Sound Design: Music and Sound and their Relationships with Images – Paul Rodgers

Sound in Film

Sound is an integral part of modern film and television, being one of the two major stimuli through which film makers can communicate with their audience. It is not surprising therefore that there are production practises and techniques that have become standard across the industry, from major Hollywood blockbusters, to low production underground films, including all film media, from real life documentaries to entirely fabricated cartoons. Whilst there will be variation in how these techniques are implemented, there is a common sophisticated ingenuity that reveals itself upon study of the art of sound design.

Sound design can more or less be described as the arrangement of all those non-musical sonic elements that feature in a piece of film.

In the overwhelming majority of film production, the aim of the sound team at the point of shooting is to capture only the dialogue of the main protagonists in a scene, hopefully cutting out all background noise. Whilst there are exceptions to this, they only really occur where an artistic decision has been made to keep these peripheral elements in the soundtrack.

The reason for this is simple: Background effects can be custom designed and added to the picture later. This luxury means that the sound designer is able to synthesise the sounds to a much higher standard than would occur naturally, creating a more suitable soundtrack that will be more effective when played with the film.

Most film production will involve a foley artist, whose job it is to make the effects we take for granted. Foley work is usually undertaken in a recording studio, and the foley artist will usually have a plethora of props that he will rely on. These will be everyday objects that the artist can use to create sounds that will match the action on screen. These objects will often bear little or no actual relation to those on screen. For example, the sound of bones breaking is often recreated by breaking a piece of celery. Sometimes the link between the sound source and the visually object is less abstract, for instance a creaking chair is often used as a controllable way of reproducing creaking stairs or doors.

The person who is ultimately responsible for composing and mixing the soundtrack, including the work done by the other people such as foley artists is the sound designer. The sound designer will have at his disposal all the sonic material that has been collected by the sound team, and is likely to realise the soundtrack in a studio similar to one used by any other sound engineer, using similar methods and programs, such as Pro Tools.

This allows the sound designer to take advantage of some common techniques that are used, such as:

· Sync Points – this is where the action that occurs on screen coincides with a sonic impulse. This is an effective technique as it establishes a synthesis between what is happening in the film and in the soundtrack, which makes the track much more plausible. An example of this can be seen in the Squarepusher video for ‘’Come on my Selector’, directed by Chris Cunningham, particularly at the point 4:50 – 5:05.

· Temporal Manipulation – This is where a sonic impulse is manipulated so as to give the effect of slowing down or speeding up time. An example of this would be the sound of a heart beat slowing, or of footsteps slowing, so as to add tension to a film.


Collaborators succeeded in playing a sound recording made in 1860 – 17 years before Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. Roughly ten seconds in length, the recording is of a person singing the French folksong “Au clair de la lune, Pierrot répondit.” It was made on April 9, 1860 by Parisian inventor Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville on his “phonautograph” – a device that scratched sound waves onto a sheet of paper blackened by the smoke of an oil lamp. Scott made the recording to analyze sounds visually, not to play them back. (Edison retains the distinction of being the first to reproduce sound in 1877.)

Scott recorded someone singing an excerpt from the French folksong “Au Clair de la Lune” on April 9, 1860, and deposited the results with the Académie des Sciences in 1861. The existence of a tuning-fork calibration trace allows us to compensate for the irregular recording speed of the hand-cranked cylinder. The sheet contains the beginning line of the second verse-“Au clair de la lune, Pierrot répondit”-and is the earliest audibly recognizable record of the human voice yet recovered.”

Granted the quality is extremely low, but there’s something cool about being able to hear someone’s voice from almost 150 years ago thanks to technology.

Sound from 1860

But wait, there’s more!

Here is a recording of the Eerie Sounds of Saturn’s Radio Emissions while this link gives you more information.

And to round this post off with some comedy, I present A One Of A Kind Recording which you may remember from one of the group talks just before Easter

My group’s presentation was on musical extremes. We decided to take the concept in a slightly different direction and critically analysed a piece of music in a genre we loved and another from a genre we hated. We tried to give an unbiased approached but I’m sure our passions split over so in this blog post you will find links to third party sources which will hopefully provide a neutral point of view and a summary of our talk. Continue Reading »

Claire Leonard, Ashleigh Kilgore, Stephen Lunn, Ian Jordan

The following is also available in .pdf


The practice of claiming or implying original authorship of (or incorporating material from) someone else’s written or creative work, in whole or in part, into one’s own without adequate acknowledgement – the issue of false attribution.
Musical ‘imitation’ is when a musical gesture is repeated later in a different form, but retaining its original character. Continue Reading »


The D.I.Y. Generation

A Crisis or a Revolution?




Our concern is with the current musical climate. Together we feel that certain changes in the last 4 or 5 years in the music industry, and in how we access and enjoy music, are leading to a new generation of musicians, producers and consumers. No-one can doubt that music has changed a lot recently, with so much focus now on the Internet and success-stories of unsigned artists taking over the music world in record-breaking time. But how has this change come about? Will it take us in a new direction?


More importantly, will it affect how we listen to and critically analyse music in years to come? Continue Reading »