What is sound? That's the question that social sound platform SoundCloud challenged The Wilderness to investigate in a short film to debut at Wired London 2011, October 13.
How would you, or anyone else, answer the question, what is sound? It may seem like a question for a high school physics lecture, a metaphysics seminar, or a music class. However, when asked, it became apparent that "sound" is many different things to many different people. Sound is beautiful. Terrifying. Transporting. It is rich. Soothing. Irritating. It is all of the above and more:
- Radiolab's Jad Abumrad manipulates sound to make you think
- Moby uses sound to get you dancing
- Julian Treasure contemplates the business of sound
- Imogen Heap shifts sound into beautiful compelling melodies
- Bruce Odland creates soundscapes
- Dr. John Levack Drever researches the science of sound
When SoundCloud commissioned The Wilderness to make a video about the sound they turned to the experts, to people who think about sound every day. Among the sound specialists included in "What is Sound?" are acclaimed recording artists Moby and Imogen Heap; Martyn Ware, a founding member of the Human League and Heaven 17, a producer, and a soundscape composer; Ben Rubin, multi-media artist, sound researcher and founder of EAR Studio; Bruce Odland, sonic thinker, composer and sound artist; Jad Abumrad, producer of Radiolab and a 2011 MacArthur Fellow; Dr. John Levack Drever, head of Sound Practice Research at Goldsmiths University; Julian Treasure, author of Sound Business, chairman of The Sound Agency; Salvatore Principato, vocalist, percussionist for legendary underground band Liquid Liquid; and Tim Exile, electronic producer and performer, pioneer of crowd jamming.
Starting with a single question, what is sound?, The Wilderness created a short film (3:25) to attempt to answer the question. The Wilderness chose to speak with the contributors outdoors, where ambient sounds of the world around could inform and contribute to the interviews. A passing plane or a bus going by filled the conversations with an audio spontaneity and drove the discussions in new directions. Adding to the unrehearsed nature of the film, the interview subjects were told only that the subject was sound.
The outdoor interviews were crafted into a serene, informative and engaging film by directors Gabe Imlay and Juliet Rios. Conversations were spliced together with exterior compositions that allow the viewer to engage in an "open" experience highlighted by the use of never-ending horizon lines and simple animated graphic elements.
To create a film that allowed the audience to "breathe in the narrative," Rios and Imlay created three chapters: What is Sound?, Sound Around You, and a Call to Listen. They then worked with a sound designer and engineer to craft those chapters into a sonic narrative that integrated the ambient noise with simple, clean accompanying tones to create a story about sound. The visuals are uncomplicated, honest and soft, allowing the audience to focus on the complex sounds that create our daily environments.