Some Sound Design Research

The Lyrebird

The lyrebird imitates sounds that it hears and some of them are pretty amazing. Before you ask this is real and the sounds in this video are not dubbed over the top of the video.

Worldising – Walter Murch

Worldising, (a post-production technique) is the process of taking a dry recording and playing it back in a new sound space, then mixing the recording of that (with its new environmental sonic attributes) and adjusting it to recreate the image of sound in a certain environment, for example in a hall, or outside.

This is a clip of Walter Murch describing this in more detail.


Task 7 – Sound FX For Terminator

Sounds Used In This Task:

A can of John Smith’s being opened (my recording, funnily enough)

The fan from a computer

A passing train,

‘Wooshing’ vocal sound recordings (my recordings)

A hairdryer

An elevator

A dentists drill

A bug zapper

The birdsong from a lyrebird


1).For this task we had to score Sound FX to a scene from James Cameron’s Terminator 2 (1991).

2).The visual elements I chose to highlight were the moving robotic arms, performed by a lyrebird imitating nearby foresters and a camera with a motor drive. In fact, every visual element from 0:08 come from a lyrebird.

3).I took inspiration from Walter Murch’s foley sound design technique: incorporating found sounds into film usually with sounds source deliberately passing unrecognised. This is similar to Pierre Schaeffer’s mode three of listening – Entendre – Schaeffer, (1952) cited in d’Escrivan (2007) states: we ignore any meaning behind the causation and focus on purely spectral phenomena Concentrating on the sounds intrinsic qualities, neglecting the acknowledgment of the sound source.

4).A new audio technique applied was time-stretching and reversing regions to fit the Video accordingly.

5).A music technique I learned during this task was Murch’s foley technique for using found sounds as a platform for sound FX for film.

6).This task was practise as research because I explored into Murch’s foley sound design ideas and adapted it in my own way by not only using a sound that is imitating another, but is actually from a source of another imitation (the lyrebird). Imitation of the next level: the third degree. I think ill call it re-reduced listening! Have that Schaeffer.

7).I would give myself 65% for this task because I took Murch’s foley technique to the next level with the lyrebird, whilst acknowledging and modifying theories from Schaffer and modifying to fit the outlines of the task.

Word Count: 247


Schaeffer. P., (1952). ‘Trends in electroacoustic music’. In: J. d’Escrivan and N. Collins, eds., 2007. The Cambridge Companion To Electronic Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.234

Task 4 – Brass Score For North By NorthWest


1).For this task we had to compose a score for Brass to a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s North by NorthWest (1959).

2).The visual elements I chose to highlight was when he leaps to the ground, performed by a solo trumpet gesture from hi to low. When the plane soars and misses, performed by a crescendo-diminuendo, similarly at 1:07-12 with a crescendo. I chose these for the same reason as Task 2 (Piano for Batman).

3).I took inspiration from Johann Pachalbel’s ‘Canon In D Major’ where the melody flows (cannons) from one instrument to the other overlapping at a specified time with some variations of intervals and rhythm. One sub-type of canon is a round, which is where the imitation is identical, creating an intertwining echo effect. For this same theory, I also took inspiration from Danny Elfman’s theme from Batman: The Dark Knight (2008) . You can see this in the ‘Batman theme’ previously posted from 0:12 and in my piece between 0:14 and 0:27.

I also took inspiration from Arnold Schoenberg and adapted his 12-tone theory of serialism by using only the notes C, C sharp, F, F sharp and G sharp (with one small exception). (see full explanation about this in my Blog-Post ‘The 12-Tone Technique, Serialism and Pitch Sets’).

4).One new audio technique applied was the quantization of triplets using the Piano Roll – useful for this task, being in a 6/8 time signature.

5).One music technique I learned was the process of a musical cannon. I also learned about the 12-tone technique, serialismpitch-sets and rounds.

6).This task was practice as research because I explored the music theories just stated and furthered my research them by creating my own pitch-set, then mixed the techniques together in my own composition.

7). I would give myself 65% for this task because I researched into music theory with the cannon, the 12-tone technique, serialismpitch-sets and rounds, then recycled and improved these methodologies to fulfil the outlines of the task. 

Word Count: 263


Pachalbel, J., 1980. Canon In D Major [Vinyl] United States: Musical Heritage Society. MHS 1060. 6 mins. 3 sec. 

Batman: The Dark Knight. 2008. [Film] C. Nolan, United States: Warner Bros.

North by Northwest. 1959. [DVD] A. Hitchcock, United States: Warner Home Video

Cannon and Round Music

Cannon Music

In music theory, a cannon is where the melody flows (cannons) from one instrument to the other overlapping at a specified time with some variations of intervals and rhythm.

Here Is an example of this:

…and just in case you didn’t know, heres the Coolio version… (I think this was one of the first singles I ever got!!! and I still have it!!!)

Round Music

There are a few types of cannon, but I want to specify just one – the round.

A round is when the melodic contour of the cannon is identical, which then interleaves together in what would seem to be a disorderly fashion, but actually fits together in perfect harmony.

This echo effect is often used in choir music too and an example of this is:

Frère Jacques, frère Jacques,
Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
Sonnez les matines! Sonnez les matines!
Din, dan, don. Din, dan, don.

Jaws – The Leading Note

The leading note (or subsemi-tone) is a note that resolves (leads) to another note that can be one semi-tone above or below that for example: the B (usually as the 7th degree in a scale – in this case the C major scale) leads to the C (the tonic – root note in the scale). This image represents this in notation form.

An example of this leading note theory is used in the theme tune music (by John Williams) for Steven Spielberg’s film Jaws (1975) . You can hear it in this video starting at about 20 seconds in. I used this same theory as the bassline towards the end of my Psycho scoring task.

MIDI Highlighting Task For Tracing The Batman Theme Tune (Danny Elfman)

In week twos class we were given a “MIDI Highlighting” exercise where we had to trace the notation as best we could to the theme music for Batman (written by Danny Elfman). I felt that mapping the notation and finding out what key the piece was in was an especially good task for me because I could definitely do with brushing up on my Music Theory. Also, it is good pitch perception training for your ears to help with the interpretation of correct notation. It was also a good exercise for us to pinpoint the many variations that Elfman uses and how they intertwined with one another because we can apply this in our own compositions and further works for this module. Here is my attempt at the MIDI Highlighting task so far. I have (borrowed) Sammy Vere’s idea of putting the original music out of the right channel and putting my version through the left.

One interesting point that I noticed straight away after listening to the piece is that the first five notes are exactly the same as Frank Sinatra’s ‘Let’s Face The Music And Dance‘. What makes it even more interesting is that the EXACT same key and note-pitch are used with both of them as you can see here. Also that the words that Sinatra uses in his piece that correspond to the first five notes that Elfman uses in his are “there may be trouble ahead”, which funnily enough is the general feeling that you get when you are listening to the Batman Theme…….      …perhaps…

Task 3 – String Music For Psycho


1).For this task we had to compose a score for strings to a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960).

2).The visual elements I wanted to highlight were from where the officer says “now just a moment”, up until he looks back at her acknowledging the fact that she is OK to go. To express this musically, I used my own theme using a pizzicato playing technique, which progressively gets quicker building tension, then releasing at the correct moment.

3).I took inspiration from Danny Elfman’s take on musical ‘variations’ and John Williams’ theme to Spielberg’s Jaws (1975). At 2:05 you can hear the clearest part of my theme, which looks like this in notation form:

(C, F, Csharp + Fsharp, to F natural again)

My ‘Jaws’ – leading tone imitation buildup occurs from 2:00.

4).A new audio technique applied was side-chain compression so the music would drop in the mix letting the vocals come through.

5).One music technique that I learned was the various playing techniques incorporated in the string section, a percussive role with ostinatos, also creating abstract sounds with the bow on the bridge and other places.

6).This task was practise as research because I used what I learnt about the leading note (as Williams used in Jaws (1975)) along with Elfmans take on variations and furthered this by combining the two in my own composition.

7).I would give myself 62.5% for this task because I met the guidelines by not only exploring music theory with the leading note, but also combining techniques from previous composers, amalgamating everything together to create an innovative soundtrack.

Word Count: 251


Psycho. 1960. [Film] A. Hitchcock. United States: Paramount Pictures

Jaws. 1975. [Film] S. Spielberg. United States: Universal Pictures