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Minimalist Ringtones

Minimalist iPhone Ringtones

Wednesday
Mar202013

Orchestra Da Camera

We’ve seen work of the Quiet Ensemble before. Now I don’t like the use of animals in art installations, but the mice in Orchestra Da Camera seem to have quite some space, and while they run around they can play a lullaby by Brahms, Schubert or Mozart. 

Visit the Quiet Ensemble website to have a look at more of their work. 

Saturday
Feb022013

DrumTime & the perfect metronome sound

Most sound designers probably won’t get very excited when they’re asked to create a metronome sound. No sticking microphones onto fancy cars to record their roaring engines, no impressive out-of-this-world explosions. But I guarantee you, that metronome sound will reach the listeners ears many times more than those sound effects! After I started selling minimalist ringtones over 1.5 year  ago, I started focusing my sound design on simplicity and effectiveness. From that perspective, creating the perfect metronome sound for the newly released app DrumTime offers a nice challenge. 

DrumTime is a Mac App created by Siemen and Felix of badRabbit, a small startup located in Amsterdam. It connects to MIDI enabled percussion devices (electronic drum kits, drum modules), analyzes a drummer’s input and gives visual cues about the timing. The metronome is flexible - it can be set to every beat, or less if the drummer is getting more confident and needs less guidance. 

The design of a metronome sound to be used with drums only comes with a few requirements to keep in mind: 

  • There should be the least interference with the sound of the drums as possible. The sound should not get masked by whatever the drummer is playing;
  • This means a broad spectrum has to be present in the sound - a drum kit covers a large part of the sonic spectrum and its sounds contain a fair amount of noise;
  • That said, the sound should still be pleasant to listen to during an extended practice session. So it’s all about finding the right balance between loud, clear and present on one hand and subtle and pleasant on the other;
  • There should also be a clearly distinguishable tone in the sound, so the first beat can be indicated with a higher pitch. This might not sound like a problem, but while focusing on the other requirements it is easy to forget about the tonal aspect of it. 

With this in mind I started working on some examples which could be tested in the app. After a pre-selection three sounds were chosen, of which finally one proved to work best during ‘field trials’ with drummers. I received feedback like “good frequency spread but muffled, it lacks tone. Hurts a bit when played loudly”, or “during the sound the glass tone sweeps down a bit, it sounds wacky to us”. After some more testing it was the wacky one which got revised and made it to the app. You can get an impression of it in the introductory video below, and you can read more about the app on the DrumTime website.

Wednesday
Jan302013

FS/Partial

Teaching Music Technology brings back additive synthesis, year by year. For some students the concept of every harmonic sound being a multitude of frequencies is hard to grasp. Visualizing it is always a good way of crarifying things. FS/Partial would come in handy during those lessons. 

FS/Partial is an instrument created by Dogo Tudela and is meant as a visual way to perform additive synthesis in live contexts. Eight partials can be controlled by the user, by pushing the columns up and down, increasing and decreasing the volume of the sine waves:

Saturday
Jan122013

SPINE

It’s like the building comes alive, it moves and shivers and moans. This is caused by SPINE, and interactive installation consisting of twenty glowing cubes which move around in fluid motions. The sounds you hear, as well as the movement of the cubes, is influenced by visitors who come nearby. 

SPINE was created by Kollision, a Danish ‘design office’, and was displayed during the Media Architecture Biennale 2012 in Aarhus, Denmark.

Monday
Nov192012

WOW

The Mother, called MOM.

Isn’t it smart to call you project ‘WOW’? Everyone using this as the title will look impressed. You know I like my things simple. The Cleartones project is a good example of this. But WOW, created by Carl Schilde, takes minimalism to the next level. It’s a vinyl record with just one sine tone. You can change the pitch of the tone yourself though, by switching your turntable from 33.3 rpm (a tone of, indeed, 33.3 Hz) to 45 rpm. The groove of the sine wave creates a nice visible pattern on the vinyl.


So why would you want to play a record like this? I like the way they describe how the record will bring up the little imperfections of your record player. Each needle and each tone arm will sound different. You will hear wow and flutter, and WOW will shake the whole building when you turn up the volume. You can read more about WOW and order one of the records (priced at €33.33) on wow.heavylistening.com. Is this the thing you’ve wished for all your life? Then why not forget about that brand new car and spend €33,333.33 on the silver master record of WOW, called MOM (pictured above).

Sunday
Nov042012

Forgotten Songs

When I first saw Forgotten Songs by Michael Thomas Hill, I was struck by the beauty of the image. Watching all those empty bird-cages hanging over the street I automatically start hearing the sound of birds in my head, even though it isn’t there. The image is so strong, the installation doesn’t need sound. I was slightly disappointed when I found out the artist doesn’t leave it up to our imagination - it actually does make sound. 

There is a message though: the fifty birds that can be heard in this installation in Sidney, used to live there. But habitat loss is credited as the biggest threat to bird survival. The birds that can be heard in Forgotten Songs were forced out of the city by European settlers. At night, the sounds change to those of nocturnal birds. 

Via My Modern Met

Saturday
Oct272012

Dyskograf

Dyskograf is like a turntable, but this time you can draw the record yourself. OK - you cannot actually create a song, but a loop of electronic music. It’s like a circular step sequencer with a nostalgic appearance, as it bridges the gap between virtual instruments and the tactile way of writing music with pen on paper. The audible result is not all that inspiring, but it sure looks good.

A camera reads the information drawn on Dyskograf’s paper disks and transfers the information to the software which plays the sound. The installation is created by French new media collective Avoka. Will this make you more creative, or is it just a good looking toy? Watch the video to see Dyskograf in action:

Via The Verge

Thursday
Oct112012

Cleartones Organic

After launching the Cleartones minimalist ringtones project since more than a year ago I have been thinking about how to take it to the next level. One type of sound people always seem to like is that of clean bells, gentle chimes and things alike. So I decided to record a large amount of percussive instruments that would fit the concept of Cleartones: minimalist, simple, elegant, and select the best ones for a new set of Cleartones: Cleartones Organic.

Percussionist Marijn Korff de Gidts has a huge amount of instruments in his studio. From ‘standard’ inventory like glockenspiel and woodblock to a complete Indonesian gamelan. Enough sources of beautiful ringing sound. I am very pleased with the result, and apparently I am not the only one!

Again, people recognize the need for a product like Cleartones. David Report, Cult of MacBrett Terpstra and my friend Joachim Baan all understand why I started this project, and I’m very happy they do. I like how Brett describes them: “I’ve listened to them all, and there’s not one that would make me want to punch somebody in a grocery checkout line.” 

Sunday
Sep302012

Playa

An interesting question: what happens if you put 14 acoustic guitars on the floor and play them randomly? You would assume it would result in uninteresting noise, but listening to Playa by Ruben Dhers proofs the result can also be quite enchanting. 31 DC motors play the guitars using fans, and a computer controls the installation. The speed of the fans varies, causing a pleasant change in dynamics, and when they swing back and forth a higher speeds it feels like we’re listening to waves of guitar strings. 

Playa can be seen in real life at the Neues Museum Weimar, Germany. 

Friday
Sep212012

Urban Time Machine

“A three dimensional physical and aural mapping of conversations that occurred within the community of Providence, Rhode Island.” That’s the somewhat curious description of the concept for the Urban Time Machine sound installation. But whether you can still perceive these conversations or not, it’s an interesting idea and the result is quite impressive. At least when it comes to looks…

Urban Time Machine is a project by Joshua Lantzy, whose work is based around sound, design and architecture. For this project he collaborated with Benjamin Phillips. Have a look at his website for some other interesting projects. So, what does the Urban Sound Machine sound like? It’s like a never ending composition, which apparently doesn’t sound the same for at least 19 years: