music process

How To Make Images With Only Sound

A Sound Design Project For Theater

I just started working on creating sound design for Fordham University’s theater department.  It’s a mainstage production of the play Magnolia, by Regina Taylor, which is a re-telling of the Cherry Orchard in 1963 Atlanta, Georgia.  It takes place right in the midst of the civil rights era and the sounds of that time period.

The biggest challenge is creating this sonic montage which is to open the piece.  Taylor, who is also directing, wants to evoke a backwards countdown from present day into the past.  It’s challenging and exciting.  Given all the events in the news lately regarding racial discrimination, it feels very timely.

To start with, I began gathering source audio to sample in this newsreel type audio event.

Here’s some of the sources i gathered:

Watching these videos, I found it impossible not to get caught up in the moment.  Especially the coverage of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination.   I got so choked up.

After exporting some of these audios using an online tool, I had a file folder from which I could import into my digital audio workstation of choice, LogicProX.

Here’s a screenshot of my session today.

How To Make Images With Only Sound

What a crazy mess!  I started by just laying down a basic beat and bass line to give some kind of structure.  Later I’m going to add a tempo map that ramps up to add to the excitement.

As we were listening to these ideas, my assistant engineer (my 14 year old son Alejandro), suggested a possible unifying idea:  to take each President’s oath going backwards in time from present to 1963.  Brilliant!

So that’s where we’re at so far.  I have a terrible first mix that I don’t want to bore you with just yet.  Lots more to do and in the process of updating my sonic palette by updating my Spectrasonics Omnisphere.  That’s a way cool virtual synthesizer.   Ok, more later!







drawing Hundred Heroes

In Steve We Trust

Steve Jobs.  Part of a daily series of drawings of my hundred heroes.

Steve Jobs, one of my hundred heroes
Steve Jobs, one of my hundred heroes
art film/video

Creating an interactive children’s book using Apple iBook Author

So I’ve just found out that my iPad interactive iBook, Play Piano For Kids, has been launched in 32 countries around the world at the Apple iTunes store.  Yeah!!!

This project has been on my mind for close to 5 years, and only in the last few months has it been a burning priority.  With Apple’s  January 19, 2012 announcement of their new free software iBook Author, I finally knew I could create this.

So what’s the deal with iBook Author?  There’s a lot of pros as well as cons to this software.  On the positive side, it is really quite easy to start laying out beautiful pages.  If you’ve used any of Apple’s other products like Keynote or Pages, then this should be very familiar.

Drawing objects and placing type is the same as Pages.  In fact it seems like they started with Pages and then added some additional functionality.  The use of Widgets for interactivity is pretty simple, but somewhat limited.

Because my book is aimed at young pre-literate children, I would have loved an easy way to have the kids touch the animated character (a penguin named Pontus) so he could do things like giggle or jump or whatever.

Creating a multimedia book using Apple iBook Author
Page thumbnails on the left and the page canvas on the right

Using the widget, I could only add pre-made videos either from iMovie or exported from Flash or even Keynote presentations.  By using a combination of these software packages, I could achieve a simplistic animation style that was both compelling (for young pre-reading kids) and not too detail oriented that I would get bogged down in production.

You can see the intro video I made which shows a few examples of the different animation techniques.

One thing that I toyed with in the pre-production phase of this project is the idea of including an onscreen keyboard so that anyone can start playing.  Right now, you need an external keyboard or piano to use – which is actually better to really learn piano.  But for those times when you’re in the car or on a family trip, being able to call up an onscreen virtual keyboard that you tap on the glass would be an acceptable substitute.  This turned out to be near impossible to do without utilizing some more technical things like a Javascript library for sounds.  Perhaps in a future version, I can address this, but I’m hoping that an update of iBook Author will allow for this in that easy Apple way.

Here’s an animation that was created in a combination of iMovie and Flash.

You can learn more about the book at Play Piano For Kids.