Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lessons of Suckness*

I'm going to transcribe the notes from my midterm critique, and then I'll add some additional thoughts to that before segueing into a rumination on starting my sound synthesis final.


NOVEMBER 12, 2008:

..."Our brain focuses on the thing that changes"...pitch/amplitude/rhythmic variations keep the thing active in our ears

..."Below sure you want the sound"...

See Grisset re different orderings of the same pitch

Developing a little bit to the point that you feel like it should be developing, but static to the point that you don't feel the development. Doesn't develop enough nor is it static enough.

Don't be afraid to start layering earlier.

I think I approached this project with a lot of big ideas that were dealt with very simply. What I should have done is choose a small idea, and develop it with complexity.
It was also missing something underneath--like an armature. Some spine that the piece could rest on, be supported by.
Also, I introduced too many 'characters' who change very little. The first phrase and the subsequent phrases are not one character going through changes, but separate characters going through little change. They are all introduced over a period of time that is too long. And they change very little.
In other words, I didn't scale my 'cast' to the parameters of the piece. Too many characters, not enough change, nor were they used effectively.
What did I learn? I learned that structure is useless if it's hollow. Structure cannot be compelling in and of itself, it can only carry something that is.
But all that is a-okay! Because guys, I learned something today. I learned that while structure may carry story, and story may carry character, and armature may carry structure, YOUR CHARACTERS CARRY AUDIENCE.


'Character carries audience' is probably my most profound realization, the most applicable epiphany I could have gotten out of that project/critique. It's an incredibly simple idea, but deceptively so. And one that I've 'known' for as long as I've tried to be a writer/filmmaker--but until you make the mistake of not using this concept, it's really difficult to see precisely how profound it can revitalize your work--and how pervasive a failure your project can become if neglected. In my case, it's really taken 20+ short films/videos/animations, dozens of short stories and plays, a 'bell study' plus this one, educational-if-not-representational midterm sound synthesis project to really, really realize the ramifications of such a simple statement.

Character carries audience.

Apart from that little insight, it didn't help things that I was lacking in an idea to communicate, or an emotion to evoke, or an experience to generate. I just wanted to apply what I knew about story structure to sound/music and see what would happen. Lesson: not much. There is the appearance of structure, but none of the affect. At its worst, structure is an excuse. At its best, structure is a vehicle that clarifies, refines, strengthens, and ultimately enables your idea(s) to be received and, ideally, comprehended by your audience. Of course, structure can't make a bad idea good, nor can it stand in for that good idea.

Structure gives form to content. And both rest on this concept of the armature--premise--thesis--concept.

Thesis + Content + Form = Expression.


Some other misc notes:

Find a way to use the same motif you establish without actually repeating it, or the same internal logic/structural logic...Then you can invert it or make other variations and it will sound completely different.

Sketch more specifically your formal ideas, gestures, notes, phrases, relationships.


Loud ==> Quiet
Slow ==> Fast
Low ==> High
Left ==> Right ==> Center

Let go and see musically where you can go with the software

Be aware of musical time / minute changes

IOW in ONE area, like simple phrase repetitions, these are not changes that are captivating.

Use your imagination! What music do you like? STEAL IT!

Some repetition ideas:
not abcdefgabcdefgabcdefg = boring (this is more or less what i did)

There is no need to literally go back to something you've done before, just to create closure.

REPETITION not 'replication'. difference

Thoughts on elements:

Spine: a rhythmic pattern underlying everything; this supports the piece

Motive A: Primary point of expression

Motive B: Counterpoint, secondary expression

Where these(^) run parallel, where they intersect, are the relationships that the 'story' arc should be built upon.

Parallelisms create symmetry, harmony. The movement from this(^) to this(v) is where the tension lies. Perpendicularities/intersections create conflict.


Forget about emotions ATM and focus on how sounds are shaped, developed and interrelated.

The first two seconds of a piece tells you everything it's about...


*Very tenuously ripped-off of Herzog's 'Lessons of Darkness'

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