Sound Memoir Reflection
For my sound memoir, I examined everyday sounds I experience, but tend to overlook. I picked the most mundane activities I could think of. My settings were: waking up, driving my car to class, walking my dog, going to campus, and eating at a restaurant. By recording and listening to these everyday activities, I noticed interesting pieces of sound that I was previously unaware of. Primarily, these places were considerably richer in sound than I had initially assumed. When I recorded eating dinner at a restaurant, for instance, I was able to detect traces of people talking, laughing, and even hints of the Smash Mouth song playing through the speakers. This added a layer of depth and meaning to a restaurant I had visited countless times. I focused on this concept for the rest of my project. It was interesting to compare the sounds I detected while performing the action (ie., walking the dog, driving) to the recording of that action. For instance, when I walked my dog, my ear naturally tuned out sounds that I was used to hearing: birds chirping, my dog barking, etc. It was an interesting experience to play back the recording and notice those sounds, as well as other sounds I was unaware of, or did not hear.
To record the sounds themselves, I used my iPhone’s microphone. The sound quality was such that, if I recorded it properly, it provided a clear recording of each setting. I listened to each recording multiple times to see if I needed to re-record anything. For instance, I had to re-record parts of campus if construction noise overtook the aspects I wanted the audience to hear. For that recording, I wanted the listener to hear the human aspect of campus – people moving, people talking, professors talking in class – and not necessarily the external sounds. Once I was satisfied with my recordings, I imported the voice memos from my phone to Garageband. I used Garageband both for editing the recordings and sequencing them. Primarily, I went through each individual recording to see if there were any noises or pops I wanted to remove. I either cut out parts from the audio track itself, or adjust the automation volume to decrease during these superfluous noises. The automation volume was a useful tool in emphasizing certain parts and highlight the significance of each sound. Additionally, it allowed me to create smoother transitions when I wanted one recording to flow into the other. Transition were especially important for linking sounds in a way that reflected a continuous experience – ie., moving through different parts of campus. More abrupt transitions, like the car engine starting, reflected a distinct change in my activity or the sounds of that activity. I used the sounds of my car door opening and closing, and starting the car, to mark transitions. Additionally, the repetition of those sounds helped create a cohesive account of my daily commute to UMBC. To record my voiceover, I used a condenser microphone and Logic Pro X. I have used this program many times in the past, so it was relatively easy for me to record, sequence, and edit my voiceover. I used a compressor and an EQ to properly edit my voiceover.
I wanted to limit the amount of narration in my sound memoir. This was a purposeful choice to highlight the sounds of a relatively normal routine. The limited narration allowed more space for the atmospheric sounds of each setting. I thought this decision was most effective when I recorded the sounds of my car. Since there was no overlapping narration, the listener is able to hear a multitude of sound: the engine revving, the click of the turn signal, the music on my car stereo, other cars passing by, etc. This created an immersive experience that allows the listener to experience the sounds in my perspective.
Overall, I did not add many sounds other than my recordings themselves. I used the automation volume on Garageband and Logic Pro X to highlight different sounds or sections of the sound memoir. For example, I increased the volume of the car door and the engine starting to accentuate breaks and transitions. However, for the last section of the sound memoir, I overlaid the song instead of recording it from my car stereo. I used the same song from the first recording to show a sense of continuity and finality. I gradually faded out the sound of the car, and increased the volume and clarity of the song. This allowed me to express the ending of my sound memoir, as well as to accentuate my love of music. Finally, I cut out the song and added the car door opening and closing. This marked the end of my sound memoir in a way that was consistent with the tone and sounds of the entire memoir.
Creating this sound memoir helped me notice all the sounds of my daily routine. It was illuminating to notice so many sounds that I was unaware of. This added a level of complexity to my daily routine. Additionally, I enjoyed editing and manipulating the sounds in a way that reflected my experience. Purposeful decisions in editing also allowed me to communicate my theme to the listener. Therefore, my purposeful choices in narration, editing, and sounds communicated my theme: examining the everyday sounds that we tend to overlook.
SOUND MEMOIR SCRIPT – daily commute/weekday
Setting one: waking up, commuting to school
Setting two: sounds of campus, commuting home
Setting three: sounds of being at a restaurant with friends
Recording: The sound of my alarm going off, getting ready for school, the sound of my dog/walking my dog, sounds of traffic on 100 and 95 on the way to campus, sound of music on the car stereo
Narration: “I wake up at 8:30AM to the sound of my iPhone alarm. I get up groggily, take a shower, and eat breakfast. I take my dog for a walk in the woods. I come home and drive to the gas station. I take 95 to campus and spend 30 minutes in traffic”.
Recording: The sound of driving around campus looking for parking/the sounds of walking to class. Snippets of classes, sounds from the dining hall, Chik-fil-a, Commons, etc. Sounds of traffic on 95 on the way home.
Narration: “I arrive on campus at 10:30AM. Campus is crowded, so I spend 15 minutes looking for parking. I park my car and walk to campus. I get to my first class at 11AM. I get lunch after, go to my next classes, and walk back to my car. I drive home on 95”.
Recording: The sound of driving to a restaurant. Sounds of people talking and eat dinner. Sounds of the restaurant employees: waiters bringing food, yells from the kitchen, noises from the bar. Snippets of conversations with friends, laughing, clinking of glasses and silverware. Sounds of saying goodbye, sounds of driving home.
Narration: “Once I get home, I go to meet my friends at a restaurant in Baltimore. We go to a noisy, dimly lit restaurant in Canton. There is a basketball game playing loudly from the television. People yell animatedly at the game from the bar. We order food and chat about our days. When we leave at 10PM, the restaurant is nearly empty, and employees start to clean up.