes. Dramatic one-hour long shows are broken down into four acts and total about 60 pages.

The plot interest curve or audience interest curve is a useful tool in visualising the story in development, considering its pacing and judging the intensity of action sequences that can sustain and build audience interest!

Week 7 lecture

Although we touched on sound in Writing Media Text, it still feels like a terrifying and foreign land to me. EQs, reverb, sonic qualities, amplification – oh my! So this lecture helped.

Good sound design should keep the piece moving, add meaning/mood, put the listener inside the story and reinforce structure. Poor sound design can really break a piece; it could make it boring, repetitive, chaotic or unenjoyable to listen to.

Chain of Missing Links to be honest, I found very odd. Intriguing, but odd. An adorable interview with a kid whose husky voice whispers a story about her boyfriend (a drastic comparison to the interviewers mature voice that is far further from the microphone to make the child the focal point). There are three audio transitions; two are uses of dubsteppy electro songs (which seems to completely take away from the kid’s heart-warming innocent story and another an undistinguishable clicking. These break up the piece in a confronting juxtaposition – perhaps this was the point?

O Happy Dagger another one on this site, is far more enticing to me. Heavy layering of music (an intense and futuristic tune), sound FX (lightning, rain, phone rings, church bells), archival material (seemingly ancient recordings of voices speaking) and finally a female voice over the top reading out a poem or a story about a man who thinks twice about using his dagger (interestingly enough this is not particularly a clean recording; there is a lot of noise and distortion in her voice – intentional?) make for a very complexly haunting audio poem that really shows sound’s capabilities to set a mood, draw its audience in and create a structure.

> and < cuts both have different uses, the > (decrescendo) cut is more common as it can smoothly lead onto the next piece either by a complete fade or some sort of overlap.

Music can be incredibly powerful; enhance emotional tension (such as in O Dagger), emphasise certain words and provide articulation in the piece; however it can be distracting or inappropriate.

Reverb, Chorus, Flanger and Panning, EQ, Compressing, Delay; all sound and audio techniques you can apply to a voice or sound FX or music. I think the best way to discover all these is getting stuck into your audio editing software and press every button in every menu and play around for a while (which is why I’m a pro at Final Cut), but the lecture helped me start to understand them.