People are always asking me what it is that a 'sound designer' actually does... well... the answer is in the name, we design sounds. I think the right question to be asking is how does a sound designer do what he does? Those epic BOOMS you hear in blockbuster trailers, those suspenseful drones, those laser guns from Star Wars... what are they? The sounds have to come from somewhere, right? Yes, and they're usually derived from ridiculous and unexpected sources... well they are in my case anyway.
Portrait of a Sound Design Artist
I'm not sure if anyone reading this has ever suspended a bath in their shed and proceeded to beat on it with a hammer, but if you have then you might know that it sounds pretty damn epic. Maybe that's what those epic booms from the trailers are made from, or perhaps they're just made from large drums. But who defines what makes an instrument an instrument? Who says your bath can't also be used as a drum? I'm pretty sure someone could score an entire horror film from sounds created in a bathroom. The point is, if we don't experiment with these things we will never know. Have you ever actually pondered the sonic qualities of a bath? A toaster? A cooker? etc... that is what I have been doing recently, experimenting and trying to create cinematic instruments from metal scrap, garden utensils and machinery. Creating gritty synths from power saws, timpani drums from wheelbarrows, epic hits from baths, heavenly tones from garden hoes and chapel-esque bells from gas canisters. As Duke Ellington said, "If it sounds good, it IS good", though that statement is subjective I feel it's a great rule of thumb to follow within sound and music.
As fun as hitting inanimate objects with a hammer is, my passion lies deep in music, which is where my interest in sound design came from. Recently I have been tying in some of these sound design aspects into the music I release, creating sounds in unconventional ways and subtlety sitting them in the songs. An example of this is the sound of a garden hoe being hit with a hammer, then tuned and spread across a keyboard, creating a sound similar to a Celesta or Glockenspiel. My latest single Holland (Watch below) has this sound playing the vocal melody throughout the last chorus... I don't own a Glockenspiel, but I do own a gardening hoe... same thing, right?
NOVO AMOR - Holland
Being a music producer I find it very important to try these things, take risks within music and sound to preserve originality. My music recording process will usually involve bowing instruments that weren't made to be bowed, hitting things that weren't made to be hit and layering all these organic textures together to create the bigger picture, the song.
I hope this article has given you an interesting insight into sound design and experimenting within music.
Novo Amor's 'Woodgate NY' EP is out now on Brilliance Records