Having focussed on the psychological conflict created by war in my previous assignment, I wanted to continue exploring the internal battle of one’s subconscious. The theme for this assignment - the laundrette - lent itself to a whole host of possibilities under this overarching idea of internal trauma. I looked back to the times I had used the laundrette in the past and the sorts of peculiar thoughts that may have crossed my mind while I was washing my clothes. These ideas were the starting point for this piece.
Understanding that this sound piece was for a radio show, I wanted to focus on creating a clear narrative. This would tie in with radios traditional use as a method of transmitting information. Instead of starting with the dialogue for my piece, however, I began by gathering sounds with a contact mic and recording as many different environments as I could. The building I was most attracted to was the LICA building.
In the past I had found that the building creaked and moved with the wind and had heard this while walking between the front and back entrances. When I collected my sounds, I found this to be exactly the case. I was surprised to find, however, that the building was not only a generator of sounds but also a great cushion for external noises. Put simply, the building absorbed the sounds that came from outdoors and transmitted them up its metal, glass and plastic skeleton. In the sound clip below, you can hear the voices of students passing two floors below. This absorption and transfer of sound is incredibly fascinating as it shows that the building is not simply just a structure in the environment - it is a part of it; it interacts and responds to it.
I had also found from collecting my sounds that there were a lot of noises that went unnoticed within the building. In one instance, I placed the contact mic on a metal railing on the third floor overlooking the lobby. When someone entered into this space, the whole metal pole resonated with the footsteps and ambiance created by the moving person: the squeaks of their shoes, the pounding of their feet on the floor etc. This was interesting not because of the sound that was generated, but because of the way the sound was able to resonate through the entire building up to the microphone on the third floor. Once again, this idea of the connection of the building to its environment was evident: the building does not simply absorb sound in a space, it responds to it by sending noises throughout it’s foundational structure. The noises can be heard from the middle point of the track.
To tie these sounds in with the overarching theme of the laundrette, I turned my attention to radiators and the movement of hot water between different heating systems. I wanted to explore this idea of heat within my 8 minute radio piece and felt these sounds would help create this environment. I placed the contact mic on a metal pipe leading into a large radiator and recorded the noise that was created. The flowing of water was akin to the sound of white noise. The constant, undying whir of the radiator was itself warm and, in my mind, relaxing. In my final piece, this sound of the flowing water is used at various points to give the idea of heat and the movement of liquid within the washing machine. Both the source file and edited clip are shown below to display the changes that were made to make the clip warmer and more full. This included adding an EQ with a high cut at 3550hz and boosting the frequencies between 30hz and 80hz, as well as adding tremolo modulation to create a pulsating effect.
The playlist below shows the full library of sounds I collected with the contact mic. ‘Sound 6 - Lift’ was a particularly exciting sound due to the rattling of the lift in the lift shaft. In my final piece, this clip has been heavily edited, so much so that it does not resemble the original sound. I used Logic Pro’s Pedalboard to create an eery, high pitch drone. This edited effect is used in conjunction with low, bass-heavy sounds to create a gap in the mid-range frequencies, ultimately producing an uneasy and scary space in the piece. This sound is processed with an EQ to lower the high frequencies, remove the bass frequencies and add a little warmth in the mids. Reverb is also added to the clip to create the sense of a large, open space. Both the original sound and the edited clip are shown below.
Having collected these sounds, I began to further consider the sorts of notions I wanted to explore in the final piece. I’d already established the idea of a narrative focussed on the psychological battle between a protagonist and his mind, as well as the feeling of heat and warmth. I also wanted to explore the mechanical system/sounds that make up the washing machine, as well as darkness, wetness and coldness that I felt could be found within. I turned towards creating synthesised basses that would mimic or indicate a turning motor or machine. To do this, I used Native Instrument’s Massive VST plugin. In Massive, I used the LFOs (Low Frequency Oscillators) available to manipulate the oscillators and modulate the synths. This on its own created some incredibly dynamic and enticing sounds. I played with the pitch, varying distortion methods and voices, before adding a third party distortion named ‘Ohmicide’ by Ohm Force. Using this plugin, I distorted the low, low mids, mids and highs individually. The sounds that were created using Massive–which I have called ‘Growls’–were then processed with EQ and reverb to create mechanical, unnerving and bass-heavy synths that fit perfectly into the piece. Each growl gives a unique feeling to the piece and makes connections with machinery, mechanical noise and the turning of motors. These growls were influenced by sounds created using Borderlands on my phone. Using the Massive synthesiser gave me greater control over the parameters of the sound, however, making it a better choice for creating the sounds I wanted. The playlist below displays the 8 growls I made. Screenshots below also show what these sounds look like in the Massive Synthesiser.
Once I had created these machinery sounds, I used clips from the 8 minute washing machine section I was assigned to fill different areas in the piece. For example, the ticking clock sound used multiple times in the final piece is actually the rustling of keys from the original source file. This clip has an EQ and stereo spread added to the high frequency to give the sound a wide stereo image. Futhermore, the banging sounds come from the shutting of a washing machine door and are processed with Reverb and EQ to give a variety of effects.
Dialogue followed once all these elements had been added. The dialogue centres on asking peculiar questions about a normal wash cycle and shows the protagonist’s difficulty in understanding what is real. It is the dialogue that takes the listener on a journey between the protagonist’s conscience, the washing machine and the laundrette. In a number of places, this dialogue is processed with reverb to give a sense of space and emptiness, affirming this sense of confusion. Halfway through the piece, the audience hears clips of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage. These portions of dialogue have been processed using a ring shifter and pitch shifter to give a sense of unease and forgetfulness. These clips make reference to the typical use of radio as a source of news and briefly explore a struggle within the protagonist’s mind to find his true self in reality. The dialogue is what drives the piece forwards and is almost like a story for the listener. They are transported to a variety of different spaces before returning back to reality - the laundrette - at the end.