foley

Expecting the Unexpected

Some humans are straightforward and upfront about what they want in life. They have a plan. "Let's do A. If it works out I'll be at B." - that's what they tell themselves. Planning down to the last second of what they're doing is what makes them feel more stable and more confident that the future will work out for them. And then there are some of us, who take life as it comes. it's always a bit of risk expecting the unexpected.

Last week on an early Sunday morning, I decided to try something new. I ventured out of the house alone without a destination in mind and I decided to take a portable recorder with me. Several hours passed away as I walked around the neighborhood through half-broken footpaths, past the sounds of cars driving by, chitter-chatter of random old people, and all kinds of random ambient noises I never realized existed before. What's better, I ended up in the middle of a sparse jungle.

An interesting thing I noticed was the fact that field recording is drastically different from recording something inside a studio. There is never only a single isolated sound when you're recording. there's always the odd bird chirping in the back or some unexpected ambient noise. It was interesting to try and make these unusual sounds add more character to what I was recording. Say, for example a dog barking in the back while I was sitting near a leaked pipe trying to record the sound of water.

Interesting ideas popped in my head later on while I was going through all these recordings and interestingly what happened later that day ended up sculpting in part, a new song idea. More about that later.

The Sound of Chaos

More months, more monotony. I keep doing some work or the other to keep myself busy. I believe its essential to keep changing, and keep finding new avenues to test and challenge yourself and your abilities. While there has been the occasional advertisement, trailer or promotional video I keep getting to make music for, at the studio. Been rarely anything the last couple of months that really piqued my interest in terms of concept, or art in film.

About a month ago, I got a message from one of those students at National Institute of Fashion Technology whose movie's music I worked on a few months ago. She told me there was an interesting project that some of her friends were working on. It was a documentary about a deaf and mute wrestler, and they wanted somebody who was good at sound design.

I got in touch with these people, and met them a few days later near the studio I worked in. They asked me to have some chai with them while they discussed the idea and introduced me to it. The movie was supposed to be called 'Goonga Pehelwaan'. While I had gone there with some skepticism, it seemed that they had elaborate sketches and storyboards with them, which showed exactly what they wanted. They sounded professional.

I decided to take them up on the offer, since it was quite an interesting one. They told me they had sounds of all kinds of daily activities and articles like a guy riding a bike, somebody tearing up paper, brooms, candles, papers, trains, roads, phones and basically every sound under the sky and they wanted me to arrange them all in such a way that things went from systematic to chaotic.

The main concept of the whole track would be the fact that the person can only hear, not see, speak or talk. They were of course very particular about the sounds they wanted so they decided they'd record the sounds themselves and send them to me to arrange and make a track out of.

 
 

I spent a lot of time working on the track. I think it almost took me a week to salvage an arrangement out of all the sounds they sent. There were about a couple hundred of them, roughly. Lots of times, the sounds wouldn't be in the same format or not be clearly recorded. I'd end up replacing a lot of them with clearer samples or worse, trying to restore them.

It was a gruelling and mind-numbing experience for me. Working on half a minute of audio for two weeks is no joke, period. I kept putting layers upon layers of all these samples that started almost at a four-bar beat but ended up being like a cacophony.

Now, even with cacophony there are rules. That's something I realised while working on the track. I could have haphazardly arranged all the samples in a way that it would actually 'sound' like cacophony, but the art of sound design is understanding the unspoken. I realised what they really wanted was not actually cacophony but a more refined form of cacophony, something that would exude logic and be sophisticated at the same time make no compromises with noise.

Two of my favourite samples throughout the lot was the train sample and another sample of cars passing by that I EQ'd such that the honking and the city ambience would be more prominent. Making certain sounds prominent and making some duck around and provide a framework is what made the track tick, I suppose.

Later, when I saw the finished video, I liked the way they used the various frames of video and combined them to create a something visually stimulating as well as something that would give the viewer something to think about. You can also check their website out at www.goongapehelwaan.com

Time to get some coffee, I suppose.

 
 

The Berlin Vibe

Last December, I worked on an interesting musical idea. A drummer I know from the Delhi music scene had recently started experimenting with electronic music. He got himself a copy of FL Studio and tried making something that would sound a little bit like deadmau5 meets Skrillex. He wanted it to be a dubstep song but it didn't necessarily have to be that way.

Now since he was pretty new to the DAW, He exported out the stems, The Fruity Loops file and the samples and sent them all to me. He was at a roadblock and couldn't really figure out the next course of action and asked me for some help and advice.

When I started working on the track it had nothing more than a few beats, a bass thrown in here and there with the occasional synth pad and swell thrown in between. It was nothing but a rough sketch of a track that was going to be.

Slowly, but surely I still kept hacking at the track like a slow hammer. Added drums, more synths and some of that distorted bass. Added loads of glitch effects to a lot of different elements.

I'm a huge fan of glitch and love incorporating it, everywhere. It adds a very sharp edge to the track. Especially when you're working in a genre like electronic music, the occasional glitch can do wonders.

There was also the last part where the vibe completely changed and I spent so long trying to figure out what could come in there. Nothing from any of the previous loops or elements I recorded for the track seemed to be fitting there. So I decided to think a little out-of-the-box.

After scouring the Internet for some time, I came across a royalty-free rough recording of a saxophone being played in the heart of a city, and I somehow felt it completely fit even though at first didn't seem so at all. After some careful EQ'ing and audio restoration, I came across the perfect way to end the song.

Saxophones are full of swag. Period.

 
 

Eerie or Weird?

'To be eerie or to be weird?' That is the question I'm asking myself while working on music for a horror film. While the occasional orchestral treatment is always there to get back to, what matters is how much one can push the boundaries in terms of whats acceptable as music, what's not.

A recurring theme throughout the score I'm working has been unusual percussion. While on one track I used white noise as percussion, in another I've used ethnic/african instruments like bongos and tablas. And then there's another that had sounds of decapitating heads, swords and animal howls (check out 'Cloak and Dagger' on my Soundcloud) I believe making music for film is all about creativity.

Now I know african instruments are not usually as wide spread as probably decapitating heads in horror movies, but it always helps to envision things from a different perspective and find the new in the old or vice-versa.

 
 
 
 

Part of how the african sound in that one track came about was a consequence of what happened yesterday. My film producer friend shared a snapshot of the 'monster' in the movie that sported a bird mask of sorts and was staring down from a flight of stairs.

The tribal mask seemed to give out a very ethnic and creepy voodoo vibe, so I went back to the basics. started with bongos, added orchestral percussion like bells and and odd sticks to the mix and a sitar pluck on top of it. It seemed almost like an african dance that was ritualistic. It was creepy.

Lots of times, I find it easy to start a track but much more difficult to end them. Now there is always the good ol' fade out or gradual muting of secondary elements to come back to the core, but I wanted something unique and eerie for that track in particular. I layered about twelve orchestral string sounds to once again create something very dissonant and Hitchcock-ish and to my surprise, it actually worked!