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I realise the question is a bit ambiguous but I couldn't think of a way to put it into one simple question.

I am currently a final year music technology student undertaking some sound design for my final year project. Now, I have taken a 'blue-sky' approach with my experimentation based project, I can experiment all day finding or recreating sound effects and recording techniques but of course I don't get marks for just talking about how I made rain with a bunch of marbles or whatever.

Now I'm not asking for someone to write my dissertation for me but I would like to know what areas I can look into to back up WHY I'm doing what I'm doing, for example, I have been looking into causal and reduced listening and how that would affect how I create sound effects, also when recording sound effects why did I choose a particular microphone. They still don't feel like they back up strongly enough the backbone of my project so I was wondering if any could point me in a direction or area that could possibly help me, anything at all that could be related.

This has become a little longer than expected but thank you so much for taking the time to read through this, I look forward to hearing any suggestions!

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Instead of simply listing practical details about how you're making your sounds (eg. types of mics, foley techniques and so forth), you might consider making more theory-based speculations about why certain sounds, or qualities of sound, are appropriate to convey the particular messages that you're trying to convey; how they create meaning for the listener and why.

A simple example: if I created the voice of a large man, I'd want it to be many things, but probably top of the list would be deep/low-pitched. Why? Because, throughout our lives, our experience of the world has taught us that big things make deep noises, and small things make high-pitched noises. The marriage of big objects with deep sound is learned and justified by experience, and as a result, a large man with a high-pitched voice would probably strike the listener as odd and unsettling.

Have a look through Theo Van Leeuwen's Speech, Music, Sound, as a starting point.

  • Unless you are Mike Tyson... Though I suppose that probably works as proof of your point since his high pitched voice is frequently joked about. – AJ Henderson Dec 1 '14 at 18:07
  • Very nice! Thanks for this! I've started to look into physics of sound which is kind of closely related to what you are speaking of. I suppose in a sense the physics of sound is the 'WHY' of what you said about deep/low pitched sounds. Again thanks for this and I will take a look Theo's work! – Ad Murray Dec 3 '14 at 0:37
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From the top of my head, the book "Sound Design" by David Sonnenschein is a very good start! I'm on my second read-through on it myself right now :-)

  • I actually have bought that book and where I found reduced and causal listening! I haven't got all the way through it yet, great book so far though. I will definitely find something of use in it I'm sure, thanks for the suggestion though! – Ad Murray Nov 24 '14 at 15:26
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Although the focus is on sound design for theatre, Ross Brown's Sound: A Reader in Theatre Practice is a brilliant resource with a wide-ranging bibliography. 'Reader'-type books are great for initial research for this very reason: someone else has gathered all the essential reading into one book!

As @Arran says, theory-based texts about why we use sound are useful. I'd also add to that that when we make sound, as sound designers we are making for an audience that listens, so works on the experience and meaningfulness of listening are also interesting. Try Salomé Voegelin's Listening to Noise and Silence and Sonic Possible Worlds, or for some mindbending, give Jean-Luc Nancy's Listening a go (disclaimer: I love that book, but it's some pretty wacky French philosophy!) The ambient composer David Toop has also written a number of fascinating books about how sound affects us as human and thinking beings.

  • I think I've got a hefty library session ahead of me tomorrow haha! They definitely sound interesting to look into, thanks for the help! – Ad Murray Dec 3 '14 at 0:42

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