Hi all,

last week I attended the Kyma International Sound Symposium 2010 and heard Cristian Vogel talk about his favorite ways of producing, where he mentioned "found sound", which is meant to be the acoustic parallel to "objet trouvé" - meaning you take an everyday sound which you encounter rather by accident (e.g. an old record or tape) and use it as the basis of some creative musical piece or sound design.

This again reminded me of musique concrete and sort of sparked my interest to have a go at this kind of approach...

How is your experience with this approach? Do you sometimes trust to chance in your working process? Has anyone in this forum ever used such a "found sound" in a production?


For music, definitely, but for post, pretty rarely. I've discovered a few websites that offer feeds of local police radios, like having a long-distance police scanner, which would be great for emergency or first-responder walla...but finding one with the right spoken accents and a high enough quality level is almost more hassle than it's worth.

Artists like Robin "Scanner" Rimbaud use actual radio scanners to capture discussion over the airwaves, but for found sound, I find that in post the needs are so specific that it's better to just simulate things rather than rely on happenstance or kismet to get the right sound to fall in my lap.

Oh, one exception: NASA! Being taxpayer-funded, their audio files are public domain, and can be pretty amazing: The sounds of solar winds, radio frequencies from pulsars, and all sorts of crazy stuff. That stuff has found its way into one or two things I've done.

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  • @NoiseJockey Are there no copyright issues with the NASA stuff? They must have some amazing stock sounds... – Colin Hunter Oct 3 '10 at 8:32
  • @NoiseJockey - How legal is it using stuff from e.g. police scanners, Is there any 'invasion of privacy' problems with using it commercially? I have been warned about recording e.g. ambiences where you can hear people talking for this reason. – RedSonic01 Oct 3 '10 at 9:00
  • @Colin Hunter I recently used some dialogue from a NASA mission as a button for a piece of sound design. Useage guidelines can be found here: nasa.gov/audience/formedia/features/MP_Photo_Guidelines.html – Joel Raabe Oct 3 '10 at 13:54
  • @Richard: Ideally you should get releases from anyone's voice you record, but it does depend on context. In the police scanner example, no personal names are typically used unless it's an APB, which you'd definitely want to avoid. In practical terms, it's FAR more common to write dialog for any radio activity, record it, and then "futz" it by actually using walkie-talkies or in post with something like the Speakerphone plug-in - this way you can make up your own street or person names to make it appropriate for the project at hand. – NoiseJockey Oct 4 '10 at 1:00
  • @Richard, two other quick thoughts: First, I mentioned Robin Rimbaud because it's the clandestine and legal vagaries of recording people via scanner that he wanted to start a discourse around. Second, remember that context is everything: Street and verité photographers don't get releases from the people they shoot, which is anathema to how it's done in the studio and many other cases. – NoiseJockey Oct 4 '10 at 1:02

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