Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Whole World Blind: recording session

Yesterday, I spent much of the day at an un-named art museum in LA, recording sound for The Whole World Blind, a sound-art piece I'm working on with Roxanne Varzi, an anthropologist here at UCI. The piece is about removing the visual stimulation of war photography. Instead of viewing a photograph and hearing a curator talk about it, we've removed the photograph entirely. Instead, the audience will be blindfolded and just hear the curation. No visuals - only audio.

Of course, this creates a great opportunity for sound design, but neither Roxanne nor I wanted to get super heavy-handed. Instead, we're taking a fairly restrained approach. For each of the ten photographs the curator describes, we've created a design that uses the sounds typical to a museum to create a psychologically-underscoring design. Maybe a cellphone interrupts the curator's speech about focus. Footsteps on an outdoor path echo the cobblestones in another photograph. Nothing big and dramatic, but lots of small elements designed to support the images (which we never see).

To make these recordings, we set up a binaural microphone system at the museum and staged the events of each photograph individually. A number of current and former students (including first-year sound designer Matt Glenn and second-year sound designer Stephen Swift) came out to help us with the session. Each scene was precisely planned out, with performers walking, dialing, photographing, talking, sniffling, coughing, etc. all on cue. Here's a shot of me talking everyone through the staging of the next scene.

Towards the end of the day, Roxanne and I sit down to talk through the last few scenes. Matt hangs out nearby, with his bag of shoes just out of camera shot.

The Whole World Blind will premiere at SoundWalk on 1 October 2011. If you're in the socal area, come check it out. It will also be presented in Berlin in mid-December.

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