Secret soundwalk: documentation

Link to the soundwalk:


In teams, collect sounds for a 3-5 minute (MAXIMUM) sound walk to a specific location inside of 721 Broadway. This could be informational, fictional, sensual, spoken-word, musical. It could be about infrastructure, architecture, people, or something completely different.

Be specific, and create some documents that help you all understand  your collaborative, artistic intentions:

  • Diagram the arc, describe the character, find sound references to share
  • For this week, focus on recording high-quality sound, and concentrate on collection. Think about which microphones will best suit your recording environments and goals.
  • Next week you’ll focus on editing and adding more sound collection if needed.

3 hours before class, upload your final audio piece to your blog.

Please use soundcloud.

We all will need access so your piece should be TESTED,  downloadable and playable on our phones from Soundcloud.

If relevant, you can create something ancillary – an instruction, a map, framework, an intro— some way you feel you need to orient us (if at all), or the sound piece might stand alone (if it starts in our room). It is up to you!

*If you choose to do this, then please come to class with enough copies for each of us.

This assignment was made in collaboration with Atharva Patil.

We begun sharing some ideas even before we had experienced the soundwalks listed in the syllabus, so it was pretty abstract. He proposed that we created a fictional narrative of a crime around the space, and I proposed we did something performative and physically engaging, so our whole process was thinking of ways to do something in between these two.

We begun with the idea of pointing to things in the space that could be clues to an investigation, and developed that into the idea of the final piece: a narrative in which we put the audience in the place of secret agents looking for a suspect. We walked around all the floors discussing possibilities of interaction, and set the starting point to the lobby. We were planning on finding a way to make a soundwalk that would work in any (or at least most) of the floors, so it had to be open for interpretation, but we knew that for it to be engaging, it had to be structured enough.

Based on our decisions, Atharva wrote the first draft of the script. I read it, making a few adjustments and adding a end to it, and went around floors 0-10 making a list of how was the space that the elevator opened to, if it had corridors, how many people were around, how noisy it was, if it had wooden floors, and if it had things – written / drawn – on the walls. The results of that exploration let us better understand what was fragile in the script, but there were a few things that we decided to keep anyways – such as the creaking floor – to see how the audience would respond to it.

With that, we made a first test, recording the narration with a cellphone while walking around the proposed path, to control the timing. We realized it was too long, and that we needed more silence when the person was on the floor, so we added less important information to the background. When the script was done, we recorded the narration with a zoom and a shotgun mic, and added to it both collected and found sounds.

We used Adobe Audition to edit the sound, and putting it all together was not that hard, but the sound from the zoom, possibly because we used the external mic in the wrong settings or something like it, was all in the right stereo track, so we used “sum to mono” for all the narration. Also, figuring out how to construct a good ambient sound and the timings, volumes and fades for the background sounds seems just too abstract.

We had three main layers: the assistant, the guy at the office, and the background sounds. Figuring out the volume differences between these three was what I found to be the hardest, and I am still not satisfied by the results. I tested it with my headphones, which are pretty low in volume, so we changed the master’s volume, and even though I tested it again later on, I think some things may be hard to understand in louder floors. With the time we had, I thought that the editing was good enough, but I believe we could still spatially structure the sound better, using stereo tools to create the office or something like that.

Anyways, this is all incomplete until the group finally goes on the soundwalk, so I am looking forward to hear the feedback.


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