Skin Jobs, Sunrizer, and a Suite

In this blog post, we take an iconic movie, an iPad app, and a nineteenth century musical suite to ruminate on podcast sound design.

Last night, I saw Blade Runner 2049 for the second time on the big screen.  I never watch a movie more than once in the theater, but I wanted to see this one again before it finished its original run (as I write this, it only shows once a night at my local theater).  I really loved the visuals and the music in both the original and this sequel, and I figured I should see it in all of it's glory once more while I still can.

Not long ago, I decided to try to learn playing my Sunrizer Synth app.  I've never really tried to play synth other than to mess around with preset voices.  I did, last year, try to learn the theory of synthesis -- oscillators, filters, LFO, envelopes, etc -- but I never went anywhere with it other than feed the Sunrizer preset sounds into Orphion.  But now I've followed along with this video to recreate the brass sound from the Blade Runner Main Theme.  The Sunrizer app is no Yamaha, and the video was hard to translate to it, but I got something remotely similar.  

I first got the idea to use a synth for podcast music production through Jeff Emtman at Here Be Monsters.  I met Jeff at a monthly Maker Mingle over at the PRX Podcast Garage.  Jeff's been messing with synths for years, and his podcast sound design shows it.  So, I'm starting to mess around with synthesis myself, to see what I can add to my own story sound design.  I'm not a big, big fan of continuing to use Creative Commons music if I don't have to.

One problem with using pre-made music is that at a certain level, everyone does it.  Now on one hand, who doesn't want to have the same sound as NPR's Embed or WNYC's On the Media?  But I want to explore my own sound, too!  The second problem with using it is that so many podcasts out there are going for the dark and gritty.  Now yes, tension is required for a good story, but I so far have found no very much happy-go-lucky music out there in Creative Commons Land.  I might want to go for the positive once in a while.  You know, be different.  Explore my own voice.

I'm working on a story now that I will produce when I attend the Transom Traveling Workshop in Nashville next January.  I won't jinx things by discussing the story idea here, but I will say that one of my students suggested that I use Saint-Saëns's The Carnival of the Animals for music.  I suppose so long as the music is in the public domain, I should be alright if I perform myself the movement I want to use (as a solo keyboard piece, if I should be so industrious as to learn it).  But I do want to reimagine one of the movements from one animal to another, smaller type.  Perhaps I can come up with something in time?

Necessity is the mother of invention, right?

In any event, one thing I kept noticing about Blade Runner 2049 was how I stopped listening to the music at certain suspenseful moments, only to have it come full forward right afterwards.  This is how I want my sound design to be.  But how to do that???

Necessity is the mother of invention, amirite?