Friday, May 7, 2010

P as in Pneumonia

P as in Pneumonia by grhufnagl


• Items recorded: Electric Trimmer, Metal Canister, Box of Dice, Plastic Vitamin Bottle, Duffle Bag, Salad Spinner

• 232 Different Unprocessed Sound Files (mono and stereo versions), categorized by object type and length (short < 1 sec; medium 1-5 sec; long > 5 sec)

Design goals

• Continued focus on creating convincing background material with long-term development through multi-timbral “walls”

• Move away from metrically-defined ideas to more gelatinous, timbrally-defined constructions

• Greater emphasis on masking the original sound source through three approaches; greater number of layers
 in multi-component sound design with single, articulated events; focusing on longer-lasting gestures that dictate the need for general sound types rather than starting with specific sound types; muti-processed sounds that behave in ways that are far different from their original source

Formal Approach

• Three sections, each defined by timbral and spatial differences as well the behavior of the activity (e.g. development through repetition vs. development through differences in time)

• In terms of space, Section A focuses on the relationship between midground and foreground through trading off material; Section B builds on this relationship with a consistent presence of both; Section C is defined in the beginning by a lone background presence and gradually building in the other variations of space

• The shape of each section was established through creating multiple layers of manipulated sound and then sculpted via EQ, reverb, automated volume, etc.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Celebrity Worth Stalking


I wanted to take some time away from audio to just give a brief kudos to a collection of short stories I've recently read and have given me that inspirational "wow" factor. Written by the mucho talented Kevin Fanning, Jennifer Love Hewitt Times Infinity is a foray into the mythology of our aforementioned actress heroine that is surreal, emotional and always engaging. Did you know that the Hewitt battles demons? What about her legends as a ghost? What about the hole in the side of her stomach? Please consult this book on all things Jennifer.

I've known Kevin for nearly seven years now, and I've been consistently intrigued and interested by his use of the ever-evolving internet speak. His use of language pulls me in and he writes what I imagine in sound. As a matter of fact, working with Kevin on a collaborative project has made it to my list of 28 things to do before my next birthday. I hope we can sort it out :)

I HIGHLY recommend giving this at least one read, if not three. You can see Kevin's other musings and other ventures into awesomeness at


Thursday, February 25, 2010

3 x 5 Interview with Dren McDonald

In Fives:

What are five timbres/sounds/instruments of which you cannot get enough?

Banjo, running water, cello, my cats' nails walking on the hardwood floors, and my kids laughing (or wailing, cuz I'm whipping their ass...kidding, kidding).

Name five resources (equipment, people, etc.) without which you could not live (figuratively speaking, of course).

My wife, my kids, my parents, my right brain (the left side can eat my shorts), and my ears.

If you could speak with your five-year-old self, what would be one thing about your work now that would impress him/her/you? What is something you would find very interesting he/she/you wouldn’t?

It would be impressive to my five year old self that I could play/sing “Rubber Ducky” (Sesame Street) or the Speed Racer theme (the original cartoon) for them on guitar. My five year old self would probably find porn/microphones/compressors/preamps to be pretty boring. But we'll never know, cuz I wouldn't show him the porn.

In Fours:

When beginning a new project, what would you work to complete within four hours time?

If it was a musical project, working to script or picture, I'd probably spend that time finding the emotion of the piece and the instruments/voices that would get me there. It may take a lot longer, but that's usually where I'd start.

If you could categorize your work into four food groups, what would they be and why?

Veggies (I do a lot of midi programming/beat mapping for Tapulous), so, y'know, you gotta eat yer veggies. Desert (currently working on some demos for a musical). Meat alternative/tofu/tempeh etc (cuz my audio should not be responsible for the suffering of animals, I also try to avoid creating frequencies above 30,000khtz for this reason), peanut butter (music should be chewy, flexible, spreadable and delicious!)

What are four parameters of writing/working (e.g. timbre, rhythm, form, etc.) of which you are consistently conscious? Please explain.

This might not be what yer looking for, but this is what came to mind. Oddly enough, I'm very conscious of posture so I don't injure my back from all the sitting. Super boring, but kind of true. (FYI I use one of those goofy yoga balls, like Dwight Schrute).

It's good to be aware of the quality of your decision making at any given time. Creating music is really, a lot about making the best decisions at any given time, and being able to look ahead at what the net result of each decision will be (not unlike playing chess). If one is extremely tired, overworked, burnt, or conversely, maybe a bit too caffeinated, these states of being will affect the decision making process.

Work ahead of schedule. Caca pasa, as they say in Mexico, so it's good to always be working ahead of deadlines in case there's a problem (you get sick, someone you love gets sick, your computer gets sick, your studio gets flooded – which recently happened to me.)

None of those are very related to audio work specifically. So speaking musically, I guess I continue to ask myself, “Is the music I'm writing matching the project in terms of emotion/theme/place etc.” And obviously, I have to find the music interesting.

In Threes:

What are three things that consistently surprise you in working with music/audio?

1) How much there is to always learn. I could spend as much time experimenting/reading/learning every day as I could working. I wish I had a clone to do that while I worked.

2) The amazing quality of people in this field. Everyone I've met through GANG, GDC, and other various jobs etc, have been some super amazing people who I feel lucky to know. In my previous career in the music and music merchandise business, this wasn't so much the case.

3) When I’m working on something I love, I'm always surprised at how little sleep I seem to need.

If you had to choose between the following three free items, what would you chose and why?

A new instrument (if so, what), A 3-day recording session at the studio of your choice (if so, which studio), A performance of one of your works by a major ensemble (which work and which ensemble)

Tough one. There's a guy in town here who makes these beautiful fretless baritone banjos. That might be a candidate.

If you had a third arm to work, what would you use it to do?

Oh man, that's a loaded question.

In Twos:

Finish this rhyme with a phrase that describes you: two, four, six, eight…

he juggles verbs to conjugate!

Is it form over function or function over form? Briefly explain.

Whatever gets you there. It's usually never the same route.

Who would you prefer as your No. 2 and why? Robin (of Batman), Rocky the Squirrel, Ethel Mertz, Ed McMahon, Scottie Pippen or No. 2 (from Austin Powers)

Can I choose my wife? She has a cape. And boots. And can kick everyone’s ass. And isn't Bullwinkle Rocky's sidekick? Maybe that's nitpicking?

In Ones:

Please describe a project on which you have always wanted to work.

To work on something that a lot of people love. My friend, Steve Kirk wrote the Farmville theme, and 20 million people a day play that game. It would be very cool to have something like that, or the theme to the Simpsons or Andy Griffith Show in your songbook.

Please describe a project that served as a pivotal change in the development of your skill set.

The music for Fuzion was pretty sad, for the most part. About 30 minutes plus, of largely sad, creepy music (after recently completing about 30 plus minutes of music for a very happy, techno sidescroller game, I had to really switch gears fast). It could really be a soundtrack to the development cycle as much as it could for the game play. I hope that it gets released someday, but it really hit some roadblocks. Back on point, however, it took a while for me to get on target with the developer for the mood he wanted with the music. Lots of trading of mp3 files of related music (it started with trading Korn, Slayer and Eminem files, that whittled down to soundtrack pieces from Dexter and Twilight, so it evolved a lot before I even started writing music.) Once I got there, it was smooth sailing. But it was a great exercise in finding the mood/emotions/fictional world that the developer had imagined in his/her head, and then staying in that world to create a soundtrack for it. Reading that back to myself, it sounds a bit silly. Let's just say that the real secret to getting into the right vibe for this game was drinking lots of beer and listening to Mozart's Requiem and Swans every night before working...

If there were to be one thing in music/audio that you wish more people would try, what would that be?

Drinking lots of beer and listening to Mozart's Requiem and Swans every night before working...

oh, that's more than one. Lately I'm on a kick of using as many live musicians as possible. I'm fortunate to know a lot of excellent musicians, and here in the bay area, we have a huge amount of talent. Plus, I really enjoy collaborating with other musicians, getting their ideas, and helps me feel like I’m not working in my own little bubble. In concert with that, I'm always trying to come up with new sounds that I play live/mic'd (as opposed to playing sample libraries) – on a recent recording I played a homemade fretless baritone electric guitar with rubber mallets, and used a vintage, metal/wire phone stand for percussion. A lot of people can buy and use sample libraries, and it's a great tool to have. But I like to inject more of my personality thru those sorts of methods, in addition to what's available in the box.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Reel Good Sounds

I have FINALLY put together two sound reels instead of using nebulous bits and pieces of work for demonstration purposes. In the Soundcloud player above, you can listen to some of my sound design work from the past 8 months and music from as far back as 2005. Some notes are listed below.

Music Reel

I am looking forward to the day when I can actually have some great software synths, but until then, I'm making do with what I have :)

There are a total of twelve excerpts in just under five minutes including some of my recent game work, some unattached work (meaning it wasn't written for a specific game) and some live concert work to demonstrate some of my acoustic instrumental writing. What's included -

Software: Pro Tools LE 7.4, Audacity, Leafcutter John's Forester | Hardware: EMU PK-6, MBOX 2, Sony Minidisc Recorder | Additional: Library SFX for additional musical effect, light library percussion

Live Performance Excerpts

And Still, Between - Bruce Briney, Trumpet; Rick Kurasz, Percussion

Prairie Spring - Kelsey Williams, Soprano; John Griffin, Piano

Color Variations - Western Illinois Symphony Orchestra

Sound Design Reel

This is a pastiche of sound effects (most of which have been included in games), voice-over work (including editing and direction) and sound design via hard synth programming (accomplished through Unisyn).

Software: Pro Tools LE 7.4, Digital Performer 5, Audacity, Unisyn | Recording: AT2020, AT4040 Condenser Mics | Hardware: EMU PK-6, Yamaha TX81Z, Kurzweil K2000, MBOX 1 & 2, External Reverb Units | Additional equipment: DAT Recorder, Library SFX

Voice-over Excerpts

I Dream of Lingua Amphibiana – written by Janani Sreenivasan; Voice-over by Matt Fear and Lauren Denofrio

Flatulatch – written by Janani Sreenivasan; Voice-over by Kevin Fanning and Eric Brooks

Welcome to LAS – written by George Hufnagl; Voice-over by Lauren Denofrio

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Linguist Who Worked on 'Avatar' Knows His Na'vi

A very brief but interesting interview with Paul R. Frommer, professor of Clinical Management Communicaiton at USC, who developed the language of the Na'vi used in James Cameron's Avatar.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Jumpstarting Your Creativity

A great article by Brad Meyer (sound designer for DJ Hero) was published on Gamasutra's feature section. It's a wonderful read not only for sound designers, but for anyone who plans to pursue a longterm creative career with sound and music. I haven't yet dealt with creative fatigue, but taking to heart a few of these ideas will be advantageous down the road.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

28 Missions to Accomplish Before January 27th, 2011.

Playing the last year in rewind has really been a great exercise in realizing that, although there isn't a lot of material evidence, significant change has arisen and I am heading in a postive direction. The actions of last year have created the needed energy to move forward, develop new ideas, obtain new skills and focus on some new tasks for life.

Therefore, as a reflection of those aforementioned reflections and on birthday wishes, I have set a plan of action in mind to give my future self reason to once again, rewind to today. They are:

1. Upgrade my studio at home in a meaningful way.

2. Create an impressive and killer demo reel.

3. Learn FMOD and Wwise through practical application.

4. Obtain a fulltime, entry-level audio position at one of the following venues: game developer, post-production sound design studio. Or, work under the tutelage of professional composer.

5. Work on a project that requires voice-over direction.

6. Become more comfortable and adept with recording equipment and techniques.

7. Complete a collaborative work with creative writer and friend, Kevin Fanning.

8. Update my resume.

9. Move out of our current apartment into at least a two-bedroom domicile.

10. See my wife, Madeline, graduate from her advertising program.

11. Put on an awesome presentation at my nephew Matthew’s pre-school in April.

12. Complete my first paid video game audio gig.

13. Establish at least 5 new, long-term professional relationships.

14. Attend at least one concert of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

15. Develop a taste for wine.

16. Read another Cormac McCarthy book.

17. Develop three new ideas for concert art pieces.

18. Visit friends in another state.

19. Write a personal statement.

20. Create a professional website.

21. Save enough money to attend GDC 2011.

22. Buy another pair of brown shoes.

23. See a popular performing artist live in concert.

24. Participate in another family grab bag, but this time buying as few lame gifts as possible (see: purchase of Tupperware).

25. Rid myself of extraneous CDs (e.g. Chumbawumba), chords, boxes, etc. while organizing what’s helpful into helpful compartments.

26. Purchase furniture to aid in accomplishing #25.

27. Purchase an art book that features the work of Andy Goldsworthy.

28. Become addicted to five new artists’ music.

Let's do it in 365.