Rationale of my Sound Piece.

Link to Sound Cloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-335824763/eamon-arthur-sound-cultures

 

The idea behind this piece is to create a sonic story that can be followed according to musical expression that represents the stages of torture. The initial drum pattern follows a simple 4/4 structure and as the velocity increases so to does the progression of the song. The middle part of the sonic story continues with the amplified guitar parts that help to add texture and volume whilst serving as a melody line. The final section of the journey concludes with the return to an isolated beat in 4/4, this time with tonal changes that signify the end of sound piece.

Based on the idea of using music as an isolating device I decided to try and create an atmospheric and ambient sound that helps to isolate someone using reverb and delay. The key of the song is important too as I have based it on what many of my influences in the more extreme metal genre do today which is to play in a minor key as it possesses a much darker motif or theme than that to a major. The technical identity of the instruments also plays a part in the feeling of the music, if this sound clip were to be played in a major key the identity of the song would change and in turn would become much lighter and happier by default. The kick drum used in this piece plays an important part in terms of creating the feeling of energy and keeping the beat. By using compression I have aimed to make the kick control the overall sound of the mix using the technique of ducking which is used on many club songs. This effect means I can easily shape the stereo output to create a more solid an impactful outcome. With regards to the guitars, I have used two instances of the same recorded tack but applied the Haas effect to the left FX channel which is routed through a Send from the right channel. The Haas effect opens up and fills the stereo space with more of the delay effect used on the guitar and so in addition to high passing the guitars at 200hz creates an even and atmospheric tone that sits just above the lower frequencies.

Former Guantánamo prisoner Ruhal Ahmed stated:

“From the end of 2003 they introduced the music and it became even worse. Before that, you could try and focus on something else. It makes you feel like you are going mad. You lose the plot and it’s very scary to think that you might go crazy because of all the music, because of the loud noise, and because after a while you don’t hear the lyrics at all, all you hear is heavy bangin’.”

Available at: https://www.upvenue.com/article/1886-the-cia-s-favorite-music-torture-songs.html/1

The inclusion of bass tones that are mixed in the sub-sonic area help to create depth, power, and by using the minor key, suspense. These ideas of creating feeling and emotion were based on the lecture that included using music as a means of torture. Although this sound clip is not as intense as some of the music shown I feel this piece helps to embellish the idea of  an atmosphere and isolating sound that creates suspense. Overall I wanted to end the piece with a more artistic gesture, based on the statement by Ruhal Ahmed (above), my ending was unclear at first however developed into the idea of metallic hitting on prison bars representing the pain and suffering of those being tortured. The fact that this part is isolated form the rest of the song is intentional as I wanted to convey the idea of being alone, this part, although sonically different from the intensity of the rest of the song, is technically true to the musical format that follows throughout the song. The 4/4 beat continues for a bar proceeding with the final kick/snare hit that rings out concluding the sonic story.

Sound Map- My Commute

 

 

The Documentation of the sounds heard on my Commute into Uni.

The Documentation of the sounds heard on my Commute into Uni.

 

The system in place for understanding this piece of work is simple. The bolder texts are sounds that are the more predominant/loudest and ones that I noticed the most during my commute. The lighter/thinner type represents the sounds that are heard but not always definable or loud. These background noises are often sounds heard under my music that I frequently listen to throughout most of my journey. Any words in italic are ones heard whilst I’m in motion, often getting on/off buses or sitting in a moving carriage. The layout of the map refers to the chaotic and generally un-structured order I hear each different sound in. The use of  dashed lines allows the information to be separated according to the time frame in which they happen which also acts as a means of structuring the text.

I did however decide to include a means of following a narrative with the use of faint yellow lines that link each block of text together as without them there would  be no structure to the mornings commute or ability to follow the map to it’s conclusion. The colour of the typeface (Sinkin Sans) used is based on the colour of the light that I initially woke to in the morning and for me helps to complete the design of the sound map.

 

 

 

Sound Cultures: Taste and Authenticity. All That Remains

Since my early teens I have always been interested in metal and appreciated the diversity between genres and sub-genres (there are so many) and the way bands approach the style of music in a technical and interesting way. This area of music seemed to be in another league of individuality to the mainstream market but how different can metal really be?

‘Popular media is a product of a ‘culture industry’ which keeps the population passive, preserving dominance of capitalism at the expense of true happiness. Mass media is standardised, and the pleasures it offers are illusionary-the result of ‘false needs’ which the culture industry creates. Argument is elitist, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong necessarily.’

Theodor Adorno (1903-1969)

Comparing the band All That Remains to the ideas discussed in the taste and authenticity lecture was an interesting decision as I initially found myself separated from the general ideas surrounding genres such as rap, pop and classical that were discussed. However the more I began to realise the vast differences between all of these genres the more I understood the defining idea that music, including metal, is a conforming media still dominated by a Culture Industry.

Using the band ATR as my guide I began to follow the bands progression. Their earlier style of music was what helped them make a name for themselves however in recent albums their style has tamed somewhat, changing perhaps with age or natural progression in musical preference. Much like the cover of David Bowie’s, Warzawa by Philip Glass the fans of Bowie’s format did not receive Glass’ new style/interpretation well as it was not what the fans had first heard and liked about the original song. The same goes for ATR with their new album ‘The Order of Things’; many metal forums are filled with comments about the lack of originality and unique quality the band had originally possessed in the earlier albums, one being ‘The Fall of Ideals’.

‘The concept of “capital” has enabled researchers to view culture as a resource –one that provides access to scarce rewards, is subject to monopolization, and, under certain conditions may be transmitted from one generation to the next.’

Lareauand Weininger 2004:105

ATR’s change in direction could be the result of a market-place that governs the production of culture. In other words capital is the death of culture. As a band that makes their living off extensive touring and the sales of merchandise it is fair to say that mainstreaming your sound is a sure way of making a profit in a world where originality can make or break you. Being mainstream is safe.

‘The triumph of advertising in the culture industry’ …‘Is that consumers feel compelled to buy and use its products even though they see through them’ 

Adorno and Horkheimer The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception (1944)

 

It seems sad that with a changing culture comes the change in music as this hindrance may result in a lack of originality in years to come. The risk of having an industry governed by capital is that their will be no room for originality as the risk of failing will dictate a style, rather than the artist.

 

 

Quote 2 Reference:

Annette Lareauand Elliot B. Weininger. (2004) “Cultural Capital in Educational Research: A critical assessment”. pp. 105 –144 in D. L. Swartz and Vera L. Zolberg(eds) (2004) After Bourdieu.Kluwer: Netherlands

Sound Cultures- Sound and Vision

‘Only gradually through history did the profession of the performer distinguish itself, succeeding that of the general musician, in whom the roles of the performer, composer and teacher were combined’

Arthur, J. 1990,vii. The Penguin Dictionary of Musical Performers.

In this lecture we discussed the relationship between the Composer and the Performer. David Bowie was used as the example of how there can be a shift in the way a performer can be used to highlight the other factors in their music. Bowie’s song, Warszawa is an example of when the musical, rather than the lyrical elements become the centre of attention. In his live performance of this song it is clear that Bowie takes a step back from his normal role of performing and instead becomes immersed along side the other musicians on stage. This allows the audience’s to direct their attention to the instrumentation, focusing on melody and ambience, allowing the full sonic space to become a collaborative effort with no distractions from the sound.

Once we had looked at the compositional element of Bowie’s, Warszawa we began to talk about a man named Phillip Glass who covered Warszawa. This cover was not received well by Bowie fans as its style and instrumentation were altered and resulted in a totally different style from the original. Glass came from a background in Opera, Symphonies and Orchestral composition and it is clear that he is an artist of the compositional style, with no visual or flamboyancy centring his work. The performance speaks through the music and it could be said that this cover acts as a tribute to Bowie’s compositional role undertaken with some of the tracks on his album, Low. The identity of both artists can be found by listening to the two versions and it is clear that the intentions of Glass were not to mimic the style of Bowie but re-imagine it in a style unfamiliar to the original. Music is a creative subject that allows for inspiration, interpretation and creativity all of which are present in the cover of Warszawa and in turn allows the music to reach a wider audience from that of Bowie fans.

David Bowie- Warszawa, Live in Tokyo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6omx8MUNspI&index=30&list=PLnBVNE2kSEq9rWq1Cmoi3kyLJCS_oa-K-

Philip Glass- Subterraneans, Low Symphony (1997)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxhIkc5gthI&list=RDdmdEupr7jfI

The ending part of the lecture consisted of an hour break in which we were to find audio from any source that we could analyse in order to draw inspiration from for our own outcome. I chose the title sequence from the film SE7EN as it reminded me of early Slipknot into/preludes. The jarring sense of illusive darkness which embellished the tracks (515) Slipknot, Iowa and Execute, Slipknot, All Hope is Gone were apparent in the composition of SE7EN’s title sequence, though less extreme. The abstract and sinister imagery of the sequence works to create a dark and mysterious atmosphere which is enhanced further by the sharp peaks in the audio. The close ups and controversial metaphors/imagery help immerse the sequence with suspense whilst keeping the plot a mystery to the viewer.

Slipknot, (515)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0X0B14uaRTo

Slipknot, Execute

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_htyBV4XWM&list=RDh_htyBV4XWM

SE7EN – Title Sequence (HD)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-k2gsEI34CE

 

Sound Cultures- The Composer

This lecture spoke about the correlation between sound and it’s composer, whether or not music progresses or simply follows a cycle in which music is dictated by the social times.

The first topic we discussed was about how the mind of a composer works, whether he/she can eliminate a set method of constructing sound or if it is impossible to totally clear your mind of a musical knowledge. Is it possible create a natural and free sound, one that does not feel the constraints of a learned creativity.

“Our society mimics itself, represents and repeats itself, instead of letting us live”

This quote from the book ‘Noise’ (J.Attali, 1985), was a reference for our initial discussion into the relationship between a composer and their music. I felt that this statement was a fair one as it is not untrue that music is created with a set formula in mind.

“give up the desire to control sound, clear his mind of music, and set about discovering means to let sounds be themselves rather than vehicles for man-made theories of expressions of human sentiments”

In response to this quote I feel that with todays commercial and consumerist ideologies it is, in my opinion, right in saying that following a formula is a sure way of making records sell.  Although creativity remains it is not apparent that a new and diverse approach to music is on the horizon in todays mainstream culture. Music seems to becoming geared towards pleasing the masses rather than taking a risk and creating something that has not been limited by the way we interpret music, both from a creative and a business one. Existing genres help us define what we like and so the idea of emulating what you think sounds best is possibly a reason for a limited diversity within similar genres.

The energy and spikes in music relates to the idea of heroism. Much like the movies of the 1960’s and 70’s it is very clear when the male protagonist or the female protagonist takes a lead role in a scene due to the difference in rising music that accompanies their role. This idea of heroism was another topic that I found particularly interesting which separates the differences between both masculine and feminine styles of music. To explain,  when music was played to a group of mixed gendered people there was a noticeable separation between the attentiveness of the men and women.  When the melody of the song was subtle and the tonal qualities soft, relaxing and looped many of the women were attentive. However when the music suddenly changed and became louder, punchier and had regular spikes many of the men took interest in what was being played whilst the women who were previously attentive became un-interested.

Greenwashing of Food Products

In this lecture on Greenwashing we looked at the persuasive power of how food packages create stories told about it’s contents. This clever use of packaging allows a product to have an influence on the consumer even before the product is tasted as the visuals suggest an idea of whats inside. Kealey, (2014) states ‘Packaging design adds a level of emotional resonance to the food we eat, linking us to a natural environment or tradition that is often far removed from the reality of the boxed, processed item on the shelf.’ This separation from the packaging and it’s contents was a point that seemed interesting as it gave a false sense of advertising without actually stating anything in writing. The art of design seemed not to represent the product but to give an exaggerated version of the truth, to tell a story.

Elements of packaging also referred to were the use of materials that related back to the environment as a product that seems to commercial or artificial would not be appealing to shoppers. In relation to the natural materials, visuals have a great impact on how a product is received, typography expresses and enhances the aesthetics further as the brand name will be what the buyers take note of if the contents is worth purchasing again. According to Kealey, (2014) ’Typographic elements, too, are softened. Friendly serifs such as Archer and Sabon, and curved, expressive script faces like Burgues and BistroScript decorate the cardboard coverings, trying to evoke anything but a machine. These subtle and seemingly innocent aesthetic decisions create landscapes of fictitious imagery that are distanced from the realities of food production.’

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 00.44.05

The next stage of the session involved looking at the class system of products and how companies use aesthetics and language to help define a target audience, two of the classes referred to were ‘working class and middle class.’ It was interesting to see how the change of class affected the information and the aesthetic quality.

5017764600167_1_104491169

Various packets of crisps were brought in, some part of the working class category and some of the middle class category. The idea being that each table analyse the wording and the visuals of the packets and compare the differences. The results of our findings showed that the working class packets such as monster munch or walkers had less wording, less descriptive text, glossy packaging material and bolder solid colours. The contrast to this was the middle class crisp packages such as Kettle Chips and Tesco Finest which had more complex wording, very descriptive text, matte finish packet material and pastel colouring.

Once the aesthetic analysis was complete we began to look at the word play on the packages and how companies went about representing their product using (what we have already mentioned above) a story. The change in tonality and sentence structure goes hand in hand with the visual changes between classes allowing both elements to work in harmony to establish which class and what audience a product is intended for. An example of the difference in sentence structure can be found in the article ‘Authenticity in America Class Distinctions in Potato Chip Advertising’  Freedman and Jurafsky (2011). Their examples were as follows…

(Working class)

Inexpensive: “What gives our chips their exceptional great taste? It’s no secret. It’s the way they’re made!”

(Middle class)

Expensive: “We use totally natural ingredients, hand-rake every batch, and test chips at every stage of preparation to ensure quality and taste.”

In conclusion it seems that the class structure that exists socially affects how a product is represented to the market where both visuals and wordplay play equal roles in establishing a connection between it and the consumers. The goal seems to be making a product more relatable to its audience whilst selling them a story to enhance the visual and literary experience of the products purchase.

 

Sources:

Anna Kealey (2014) ‘Natural fantasy’ in Eye 87

Joshua Freedman and Dan Jurafsky (2011) ‘Authenticity in America: Class Distinctions in Potato Chip Advertising’ Gastronomica vol. 11 no. 4 Winter, pp. 46-54. California: University of California Press.

Images taken from: Anna Kealey (2014) ‘Natural fantasy’ in Eye 87

Joshua Freedman and Dan Jurafsky (2011) ‘Authenticity in America: Class Distinctions in Potato Chip Advertising’

http://www.morrans-international.com/product_info.php/5017764600167-kettle-vegetable-chips-golden-parsnip-sweet-potato-beetroot-40g-p-5531

http://www.cinemasnacks.co.uk/crisps/monster-munch-mega-roast-beef-flavour-corn-snack-48g-30-pack

Museum of Branding and Packaging

The museum at first glance seemed to be Laid out like a convenience store with clear, open display cabinets.The contrast between the clean white glass and the colours of the packages optimised their colour and shape for the best visual impact, it also allowed me to appreciate the progression of style throughout the different time period. The Minimalist setup and use of white bright lights helps prevent there being any distraction from objects, allowing you to appreciate the smaller qualities of the designs on display.

Each cabinet has its own title to represent the category of the items from jam to washing up liquid, mustard to breakfast cereals. Dates are also used on the cabinets to give a general understanding about the design period. The variety of objects found at the Museum of Branding and packaging consist of cardboard cutouts and all kinds of household goods that layer up to form a 3D visual experience creating a fun and interactive alternative to how you might look at items behind a display cabinet in other museums.

All-in all the museum focuses on a Minimalist setup which emphasises the design and shape of all the items in the museum. The positioning of the items really highlights the timeliness and development of styles. The museums balance of bright lights and open space allow the physical experience to become enhanced the more you spend time there.