What will busy streets sound like when cars and lorries are electric? Sound designers are developing vehicle sounds to make them less dangerous. Listen to this Radio 4 Today programme clips to hear some examples:
Foley artist Sue Harding demonstrates the tricks of her trade. Clip taken from BBC Radio 4’s Film Programme.
Blog post by L3 Audio Production student Gareth Bailey.
Dan Shepherd is primarily a radio producer and provider of training and teaching for people working in radio. He runs Far Shoreline Productions.
This guest lecture had Dan showing us examples of some of his more notable radio features, and giving us some insight into the production of these.
The first was an audio ‘feature documentary’ of an Australian train journey, recorded on numerous tapes in the pre-digital era for the BBC. He made the point that certain sounds on the journey were evocative, and capturing these enables the producer to build the world of the experience for the listeners…Interviews with train passengers both tell a story and evoke a sense of place, which is critical to documentary of this type, as well as a sense of the journey itself. This is so important that some of the sounds used were taken from the library at the expense of authenticity, as it wasn’t always possible to collect the audio to a sufficient standard for later use.
This sense of place is particularly relevant to our film project this term as we’ve been consciously trying to collect as much ‘authentic’ foley sound from our sets, but these have often been unusable due to external factors like traffic noise necessitating their recreation which, in turn, has sometimes led to a better ‘fit’ with the picture than the authentic sound would have achieved. This is different from radio, where sound is all, but the idea of communicating a sense of place is similar.
For Dan, the key differentiating factor with features is their enabling of depth and scope of approach. A ‘good feature will always be greater than the sum of its parts’ – a travelogue becomes more than that by telling a story and capturing the experience of others. Where news and current affairs programs condense data, feature documentaries allow the exploration of different dimensions of creativity around an idea.
Dan’s discussion of a second program on ‘cut-ups’, created for Radio 4, touched upon the importance of making your feature for a specific audience. This particular show featured a presenter working in an explanatory role as the Radio 4 audience were likely being introduced to the idea of the mash-up for the first time. For Dan, the question became how to make the subject relevant and interesting for a Radio 4 audience and this along with the prescribed format conventions when working for the BBC narrowed the focus of the show as it was edited.
Nearly forty years ago, French polymath Jacques Attali wrote a book called “Noise” which predicted a “crisis of proliferation” for recorded music – in which its value would plummet. As music sales went into freefall at the turn of the century, his prediction seemed eerily resonant to up-and-coming singer/songwriter Sam York. Now struggling to earn a living as a musician, York visits Attali to help get an insight into his own future, learning that music itself may hold clues to what is about to happen in the wider world.
Along the way, York meets Al Doyle from Hot Chip and folk singer Frank Turner, who reveal that – despite being relatively well known – they still find it difficult to earn a living from their “stardom”. Doyle says he struggled to afford a one-bedroom flat in London. It’s a world away from the rock-and-roll lifestyle we might think successful musicians enjoy.
Producers:Sam Judah and Simon Platts
Mixed by James Beard.
Listen to the BBC Radio 4 programme here:
Echolocation is the ability to sense objects using reflected sound. A handful of animal species do this – most bats, some whales and even a few humans. Some blind people use echolocation to navigate the world they can’t see. Some make a clicking sound as they walk. Others use the sound of their footfall. In fact, all humans, sighted and unsighted, do it. Adam meets BBC’s Damon Rose, who is blind, and they compare skills.
Marnie Chesterton travels to Southampton University’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research to meet Daniel Rowan. His team have recently isolated some of the factors necessary to echolocate. The work involved an anechoic chamber – the quietest place on earth and the sound equivalent of nothing.
Listen to the clip from BBC Radio 4’s Inside Science programme here:
The evolution of Western pop music over fifty years – from 1960 to 2010 – has been analysed by scientists. A team from Queen Mary University, London and Imperial College looked at more than 17,000 songs from the major American chart, the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. They found three music revolutions – in 1964, 1983 and 1991 – and traced the loss of blues chords from the charts, as well as the birth of disco. The team also refutes claims that pop music is starting to sound the same. Dr Matthias Mauch is from Queen Mary University of London and co-led the research.
Listen to the Radio 4 Today clip here:
Read The Independent piece here:
Young British Composer Tarik O’ Regan tells the story of how the tradition of Western classical music, its composers and maestros, underpinned the golden age of Hollywood film score.
More or less the entire Hollywood music scene, as it blossomed in the 1930s, looked to serious European and Russian composers for film score composition. Stravinsky, Schoenberg, two of the greatest composers of ‘serious’ 20th century music, both lived and worked in LA – much to the consternation of the European classical music establishment.
Many composers on the run from Europe in the 1930s would arrive in New York and, failing to make inroads into the concert scene or Broadway (as Kurt Weil had done), continued their journey West. Even as early cinema flourished, America was still struggling to find its own authentic ‘classical’ music – one that strived to be equal to the European symphonic sound but that had its own voice too. The film score was precisely that.
Meanwhile most of the Hollywood film orchestras were filled with British and European émigré musicians who taught American musicians the European symphonic style that became the hallmark of Hollywood film music. This programme also explores how some of the most successful soundtrack composers today – John Williams and others – are completely caught up in that sound-world.
Presented by Tarik O’Regan, an émigré composer himself who moved to the US, with contributors including Andre Previn, Larry Schoenberg, conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen and music writer Alex Ross.
Produced by Simon Hollis
A Brook Lapping production for BBC Radio 4.
Mark Williamson of Spotify talks to Rory Cellan-Jones about losing Taylor Swift from the service, royalties and YouTube’s new paid music service.
Listen the clip from the BBC World Service programme Tech Tent here:
You may not have heard of Malcolm Cecil or Robert Margouleff but you’ll certainly be familiar with their work. These two electronic music boffins helped transform Little Stevie Wonder in to one of the greatest song writers in pop music. They produced and engineered four albums that are widely regarded as “Stevie’s classic period.” Four albums that featured his most enduring songs such as Living For the City, Superstition, Higher Ground and You Are the Sunshine of My Life. Stevie was at the height of his creative powers but Margouleff and Cecil were his sonic architects, steering him away from the bubble gum pop sound of Motown.
Central to Margouleff and Cecil’s production style was their creation, TONTO. The Original New Timbral Orchestra was a huge, room-sized super-synthesiser developed with the express purpose of making this new, intimidating technology work together as a giant electronic ensemble. Margouleff and Cecil manipulated its futuristic controls, while Stevie played its keyboards. The results turned out to be timeless. Their pioneering electronic developments in sound and production proved hugely influential to black popular music in the 1970s.
As well as Stevie Wonder, Margouleff and Cecil have worked with a whole host of big name artists such as The Isley Brothers, Gil Scott-Heron, George Harrison and Devo. So why have you never heard of them? Broadcaster and fan Stuart Maconie investigates their story and argues we should be celebrating these forgotten men of pop instead of consigning them to Rock ‘n’ Roll’s backroom staff.
Contributors include Robert Margouleff, Malcolm Cecil, Pete Townshend, Michael Sembello, Steve Hillage and music historian Mark Sinker.
Listen to the BBC Radio 4 program here: