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My Final

The Voicethread


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(Tiger in a Labyrinth) Sound Production Project


For this final project we combined everything we learned about composition over the year.  I made a piece with A, B, and C parts that followed the compositional techniques we learned.  This is the first full piece I have created.

21st Century Skills Demonstrated

Creativity and Innovation – For this piece I had to come up with several different motifs, melodies, and harmonies.  I did a lot of brainstorming on the keyboards, and I catalogued the ideas I came up with.

Media Literacy – I used a physical keyboard as well as Garageband to create the piece.  I modified the sounds on the keyboard to help get the feel that I wanted, then I recreated the sounds as closely as possibly in Garageband and edited what I had played.

Flexibility & Adaptability – I was gone for a lot of the project, so I had to work quickly.  There were many ideas that I wanted to combine, but didn’t have the time to do so.  I changed the course of my composition to finish in time.

The Composition

Reactions to the Final Version

I was gone the day we had classmates review the final version, but my mom and sister said it “was good”.

Evaluation of the Final Version

I think the final version is pretty good.  I’m happy with how it turned out, though I would have enjoyed more time to make the A, B, and C sections more definitive.  I had to edit the drums, but they are fixed in the final version.

What I Learned and Problems I Solved

One problem I encountered was with selecting a melody.  I wanted to create more melodies, but was limited by time.  I fixed this problem by creating a few melodies very quickly and then choosing the best ones.

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Creative Thinkers and Writer Block

The more you fail the more you can analyze your mistakes and expand on ideas.  Get the ideas out and modify them or trash them, because no idea starts out good.  Let other people critique your work honestly.  But more than anything get some raw material.

Change locations, change materials.  Make connections and think metaphorically.  Be prepared to capture ideas at any moment.  Try oblique thinking (Brian Eno’s deck of cards).  Don’t think about thinking about it- be ready to record ideas right before bed or when you wake up.

1. You can’t come up with an idea.
Writing exercises work.
2. You have a ton of ideas, but can’t commit.
Put it away, more stuff is coming.
3. You have an outline, but that one part….
Try a detour/tangent.
4. The Inner Critic
You need it later in revision not while creating, get rid of it.

In contrast, geniuses think productively, not reproductively. When confronted with a problem, they ask “How many different ways can I look at it?”, “How can I rethink the way I see it?”, and “How many different ways can I solve it?” instead of “What have I been taught by someone else on how to solve this?”


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Bass Recording Project


For this project I focused on the bass line.  I examined bass lines in current music, and taking inspiration from those I created a theme.

Lesson Bass Line

This is a little tune I put together.  The tension rises in the antecedent phrase and is mostly resolved by the consequent phrase- I don’t usually like to end my melodies with the tonic note, I prefer to decrease tension to the point where the tonic note is expected as the melody loops.

One of My Favorite Bass Lines

This is the bassline from Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin Bout Love”.  I like this bassline because it highlights the melody without taking over the song.  The tonic note is A, and tension is built in the second measure with an E.  I find it interesting that the bassline doesn’t end on the tonic note, which is what I like to do.  I think it pushes the song forward and asks for change to resolve the melody.

My Bass Line

This is the theme I created.  I can’t tell how loud the bass is in these headphones so I hope it is audible.  I created a simple melody that creates tension in the 4th and 5th measures with the notes F and G.  That tension is then resolved by the tonic note, C.  The melody generally rises in the first phrase, then falls in the second phrase.  The bass line falls the entire time, with the exception of some decorative notes added in awe of “Heard it Through the Grapevine” ‘s bass line.  I used repetition of measures 1 and 2 in measures 3 and 4, then variation of that in measures 5 and 6.

Bass Terms

Tonality- Catch all term for what makes western music sound good.  Chords, notes, structures, keys, etc.

Root- The tonic note or “bass” of chord.  It sounds good an octave lower in accompaniment with that chord.

Contrary Motion- Where the bassline moves in the opposite direction of the tune.  Ex: Pomp and Circumstance, Adagio.

Walking Bass- Bassline follows the scale then starts over.  Common in jazz and blues.

Ground Bass- Bassline follows the chromatic scale.  Widely used but rarely called by its name.

Inversion- Playing a bass note other than the tonic of the chord.  Ex: Instead of C with C major, E with C major.

Riff- Part of a tune that begins or forms the base of part of a song.

Quantize- Makes notes same lengths and loudness.

Loop- Loops notes endlessly.

What I Learned and Problems I Solved

I learned how to use bass as more than filler.  I knew of bass riffs, but I didn’t know about their importance and role in music.  I can now say that I know how to use bass to create a composition.  One problem I solved came when I was creating a theme.  My composition had a generic bass line that followed the melody and kept tempo, but it wasn’t interesting.  I fixed this problem by examining jazz and funk artists, ending up adding some decorative notes and jumps that weren’t necessary.

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Harmony Project


In this project I experimented with harmony.  I found one of my favorite melodies (actually it was just a song I liked that was available in a MIDI file), and isolated its melody and the harmony accompanying that melody.  I created my own melody, then added other notes and chords to harmonize with that melody.

Lesson Harmony

I created this harmonic chord progression from the provided chords.  I think it’s the same chord progression as Alphaville’s Forever Young, so think of that when you listen to it.  This really wasn’t challenging to do because I know how to use Garageband pretty well.

My Favorite Harmony

This is the harmony from Winds of Change.  The two tracks are a synth track and a flute, the flute being the melody and the synth accompanying with chords.  The tonic note of the melody could be either G or C, because the song starts out with a decorative G, but doesn’t end on either C or G.  I like the melody because it rises and falls an even amount, and the division between the antecedent and consequent phrases is very audible.  Tension is built just before the middle of the phrase, then it climaxes and is released.

My Harmony

This is the melody and harmony I have been working on.  It is not in the key of C, but I could transpose it if necessary.  I’ve had it in my head for a while and liked it as it is.  I structured the harmony to fall, but still sound hopeful, almost like times are desperate and action is required.  The tonic note is D, accompanied by a G flat chord.  The tension is created in measures 3 and 7, then quickly resolved.  I didn’t consciously use any repetition, contrast, or variation.

Harmony Terms

Notes have their harmonic notes hidden in them.  Any note in the Western scale can make a triad, or chord.   1 3 5 makes up a major chord.  Polyphony is when two or more melodies come together to form a chord without an underlying chord progression.  Every note is part of 6 total major and minor chords.

What I Learned and Problems I Solved

I learned that melodies sound a lot better when they are accompanied by chords or other notes.  In other words, I have realized the importance of harmony in addition to a good melody.  One problem I had was that the melody I had in my head didn’t end on the tonic note.  I resolved it by restructuring it afterwards to allow the tonic note at the end.

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The Story of the Guitar

Creative Commons image from Freebird_71

  • People initially didn’t like the guitar and rock n roll initially because it was the “sound of rebellion”, and they just wanted to be cozy after WWII.
  • The first guitar recording was in the 1920s.  It didn’t enter the mainstream until much later.
  • The guitar has always had a “bad reputation”, being associated with sin or sexuality, and artists like Elvis didn’t help that reputation.
  • No one instrument has a direct line to the development of the guitar.  There were many ancient stringed instruments similar to it, one called the guita.
  • The guitar became more fashionable in the 1800s, so harpsichord makers gave guitars to lame people so the nobility would like the harpsichord.
  • The guitar came to America with the first settlers, and America was hooked.
  • The first electric guitar was designed to play Hawaiian music around the turn of the century.
  • The appeal of early guitar came from the intimate relationship between the guitar and its player.
  • Rock N Roll emerged in 1959, after the Stratacaster came out.  The red guitar became a symbol.  The whammy bar was heavily used in this period.
  • Rock stars smashed guitars because they had musical ideas that they couldn’t communicate clearly.  Over time, tension builds up.
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Film Sound Design – Ambient Sound, Library Sound & Foley


For this project, I collected a variety of sounds from around the school using the Olympus Field Microphone.  I labelled and stored these sounds in Garageband, and edited theme to sound as though they could be part of a sci-fi film.  The second part of the project was creating Foley sound effects for a short clip.  I went into the sound room and recorded the sound live while the video played.  I then synced the audio with the clip, and the result can be seen below.

Film Before Foley and Sound Effects

This is the original clip from The Wind Rises.  Most of the sound effects were created by the human voice, though there are some added sounds.

Film After Foley and Sound Effects

This is the film with the sound effects I created.

Foley Process


For the Foley process, I went into the sound room with the clip and recorded sound effects to lay over the video.  This is me shaking my keys to imitate rocks hitting each other.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 2.47.09 PM

Here are the recorded tracks after being cut and synced with the clip.

Sound Library

These are the sounds I collected, labelled and stored in Garageband.

These sounds were intended to be sci-fi themed.  The sounds gathered and their intentions were:

Person making a noise – Alarm

Tapping on a metal rail – Hitting metal/hammering

Running key across metal bars – Gears/crank

Pushing a button on water machine – Door opening or closing

Opening a door at various strengths – Door lock or cocking gun

Water fountain – Steam hiss

AC unit in the ceiling – Rocket takeoff or ambient noise

Soda machine hum – Ship flying by

Hitting a wall – Hitting something

Not sure what this was – Fixing a robot

Pressing a button on the soda machine – Machine blip

What I Learned and Problems I Solved

I learned a lot about Foley and sound effects.  When I hear sounds during my day, I think about what I would visualize with that sound if I didn’t know its source.  In other words, I try to hear the sound as something that it is not, which is what I did to collect the sound effects above.  I also know the value of adding Foley sound effects instead of using computerized sounds, because it sounds more realistic and gives more control.  One problem I encountered was collecting the audio.  I didn’t realize the mic was so sensitive, and it picked up sounds that I didn’t even hear while I was recording.  The problem was easy to solve, I just went back later and recorded the sound again, or I EQ’d or edited the sound out.

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ADR Project


For this project I was given the short clip seen below, whose audio was low quality.  I was also presented with several takes of the actor saying the same phrase with a higher quality microphone, so the talent had already recorded ADR.  I chose the best take, synced it with the clip, and added ambient noise to make it sound realistic.

Film Before Visual ADR

Film After Visual ADR

ADR Process


Audio ADR Preparation

Audio ADR is where the actor matches the sound of the original audio.  Audio preparation is removing the audio to give to the client to practice before recording.  The difference between audio and visual is that actors can record with less distraction, but some actors are better at one than the other.  Audio ADR can use beeps prior to the dialogue to the to help with rhythm.

ADR Terms


The automated part of ADR comes because of computers looping the film.  Films actually had to be looped before computers.

Partial ADR is tricky, the microphones, mic placement, and size of the area needs to be replicated or it will stand out.  Often easier to replace the whole scene.

Visual ADR- Foley for ADR.

Audio ADR- Actor records by listening to the original audio.

Better to record short dialogue instead of long monologues, because the ADR will be much easier.

The ADR can be synced better by matching audio waves instead of matching audio to visuals in post production.

Audio Post-production Terms

An equalizer is a tool that boosts or cuts the amplitude of specific frequencies (EQ).  Frequencies that are boosted are called the high shelf, and when one end is boosted it is called a first order filter.  Frequencies that are reduced are called the low shelf.  If the sound is eliminated in one area, it is called a pass.  A second order filter is called a peaking filter or parametric equalizer.  There is a frequency chosen, gain (extremity of EQ), and Q (width of EQ, high Q is steeper).  The steepest is called a notch cut.  A graphic equalizer is where all the frequencies are cut with sliders.

Dynamic range is the range of loudest, difference between very soft and very loud.  A compressor lowers the dynamic range.  Compression is often shown as a ratio of output dB to input dB.  Attack and release the speed at which the compressor works.  A strong compressor is called a limiter.  The opposite of a compressor is an expander.  A noise gate is an expander.  A multiband compressor is a combination between EQ and dynamic range, and is a very useful tool.

Noise Reduction

What I Learned and Problems I Solved

I learned that ADR can be more useful than just editing the audio.  I edited the original sound in Audacity, and the final product was nowhere near as good as the ADR.  I also now know the importance of adding ambient noise to dialogue to sound more realistic.  One problem I had was that I had two favorite takes.  One had a better “I never said” while the other had a better “you stole the money”.  I solved this problem by cutting the audio files and taking half of each one.

Secret Project

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The Arrival of Multiplexes and Asian Mainstream

1970s and Onwards: Innovation in Popular Culture – Around the World

Mainstream films did new things, but still movies wanted to “quicken people’s heart” for a low price.

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American Cinema of the 70’s

1967-1979: New American Cinema

3 separate types

  • Satirical
  • Dissident
    • loved to shoot about people
    • hated old styles
  • Assimilationist
    • edgy, more thoughtful content
    • Almost all main characters were male
  • Duck Soup (1933) dir. Leo McCarey
    • Satirical
    • Marx brothers movie
  • Artists and Models (1955) dir. Frank Tashlin
    • Found consumerism vulgar
    • society is fake
    • Lots of color
    • in order for something to be funny, you need to think sad first
  • Catch 22 (1970) dir. Mike Nichols
    • Great satire
    • World is upside down
    • “We want you to like us”
    • many people thought it had an anti-American message
  • Mash (1970) dir. Robert Altman
    • Another war film like Catch 22
    • used masks on nurses which gave him more freedom for sound
    • Used zooms or long lenses
  • The Graduate (1967) dir. Mike Nichols
    • beer and boredom
    • showed lost generation
    • turned lights on and off for pacing
  • The Fireman’s Ball (1967) (introduced in Episode 8) dir. Miloš Forman
    • Documentary style
  • One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) dir. Miloš Forman
  • The Last Movie (1971) dir. Dennis Hopper
    • Dissident film
    • “making of” movie
    • hate letter to american film
  • McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) dir. Robert Altman
    • Anti western
    • colors are muted, no contrast imagery
    • long lenses
    • no heroes
    • Visual uncertainty to match the 70’s uncertainty
  • The Conversation (1974) dir. Francis Ford Coppola
    • Coppola started as a dissident director
  • Mean Streets (1973) dir. Martin Scorsese
    • 4th 70’s dissident
    • fighting to open up the forum
    • Story of modern saint in gangster society
  • Taxi Driver (1976) (introduced in Episode 1) dir. Martin Scorsese
    • taxi in slow motion
    • emotional wisdom was in way mizoguchi didn’t show faces during emotional scenes
  • Chikamatsu Monogatari (1954) (introduced in Episode 3) dir. Kenji Mizoguchi
  • Raging Bull (1980) (introduced in Episode 5) dir. Martin Scorsese
    • self destructive man
    • shot documentary style
    • long lenses, flat lighting
    • during fight, there was fast cutting and tracking
  • Italianamerican (1974) dir. Martin Scorsese
    • documentary  about his parents
  • American Gigolo (1980) (introduced in Episode 7) dir. Paul Schrader
    • Schrader was a dissident to
    • 80’s red lighting
  • Light Sleeper (1992) dir. Paul Schrader
    • drug dealer floating through life
  • Pickpocket (1959) (introduced in Episode 7) dir. Robert Bresson
    • ending influenced Schrader’s American Gigolo and light sleeper
  • The Walker (2007) dir. Paul Schrader
    • similar to American Gigolo
  • The Birth of a Nation (1915) (introduced in Episode 1) dir. D. W. Griffith
    • famously racist
  • Killer of Sheep (1978) dir. Charles Burnett
    • One of greatest films of 70’s
    • from kids point of view
    • Black conciseness
    • About people
  • The Shop Around the Corner (1940) dir. Ernst Lubitsch
    • Jewish characters on the side of films not main characters
  • Annie Hall (1977) dir. Woody Allen
    • joke is New York Jewishness is foreign to everywhere except New York
  • City Lights (1931) (introduced in Episode 2) dir. Charlie Chaplin
    • Annie hall is offspring of City Lights
  • Manhattan (1979) dir. Woody Allen
    • city symphony
    • wide shots
  • The Last Picture Show (1971) dir. Peter Bogdanovich
    • Mixed old and new
    • black and white
    • 16 second dissolve
  • The Wild Bunch (1969) dir. Sam Peckinpah
    • stretched Sergio Leone’s neo-realism in fight scene
  • Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) dir. Sam Peckinpah
    • Garrett shoots himself in mirror
  • Badlands (1973) dir. Terrence Malick
    • characters so needed they were almost mentally ill
  • Days of Heaven (1978) dir. Terrence Malick
    • Great Natural lighting
    • Camera flows, was attached to cinematographers body
    • gave way to steady cams
    • To shoot locus films they dropped peanuts from a helicopter and had actors walk backwards then they reversed the footage.
  • The Mirror (1975) (introduced in Episode 8) dir. Andrei Tarkovsky
    • Wind is nature coming alive
  • Cabaret (1972) dir. Bob Fosse
    • mixed old and new
    • musical shot in close up, something that is not usually done.
  • The Godfather (1972) (introduced in Episode 6) dir. Francis Ford Coppola
    • Assimilationist film
    • Had it shot like a rembrandt painting
    • focus was shallow
    • Lit marlon brando from overhead, called north lighting, done so no one could clearly see his eyes
  • Chinatown (1974) dir. Roman Polanski
    • Style was old hollywood, almost film noir
    • Detective movie
    • Killer right in front of you but it takes whole movie to figure it out.
    • filmed with wide angles and bright lighting
  • The Maltese Falcon (1941) (introduced in Episode 2) dir. John Huston
    • Another detective movie, similar to that of Chinatown
  • Jules et Jim (1962) dir. François Truffaut
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