Electro-acoustic Creative Project Proposal: 3 Field Recording Suites, Granular Synthesis in Microsound and a Mix.

In this creative project, I hope to explore to location based field recordings, environmental sound and the built environment. On top of this, I also wish to explore the depth of these recordings, specifically in terms of the sonic layers and the multitude of sound objects as well as their spectral and physical depths using the texts and academic knowledge of studies in microsound.

The product I hope to present (3 minute piece, Ass. #2), would be an end mix of three different field recording suites from three different environments. In this mix, there will be various sampling of each of the suites, so as to further explore timbral and harmonic parallels between environments. As well as this, I’ll also be exploring the microsound time scale, using specific 1-100ms samples from each of these suites. As opposed to the samples mentioned before that are used to explore similarities, the grains used from the microsound influence I hope will develop a sort of rhythm over time.

The three suites that I’ll be recording will be from both LO-FI and HI-FI environments. One will be on a boardwalk just off the cliffs of south Coogee. Here I hope to encounter frogs, wind, water and people, including the sounds of cars just by the walk. The second will be under Moon Bridge, in the forest of Cooper park, where I can expect birds, a stream, possibly dogs and people, as well as insects. The Cooper park suite I consider to be a HI-FI environment, compared to the South Coogee cliffs that do have urban sonic tendencies and can fluctuate between LO and HI. The final suite I plan to record at Railway Square. I have no doubt that I’ll capture busses and other automobiles, as well as a lot of people. I hope to capture some of the more eccentric characteristics of the environment too.

In doing this, I hope to achieve a creative piece not limited to environmental ambience, and to create a project informed by these two disciplines. The combination of the two disciplines I hope will present themselves as two synchronised sources that create a rich, knowledgeable and musical piece.

The first encounter that prompted my interest and now study in these areas was a piece by Mathew Burtner called Sand Prints. It was by definition a musical piece, but at the same time it seemed like a compositional study of what sounded like recordings in a desert with wind and sand, but was written for several whistlers and a computer. I thought that rearranging a field recording to make a musical study of a soundscape would be an interesting project to pursue, but it needed more. To start, I needed to know what elements to have in a soundscape and field recording and used a lot of R. Murray Schafer’s glossary so as to be able to parallel literal sonic elements with musical structures. The particular references I was interested were keynote sounds, signals, soundmarks and the Hi-Fi and Lo-Fi environments. Schafer said, “What the soundscape analyst must do first is to discover the significant features of the soundscape, those sounds which are important either because of their individuality, their numerousness or their domination…” (p. 9, Schafer 1994), and I believe this statement gives weight to even the shortest of sounds. His words on acoustic design and it’s practice are also important to my project, describing an ability to create a soundscape that is “…beautifully modulated and balanced…”(p. 237, Schafer 1994), like a musical composition.

After Schafer, Simon Emmerson and his book on electro-acoustic music, Living Electronic Music, caught my attention. His words on the symbol of the microphone and space frames helped to give my project more meaning. His space frames in particular helped as a concurrent study with Schafer’s soundscapes, as they describe these grand scales of which sound occurs. He says initially we have what he calls an acoustic horizon or a landscape in which we have a smaller field of interest called an arena, which then boils down to a stage and then we have an event. These designations hold all our heard sounds and can be reduced down to a singularity. I took a brief section of his words on the nature of the microphone, and what I thought was particularly interesting was the quote, “…it has never been a passive listener…”(p. 118, Emmerson 2007), which attests to the acoustic designer’s objective of bringing all sounds to the front and exhibiting their weight, their dynamic relationship with others and giving us context.

Finally, I came to read more on Roads and microsound. I studied two specific areas of his book Microsound, which were the time scales of music and granular synthesis. He describes nine scales ranging from the infinite to the infinitesimal, however the interests of my project lie in the realms of the macro to the micro. This reduced scale spans from minutes down to thousandths of a second; the names of the individual scales are macro, meso, sound object and micro. On a base level my project will be three minutes long, but when you analyse individual sounds and the musical piece separately, I’d have several miniature compositions from normal musical architecture to clouds of grains. Roads also described granular synthesis, where these grains are the base units. These are a sample of a sound or sound wave that last within the micro measurements of time, where at 2 ms it sounds like a click, 5 ms still vague and at 25 ms, where the sound is a lot clearer. The particular types of granular synthesis I’d be composing with are Synchronous (SGS) and Quasi-Synchronous (QSGS), where SGS describes the regular interval between each grain sample and QSGS meaning that the grains follow irregular intervals.

To implement my project, I’d begin with the recording. I’d be using a recorder, the Mirantz 660 or 661, a shotgun mic, as well as a stereo mic. I’ve looked into the Neuman Shotgun RSM 190 or the NTG 3which is also a shotgun. The Rode NT 4 is the stereo mic that I’m interested in using. This arsenal would help capture the environment I find myself in, as well as being portable. The NTG 3 is something I’m familiar with, and its RF interference prevents unwanted radio or WIFI signals being picked up, as well as good off-axis rejection using its super cardioid configuration. The Rode NT 4 as a stereo mic is something I’ve used before and am familiar with its 90-degree cardioid condensers.

As for my work with MAX/MSP, I’d be referencing a lot of the patches we made and went through earlier this semester, specifically the granular synthesis patches. The other patches I’d be using will be for my final assignment.


Cooper Park


Coogee boardwalk


Railway Square


  • Schafer, R. Murray 1994, Our Sonic Environment and the Soundscape: the Tuning of the World, Revised Edition, Destiny Books, Rochester, Vermont.
  • Roads, Curtis 2004, Microsound, First MIT Press Paperback Edition, MIT Press, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Emmerson, Simon 2007, Living Electronic Music, Ashgate Publishing Limited, Hampshire England.

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