I don’t share a whole lot of design process work here, but I really enjoyed this process, and I’m considering turning it into something a little more interesting. I thought you might enjoy reading about this topic.
I’m in a sound design class currently and we created contact microphones (microphones that pick up sound when touching something and not just the vibrations in the air). We were to explore an object via the contact microphone and sound.
Before we begin … here’s a little soundtrack. Don’t worry. The sounds I recorded for your listening pleasure should layer quite nicely into this selection.
For Project 2 we created contact microphones, that is, we created microphones that collect sound when in contact with an object rather than collecting sound from the vibrations in the air. After hearing the quality of sound from the contact microphone, I decided that it would translate really well into industrial music (e.g. Nine Inch Nails, Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, et al). I took this thinking a step further and decided that whatever sounds I would collect would be processed through a multi-effects (FX) pedal for guitar. I have played around a little with effect pedals (for VOX) but have not really used them for any real purpose. I love texture in my work, so I thought I could use the FX pedal to translate texture into the sounds I collect. I also thought that I could use the FX pedal to enhance the sounds that I collect and give further clarity as to which design principles I am recording.
First, I recorded sound from just the FX pedal and the contact mic. I did this by cycling through the FXs using the up and down buttons while simultaneously rubbing the contact mic on the side of the pedal. This gave me an idea of which FXs I would want to use when I record the sound from my object.
Next, I recorded sounds that my sewing machine made without FX. I chose my sewing machine as my object because I liked the mechanical nature of it and it has some really even-keeled noise-making possibilities but can also be expressive. I enjoy the fact that I chose a tool I often use for visual artistic expression to create my sounds.
I tried many different methods of collecting sound from the sewing machine. I found different ways to create pattern, anomaly, etc. Shown here is my favorite way to create pattern by putting the contact mic where you would put fabric to sew. This is also a good way to dull your needle and poke holes in the contact mic (oops).
I collected sounds from inside the sewing machine as well. These were some of my favorite sounds because I have never thought about what it would sound like inside the sewing machine. It sounded somewhat like a railroad underwater.
My absolute favorite sound that I collected was from the bobbin-winder. I liked the sound that this made when it was turned on high (the black piece pictured spins at high speed, allowing the thread to be wound on a bobbin [not pictured]). I adored the way the sound was changed when I applied the flange effect. It gave it a real shoe-gazey, dream-pop feel to it, just as if Billy Corgan was sewing a quilt.
I collected another couple of versions of sounds with the bobbin-winder. This one is also quite interesting, but I don’t like it as much as the one with the flange.
The contact mic was able to pick up the slightest of changes in surfaces. I did some tests where I ran the mic over the stitch chart and surprisingly there was a change in sound. This chart appears to be flat, but it is actually quite full of texture. I consider this following clip “harmony” because of all the layers of sounds working together in this sound. Some people might think this sound is offensive to the ear, but I quite enjoy this type of sound.
I’m looking forward to piecing together a narrative with the sounds that I’ve collected. In addition, I’m curious what would happen if I layered some of these sounds in garage band. They have a really interesting percussive feel to them.
Have you ever recorded anything?