There are no ‘Bad’ Sounds…

…Only Inappropriate ones

I’ve been thinking a bit about audio quality lately, as I’ll shortly be doing quite a lot of recording for my audio applications module, and in particular about what makes a recording ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ The ‘bad’ parts of recording of obvious – sounds that are too quiet, or distorted or have the dreaded ‘clip’. When I started learning about recording in the second year of my undergraduate degree, these were all big no nos. But then I started studying electro-acoustic music, which had entirely differently philosophy. In electro-acoustic music, every sound can have merit in the right context. For example, the sounds of clipping, used in the right way, result in this.

I’ve made a habit of keeping every sound I create, whether or not I needed it at the time. In my sound library I’ve got bangs on microphones, moments of white noise, ear-piercing squeals (usually from overloading pd patches).

Of course, these sounds aren’t pleasant on the ear, but in the field of sound effects, which I’ve doing a lot of lately, sometimes you need a sound to make the audience jump, or wince. Even if the sounds you’ve collected aren’t of high enough quality to be used, at the least they can serve as a guide for what you actually want.

So next time you make a sound that sounds terrible, maybe don’t press the delete button. It might not be the right sound for that moment, but it doesn’t make it a ‘wrong sound’.

In other (vaguely related) news, Adrian Moore and Dave Moore from The University of Sheffield have recently produced a free book called ‘Sonic Art: Recipes and Reasonings’ about how they create Electro-acoustic music. You can download it here, and while I am of course totally biased towards my former lecturers it is a great book!


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