Author: guyserotonin

Guy Cooper is an Australian freelance music producer with a local Gold Coast studio. With Serotonin Productions, he has produced, managed, performed with and published several local acts into international markets, working with labels and management to produce great artists.

MCI Wk2 Journal

WEEK 2 Journal and processes

The mindset in shifting from professional producer & musician to sound sculptor.

I see the concept of moving towards sculpture and particular sound sculpture more of an addition from my music career, rather than a new field. I am not overly interested in simply creating sculptures, but more so incorporating music composition, music technology and acoustics into sculpture.

What defines a sculpture?
The definition of what a sculpture can be is open for interpretation, simply calling a physical creation a sculpture or art is enough to place it into that space. From discussion with other sculptures and sculpture festival curators, the only definitive and common response is that it occupies a physical space, digital sculptures and projection work are referred to as installations and not sculptures.

What is sound sculpture?
The term sound sculpture can refer to a wide array of different ideals, from pieces that create a sonic auditory texture, pieces that re-produce a composition either acoustically or via digital playback and also sculptures that represent sound visually.


The environment, meditation, nature and connection to relaxation.
The practice of sculptiung for myself is more based on engineering and mechanics than art forms, though the design space is integral to my creations. I have always taken cues from nature and my surroundings and I am fascinated by the geometric designs in nature from the microscopic through to the planetary evolution and forces that shape them. My interest in the biology of life and its combination with physics has been reinforced through my Astrobiology study and work and I have a drive to recreate this in my work.

Mechanics and fabrication.
I have always been interested in mechanics and fabrication, pulling things apart and wanting to know how things work, some people turn on the light switch and the light comes on, I want to know how and why the light comes on, where does the power come from, how is it created, how does the bulb work and can it work better. I work a lot with my hands and it provides a calming and satisfying mode for me. If I am stressed, occupying my hands with anything from piano to playstation, construction to gardening, gives me a meditative practice that allows me to rest mentally.

The mechanics of sound and instruments.
As a musician and an acoustic technician, I have long been interested in the mechanics of sound and particularly instruments. I have built quite a few of my own instruments from guitars through to pianos and unique pan flutes.

Inspired by the new, find other sculptors that work the same way.

Organic inspiration,

Energy and Vibration

Repeating geometric patterns

Kinetic sculpture



Creating a system for cataloguing the thinking, processes and thoughts.


What has others work inspired me and what I liked in others work. PINTEREST BOARD –

My dropbox for this sculpture –

Visualizing Sound

Steve Mann’s Hydraulophone

“The hydraulophone that is now the main centerpiece out in front of the Ontario Science Centre serves three main roles:

  1. it is an architectural display fountain, like other large fountains that visually define a landmark, iconic representation, or the like;
  2. it provides an aquatic play experience, and it invites people of all ages to “play in the water”;
  3. it is a visual art sculpture, a sound sculpture, and a musical instrument, thus bringing art, music, culture, and play into the mix.

    This lends itself to a nice double-entendre: “The Key to good music is to PLAY in the water”, i.e. “play” as in playing a musical instrument (or having fun playing
    around on a sound sculpture even if you are not musical), and “play” as in what you would do in a playground or aquatic play area.”


Harry Bertoia
Man is not important. Humanity is what counts, to which, I feel, I have given my contribution. Humanity shall continue without me, but I am not going away. I am not leaving you. Every time you see some tree tops moving in the wind, you will think of me. Or you will see some beautiful flowers; you will think of me. I have never been a very religious man, not in the formal way, but each time I took a walk in the woods, I felt the presence of a superior force around me.”
Harry Bertoia, Oct 9, 1978.

Cutuchogue sisters Kelly and Ashlet Goeller’s Music Box.

“Everyone these days listens to music digitally. It’s very individual,” Ashley said. “We wanted to make it collaborative, so in order to play the song two people have to turn the handles.”

What is Sound Scultpure?
“While experiencing sound as mass in three dimensions through time in contained spaces like wheat silos and cement water tanks, it became apparent to me that the relationship of the listener to the sound source was the most primeval and essential component for the creative act in music and that all listening really was moving sound sculpture . From the moment of birth we hear sounds resonating in the air space of the earth’s atmosphere, above, below, around, across with constant movement. If a truck approaches you from behind you know immediately you need to get out of the way, how quickly and in which direction. A flock of birds passing overhead is a multisensory delight integrating the eye and the ear, direction, mass, place, and time. Sound is physical matter with properties of speed, direction and mass which define and contain all other characteristics: pitch, duration, dynamics, timbre, articulation. Human beings are equipped with sonic detection equipment subconsciously assimilated at speeds which surpass all current technological systems. To think spatially and to properly consider the listener’s relationship to sounds is the most natural and respectful way to proceed.

Unfortunately, most musical events have lost sight of these basic truths. For the most part,the listener is positioned by demand in the concert halls of inherited Eurocentric proscenium performance with little or no opportunity to participate or explore the sound context. At home, sound playback systems are confined in the main to fixed stereo design, an entirely man made construct with little relevance to the audible universe. Rarely is the listener’s complete sense of auditory perception challenged. The relationship of the human to the sound is all too often stationary and inanimate. Spatial and creative listening are constantly underutilised. Listening as a freely moving voluntary act common in primitive and experimental musics is a behavioural form which art music may well reconsider. Sound Sculpture which allows participation from the listener redresses this balance. By carefully considering the context of the listening event, sound sculpture usually allows the perceiver to determine elements of the duration and position of the activity and/or the extent of involvement. Venues are carefully selected as these determine who listens, how and when. The outdoors, old warehouses, galleries, museums and public buildings, other than those used for musical purposes, have been the less hostile hosts of such occurrences Of nearly 90 Australian Artists in the field, few have enjoyed invitations to show their work. Most Sound Sculptures have been individually initiated and funded by those who have a greater vision for audio arts, one which respects the listener as a creative participant.” (Bandt. Ros, 1991)


“Sound art holds the distinction of being an art movement that is not tied to a specific time period, geographic location or group of artists, and was not named until decades after its earliest works were produced. Indeed, the definition of term remains elusive. Bernd Schulz has written of it as ‘an art form y in which sound has become material within the context of an expanded concept of sculpture y for the most part works that are space-shaping and space-claiming in nature’ (Schulz 2002: 14). David Toop has called it ‘sound combined with visual art practices’ (Toop 2000: 107). The glossary of the anthology Audio Culture describes it as a ‘general term for works of art that focus on sound and are often produced for gallery or museum installation’ (Cox and Warner 2004: 415). Bill Fontana has referred to his sound installations and real-time transmissions as ‘sound sculptures’ but that term has also been applied to sound-producing visual works by Harry Bertoia, the Baschet Brothers, and many others. Unlike music, which has a fixed time duration (usually calculated around a concert programme length, or more recently the storage capacity of LP, tape, or compact disc formats), a sound art piece, like a visual artwork, has no specified timeline; it can be experienced over a long or short period of time, without missing the beginning, middle or end.” (Licht, A, 2009)

Iljadica, M. (2016). Is a Sculpture ‘Land’? Conveyancer & Property Lawyer, (3), 242-250.

Bandt, R. (1991). Public interactive sound sculpture. Australian Journal of Music Education, (1), 5.

Fontana, B. (2008). The relocation of ambient sound: urban sound sculpture. Leonardo41(2), 154-158.

Licht, A. (2009). Sound Art: Origins, development and ambiguities. Organised Sound14(1), 3-10.



Sculptures with organic elements and inspiration

What is my creative drive?

What is my creative process, what is my creative purpose?

Why do I do this?

How can I help causes that have meaning to me?

Why do I enter sculpture festivals?

Make self renound for sound sculptures.

When looking at the practice How does mine fit into the global scale, what sets me apart, what aspects of physics defines better for the audience.



Refining my inspiration and drive, why I do this, how I can help, how this can help.

The way in which I articulate and reflect every thought and inspiration.

Moving towards an outcome that helps inspire change, environmental and social change.

My current sculpture “Land Coral”



CIM500 Journal – Coral Pipe Sound Sculpture

Kinetic Sound Sculpture 2018 – Coral Pipes

Previous Ideation 2017
GCOOPER CIM402.2 Audio Sculpture Installation Pitch – Coral Pipes

Continuing on from my 2017 sound sculpture Migaloo’s Song I want to build a large scale music box with pipes and chimes. The sculpture will be based on coral formations, creating a large moving kinetic man-made coral piece out of steel, mirrors and succulent plant life.

I will take design cues from both coral and succulent formations and integrate the music box parts into the design. The whole sculpture will be silver, black and also contain some surfaces covered in mirrors. Succulent plants will also be integrated into the design helping to blend the man-made and natural elements in the sculpture. The whole structure will be powered by solar renewable energy to turn the music-box and also light the structure at night time.

As I progress with my sculpture work, I am setting myself up with a profile of kinetic sound sculptures and also geometric design work based on aspects of nature. Migaloo’s Song was based on the Fibonacci Sequence, a series of circles and also the song and connection to the humpback whale song and size. This year’s coral pipe sculpture is based on regular quadrilaterals (squares), the rhombus, dihedral groups and following the design cues from both coral and succulents also hexagonal elements.

I enjoy the connection between geometric design and nature and attempting to mimic that in my sculpture work. Kinetic and geometric work by artists such as Anthony Howe ( is a basis for reference and along with the integration of musical pieces, simple color systems, renewable energy and a connection to the environment and nature, I hope to create a style and profile for myself as a sculptor.

Parametric Architecture –

I also have had the pleasure of meeting and connecting with professional sculptor Joy Heylen and her advice across fabrication and general sculpture work is invaluable  ( I hope to be able to return the favor by helping her with some marketing and promotion assistance.

Rather than simply creating sonic environments, I prefer and enjoy arguably musical elements and scores to be integrated into the sculptures. Using my background as a musician, composer, and producer, I enjoy being able to integrate full musical pieces into the works. I have designed a new take and engineering function for the traditional music box and it will be integrated into this sculpture, it is difficult to describe and my drawing skills are still lacking, I find it easier to build with my hands.

The recorded medium of sound is my main discipline in life as a music producer, I have a large collection of music boxes and enjoy both the lo-tech ability of these machines to perform a piece of music written by a human and also the engineering and design work in making it play.

The connection with natural elements is also important to me, mimicking and taking cues from nature in design and recreating these repeating patterns in my design is satisfying and also helps bridge the gap between the cold steel structures and organic elements. For this sculpture, I want to integrate both coral formations and also what I refer to as ‘land coral’ or succulent plant life, the geometric design and arrangements and how they can form a basis for repeating pattern and design work.

Engineering and kinetic work have also always interested me, both complex and simple designs in kinetic motion, gears and the role geometry plays in this has always been fascinating to me.

Overall the sculpture has a few aspects, but the integration of sound sculpture work in the form of a playing musical score, powered by renewable energy approaches the topic from the basis of an environmental statement against coal mining and directly how it is affecting our great barrier reef. Bringing the dying coral onto the land into people’s faces, making the connection between the coal energy mining and renewable solar energy in the sculpture, suggesting that there are solutions available to solve the issue of our reef system being killed by the use of fossil fuels and in turn climate change. In direct response to our government’s statements that renewable energy such as wind turbines are noisy and ugly, I also enjoy showing that a renewable energy device can be beautiful and sound musically pleasing while generating energy. Migaloo’s Song played an 8bar 3-part harmony score while generating 3Kw of wind energy per day and displaying the majestic size and feel of Migaloo the white whale. This coral pipe sculpture will attempt to become a man-made representation of coral, musical score as a large music box and will also generate around 3Kw of solar energy to power itself and surrounding devices. I hope to be able to also use its power to run some LED screens this year that explain the issues we are facing with mining in this country and what people can do to help push our government towards renewable energy.

Gold Coast, Australia Day

You can wait for someone to change “Australia Day” or you can take the time and effort to use this day to educate yourself, remember and acknowledge. Never wait for the government to make the right moral decision.
Have a dig online today about the culture of the Australians that owned and belonged on the land your live on for thousands of years, before our Brittish ancestors changed that. You can love our country and still respect others and the history of what happened. Doing a bit of research on your own can uncover some info about the land you stand on.

The Gold Coast where I live is part of the Bundjaling tribe and more specifically the Ngarahgwal people on Yugumbah land.

The Bundjalung people believe the spirits of wounded warriors are present within the mountains, their injuries having manifested themselves as scars on the mountainside, and thunderstorms in the mountains recall the sounds of those warriors’ battles.

So enjoy your BBQ and celebrate being proud to be Australian, but don’t do so without paying respect to the real history and celebrating what was lost, so that we can all enjoy what we have today.

The history some of us got in school in the 80’s and 90’s isn’t exactly the full story. Don’t wait for our government to make the right decision, make it yourself please.

The following taken from –

First Australians Overview History of Yugumbeh Land (Gold Coast).
The Ngarahgwal people (Salt water tribe of the Yugumbeh language speaking tribes) were the traditional custodians of the area from Nerang River to the Tweed River, they referred to this area as “Kurrungul”, a name derived from their word for endless supplies of special timbers. This area had been the Ngarahgwal peoples homeland since God Himself put them there.
Kurrungul was a place of abundant food, vegetables, fruits, nuts, meat, shellfish & seafood. Red Cedar, Rosewood, Mahogany. The forests were magnificent & full of life.

The Yugumbah peoples were family orientated & community minded, intelligent, good people. Modern day dating of shell mittens found in Yugumeh land (Gold Coast area) prove that this area is one of the oldest inhabited areas in the world.

In 1840 the Australian Government had this area surveyed. They found Kurrungul to be full of precious boat & furniture making timbers. Armed government gangs of timber cutters (single men with no European women) descended upon Ngarahgwal land cutting down every good tree. They chop down as much wood as their bullock teams could drag up to Brisbane for use in the Moreton Bay shipping industry. The timber cutters treated the local people with little respect. Greed & the lust for money drove the European men to lay waste to Kurrungul.

There were approximately eight clans that made up the Yugumbeh language speaking tribes. In 1845 two European cedar cutters were killed at Murwillumbah, the colonizing white European people reacted to these murders with brutal force. Dispersing ( a code word for killing) first Australians around the Northern Rivers & the Yugumbeh land area.

Yugumbeh people were rounded up and place into a government sanctioned camp at Nerrang. Once all the good timber had been removed from Yugumbeh lands the colonizing white European started to settle and set up farms. The Government Prison Camp at Nerrang became to close for comfort for the farming community so the government moved the Yugumbeh people further west to Beaudesert. As the new Gold Coast farming and European settlement expanded the Aboriginal camp at Beaudesert became once again to close for comfort and the aboriginal people were relocated off their traditional land and forcibly moved 375km north west of Brisbane to Barambah. Aboriginal people were brought from all over Queensland and Northern New South Wales to this government reserve. Under the Aborigines Protection Act of 1897 the settlement then called Barambah, was gazetted and established in 1904. In 1932, the name Barambah was then changed to Cherbourg due to a nearby property called “Barambah Station” which caused confusion in mail delivery.

However one fresh water tribe that was able to intermarry under trbal law with the Yugumber people was the Githabul tribe. They were never moved off their traditional lands. They eventually were moved to a government camp called Muli, at modern day Woodenbong Northern NSW.

Can’t Stop Me It’s Christmas! – Charlie Rebel release new xmas song to brighten your holiday cheer

It’s that time of year again and Charlie Rebel is here to help celebrate with a Christmas song, You can’t stop me it’s Christmas!

This Christmas time there are still lots of Gold Coast families and children struggling this time of year. You can help by donating to Paradise Kids at or Angels for the

Spend a little of your Christmas cheer to help those in need.

AUD451.2 – Technical Analysis Report Guy Cooper – Pearl Jam / Do the Evolution

Pearl Jam – Do the Evolution

3 minutes 54 seconds
140 BPM – 4/4 – D minor

The track I have chosen to analyse is ‘Do The Evolution’ by Pearl Jam (Vedder, E. Gossard, S. 1998, Track 7). ‘Do The Evolution’ was recorded in 1997 and was produced by Brendan O’Brien. It was recorded at Studio X in Seattle and Studio Litho in Washington. and then released on Feb 3rd 1998 by Sony Entertainment Inc on the album ‘Yield’ (Pearl Jam. 2001).

The song is 3 minutes and 54 seconds long and is around 140 bpm, the song fluctuates between 139 and 142 bpm and was therefore not recorded to a click track. The tempo was calculated using a tempo tap app on my phone called ‘Metronome’. The song is in D minor with the guitars and bass in standard E tuning, this was identified by analysing the bass melody and finding that it fits the D minor scale using the circle of 5ths. The song’s lyrics were written by Eddie Vedder, with the music written by Stone Gossard. (Pearl Jam – Do the Evolution Lyrics. 1999).

The members of the band are

Eddie Vedder – Vocals
Stone Gossard – Guitar
Mike McCready – Lead Guitar
Jeff Ament – Bass (although Jess Ament didn’t play bass on this song, Stone Gossard played the bass line)
Jack Irons – Drums
(Pearl Jam. 2001).

I chose this track due to the blend and panning of the 4-main distorted guitar and bass parts and the energy matched in the vocal performance. The song has a grunge rock sound with the mid-distorted guitars and heavy drum distortion, though the cymbals are not distorted. The vocals also have a heavy distorted sound, similar to a megaphone. The two guitarists work as one with a dry, raw, rhythm base and the 2nd doing lead lines with reverb and delay. The lyrics deal with the basic topic of the evolution of man and moving forward. Upon further research, I discovered that the song is based on the book ‘Ismael’ (Pearl Jam – Do the Evolution Lyrics. 1999).

The instruments used in the composition are as follows and are shown section by section in the following ‘Song Structure Map (Appendix 1)’.

Rhythm Guitar (strato-caster)
Vocal Yell

Kick, Snare, Hats, Crashx2
Bass (distorted)
Rhythm Guitar
Lead Guitar
Lead Vocal

Kick, Snare, Hats, Crash x1, Ride
Lead Guitar (Clean with delay)
Rhythm Guitar

Kick, Snare, Hats, Crash x1, Ride
Distorted Bass
Lead Guitar (Clean with delay)
Rhythm Guitar
Lead Vocal

Chorus Riff
Kick, Snare, Hats, Crash x1, Ride
Distorted Bass
Lead Guitar (Clean with delay)
Rhythm Guitar
Lead Vocal

Bridge A/B
Kick, Snare, Hats, Ride
Clean Guitar
Distorted Bass
6 Part Gospel Choir

Kick, Snare, Hats, Crash x1, Ride
Distorted Bass
Lead Guitar (Distorted with delay)
Rhythm Guitar
Lead Vocal Yells

Song Structure Map (Appendix 1)

The song structure map shows the progression of the different sections of the song along with the respective measures and time markers of each section. There are two interweaving rhythm guitar parts, one distorted and panned to the left and the other with less gain and panned to the right. The drums, bass and vocals carry through most of the track except for the intro, pre-chorus and bridge. The song also ends with a burning sample to mimic the end tail of an explosion.

Pearljam evo 

Spatial Map (Appendix 2)

The section I have chosen for the Spatial Map is the verse, which shows the mono drums, bass and vocal and the panning of the distorted rhythm to the left and the cleaner rhythm to the right. The track is very separated in the panning. There is some very slight reverb from the drums just outside the mono field, but it is still a mono reverb applied. This separation was analyzed with the use of a mid/side filter (Moylan, W. 2014).

Spatial Map 

Multilayer Stereo Localisation and Distance Location Map (Appendix 3)

The multilayer stereo localization and distance location map below shows the stereo panning and separation as the track progresses. Again the mid/side filter was used to identify the location of each instrument throughout the track (Moylan, W. 2014). The graph also shows the distance location of each instrument in relation to each other.

Multilayer Stereo Localisation and Distance Location Map 

Loudness Map (Appendix 4)

The loudness map below shows the dynamics throughout the song from the vinyl version of the song. The sections are listed along the x-axis and the loudness on the y-axis. The map shows the increase in loudness and intensity as the track progresses.

Loudness Map

The song starts with a single rhythm guitar playing the main riff with a high pass filter removing all the low end at around 500hz, this HPF switches off after 4 bars and gives the introduction of the drums and 2nd rhythm guitar more impact. The intro guitar is panned hard left and a 2nd rhythm guitar comes in after 4 bars and is panned hard right in contrast. Both rhythm guitars are dry in relation to time-based effects but have had light compression applied. The saturation from the tube distortion has reduced the dynamics of the left rhythm guitar, but this is less noticeable with the right panned rhythm guitar with less gain. This offset stereo rhythm guitar blend is similar to that used by Led Zeppelin in the track ‘Immigrant Song’ (Led Zeppelin. 1970. Track 1)

The song transitions from the intro into the 1st verse with a big screaming vocal yell “Woooooo”. The vocals are distorted with a tube type distortion applied in the mix, I can hear the dry vocal along with another distorted copy in the mix and both are set in the mono-field. The vocal has some light reverb on it with a very short decay of around 200ms (Rindel, J.H. 1995). The compression on the vocal is heavy, set around 4:1 or higher with a short attack and release. The crushed vocal sound is partly from the tube distortion and also by the brick-wall limiter that follows the compression. This was identified as part of the mix and not the master limiter through the comparative analysis of the vinyl version and CD version of the recording (Vedder, E. Gossard, S. 1998. CD/VINYL). The vinyl master has more dynamics in the mix (as shown in the loudness map appendix 4) sitting at around -13 LUFS, compared to the 1998 digital CD version with -9 LUFS and the remastered 2005 version that is on the streaming sites sitting around -7 LUFS. Through analysing the 3 different versions and particularly the vinyl version, you can see and hear that the master mix is not brick-wall limited, though the vocals still sound heavily crushed in all three versions, suggesting that it was done in the mix prior to mastering. The same is true for the drums, bass and guitar parts. The vocal is also sitting up front in the mix as seen in the spatial map appendix 2 and distance location map appendix 3.

The verse has a blend of a heavily distorted rhythm guitar panned to the left and a cleaner rhythm guitar panned to the right to allow more space for the drums, bass and vocals in the centre of the mix.

The song changes into the chorus through a pre-chorus and this only happens once in the song as seen in the song structure map appendix 1, the song’s structure only has 2 verses at the start with the chorus’s being broken up later in the track with bridges and a solo. The pre-chorus introduces a new guitar tone with a single low level distorted lead guitar panned hard left, this lead guitar part has some reverb similar in decay to the main vocal and again has some light compression on it, but is much more dynamic than the verse rhythm guitar. This guitar part is set against the same drum sound as the verse and this section also introduces a clean guitar chord strum on the right with a light chorus effect and again reverb.

The chorus returns with the wide panned guitars and the bass, kick, snare and hats in the centre of the mix with the vocals. The lead guitar riff comes in during the 2nd half of the chorus panned in the centre and takes over in the mix from the vocals helping to keep the energy of the track building. The overall loudness increases through the chorus and again in the solo and chorus riff sections that follow as seen in the loudness map appendix 4. The track is constantly building and lead mostly by the lead distorted guitar riff. The drums and bass are mixed relatively low in the mix and provide a very solid base for the rest of the instruments. The song has no toms in the fills and accents are done with the use of snare rolls and fills. This high energy grunge rock track does not follow a standard structure of any type, but increases in tempo, volume and intensity as it progresses.

The bridge consists of a prominent vocal gospel choir singing O’s and follows the lyric “There’s my church, I sing in the choir” (Pearl Jam. 2001). It also has a simple kick, snare, hats beat that is set closer than the choir vocals. The gospel choir parts consist of 3 layer voices with heavy reverb and some light delay set around 250ms, they have a light compression and are set behind the drums, which appear closer and drier in comparison. The main vocal is also below the choir in a very light tone and not distorted like the rest of the track.

The bass and guitar build back into the main chorus section along with the main vocal, but this time with much louder vocals than the 1st chorus, which gives the track a building and ever-increasing volume and energy level throughout. The solo/bridge has a heavily distorted and delayed guitar solo, the solo guitar returns in a similar tone to that used in the pre-chorus section, it has heavy compression and limiting with some light reverb and longer delay around 250ms. It also contains some vocal yells and accents. The last chorus riff section has very distorted vocals that blow out and lose control to give a very frantic and high energy tone. The song ends with another 10 bar chorus riff section than slowly fades out.

The drums throughout the track are set in the mono-field as seen in the multilayer stereo localisation map appendix 3. The heavy use of open hats and a simple backbeat kick and snare rhythm on the drums help drive the song. The drums are set further back into the mix than the guitars, allowing the guitars to lead and stand out. The mono panning of the drum kit also gives more space to the guitars in the track. The drums are a blend of close microphones and a mono room, the entire drum bus is compressed heavily with a short attack and long release, which helps contain the drums below the guitars and vocals. Both the snare and kick also have heavy compression and a light amount of reverb is on the snare. The compression and possibly limiting on the snare track helps bring out the hi-hats more and they are phasing slightly with the room mics. The use of the mono drum sound is similar as that used in David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ (Bowie, D. 1977. Track 3), it gives more attention and space for the stereo guitars in the mix.

The bass guitar is also distorted lightly with a Pii Big Muff distortion pedal (Pearl Jam. 2001). It is sitting behind the drums and guitars as the lowest instrument in the mix, providing a solid backing for the other parts. It has heavy compression of 4:1 or higher and remains further away than all the other instruments as seen in the distance location map appendix 3. The bass is also mono along with the vocals, both of which are only in the centre of the mix. The drums are mono, although the light reverb brings the snare and hats slightly into the stereo field, wider than the bass and vocals.

To more effectively analyse the frequency spectrum for each instrument, I utilised a combination of low and high pass filters, a real-time spectrum analyser and my ears as seen below in the screenshot (appendix 5). This separation method is effective when used in conjunction with the mid/side filter to identify different instruments and their frequency spectrum within a full mix (Everest, F. A., & Pohlmann, K. C. 2015).

Screenshot Example of Analysis Method (Appendix 5)

The vocal’s frequency spectrum is active between 250Hz and 16KHz with the entire mix is filtered off between 30Hz and 16KHz. The vocals are strongest around 2KHz with extra energy at this frequency, though they are fairly even due to the heavy compression and cover the majority of the full song’s spectrum. The gospel choir vocals in the bridge are strongest around 4KHz, with their low end filtered out around 300Hz.

The distorted rhythm guitars are high pass filtered around 200Hz to remove the low-frequency rumble and are strongest between 2KHz and 4KHz, dipping in energy around 8KHz. The clean rhythm guitars are similar, but with extra energy around 4KHz. The lead solo guitar is more even across the spectrum, covering from 100Hz up to 16KHz. The delay on both the solo guitar and choir vocals in the bridge appear to have a high pass filter around 800Hz. The bass has most of its energy in the mids and low mid frequencies, from 30Hz up to 800Hz. It is stronger around 500Hz and dips around 200Hz, with some low-end energy around 80Hz down to 30Hz, which appears to have been rolled off in the mastering.

The drums cover the songs full spectrum from 30Hz up to 16KHz. The kick drum is similar to the bass guitar, from 30Hz up to 800Hz, lacking in high-end frequencies. The snare also has its high end rolled off in frequency around 6Khz similar to the guitars. The cymbals have most of their energy in the high frequencies around 4KHz to 16KHz, the cymbals and the vocals are the only instruments in the 9KHz to 16KHz area. The cymbals also appear to be filtered off in the low end around 400Hz.

Overall the frequency spectrum has a mid and high-frequency bias for the song. The low end around 100Hz to 200Hz is mostly covered by the kick, bass guitar and vocals. The area around 2KHz to 4KHz is strongest consisting of the rhythm guitars, snare, cymbals and vocals.



Vedder, E. Gossard, S. (1998). Do The Evolution [Recorded by Pearl Jam]. On Yield [CD]. Seattle/Washington: Sony Music Entertainment Inc. (1997).

Vedder, E. Gossard, S. (1998). Do The Evolution [Recorded by Pearl Jam]. On Yield [VINYL]. Seattle/Washington: Sony Music Entertainment Inc. (1997).

Pearl Jam. (2001). Retrieved December 8, 2017, from

Pearl Jam – Do the Evolution Lyrics. (1999). Retrieved December 10, 2017, from

Moylan, W. (2014). Understanding and crafting the mix: The art of recording (3rd Ed.). Focal Press.

Led Zeppelin. (1970). Immigrant Song [Recorded by Led Zeppelin]. On Led Zeppelin III [CD]. Atlantic Recording Corporation.

Everest, F. A., & Pohlmann, K. C. (2015). The master handbook of acoustics. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Rindel, J.H. (1995) “Diffusion of Sound in Rooms – An Overview.” 15th ICA, Proceedings vol. 2. Trondheim, 1995.

Bowie, D. (1977). Heroes. On Heroes [CD]. Parlophone Records Ltd.

CIM402.2 Guy Cooper Audio Sculpture Installation Pitch Coral Pipes

Comprised of over 3000 individual reef systems, The Australian Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Its larger than the great wall of China and the only living thing on earth visible from space. (, 2017). The entire living organism contains some of the most diverse collections of marine life on the planet. The largest living structure on the planet, in Australia’s own backyard.

The tourism value alone generated by the Great Barrier Reef is said to be over 6.4 billion dollars each year.

With the changing climate, due to the man-made industrial revolution, the protection of this natural resource and our environment is the responsibility of all Australians. The continued mining expansion and burning of coal and fossil fuels is directly connected to the loss of this natural ecosystem. Franks, Brereton and Moran sum up the impacts of coal mining in respect to the environment and social human systems and the governments approaches.

“The expansion and contraction of the coal mining industry in Australia has placed pressure on regional communities and environments and multiplied the extent, magnitude and profile of cumulative impacts. While some mining communities have benefited from the expansion of the coal industry through the creation of jobs and the investment in economies, the compounding impacts of multiple mining operations have stretched environmental, social, human and economic systems and rendered conventional mine-by-mine governance approaches ineffective.” (Franks, D. M., Brereton, D., & Moran, C. J. 2010)

 Its up to all of us to do something, the hegemonic struggle between big business, coal mining and the environmental concerns of the people has long been a concern for many Australians. The Great Barrier Reef has experienced a decline of over 50% due to coral bleaching since the 1990’s and is hitting a critical point with the loss of this diverse ecosystem. (De’ath, G., Fabricius, K. E., Sweatman, H., & Puotinen, M. 2012)

Even as early as 1994, Swan, Neff and Young identified the connection between the discharge of offshore oil and gas exploration and their impact on the marine environment, saying that

“It is widely recognised that uncontrolled discharge of petroleum products or other materials from offshore oil and gas exploration and production wells, and from associated industrial operations including treatment and service facilities that are required to be on or near the coast, can have direct and sometimes deleterious impacts on the marine environment.” (Swan, J. M., Neff, J. M., & Young, P. C. 1994)

I propose to design and build a sonic sculpture that functions as an audio installation. Using organ pipes connected and sculptured into the shape of a coral formation. The sculpture is designed to be installed outdoors and the natural wind will blow through the pipes creating a low droning sound. The affect and sound is designed to have an eerie effect that represents the coral dying. The coral will be bleached white from the bottom half and colorful and moving in the wind on the top half. Bringing attention to the fact that coral is a living creature and that global warming is bleaching and killing one of the seven natural wonders of the world in our own backyard. It will serve as an anti-coal statement piece with piles of coal shaped rocks surrounding the base and solar and wind power generators on the top half powering the lighting system at night time. This sculpture is a call to arms to remind people that this living natural wonder is dying due to our intervention in the climate and directly, the mining that is going on and proposed on a larger scale in north Queensland.

The sculpture will bring attention to the connection between mining and the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, a reminder that it is a living organism that we are killing. I aim to reach an audience with a more direct and emotional connection via the physical sculpture and the sound it generates. Sonic sculptures can be more direct in generating emotional affect in people. The combination of visual aesthetics and auditory affect can be powerful in translating the message.

Sound or sonic sculptures are more affective than typical sculptures, drawing in the audience with a combination of the visual and auditory senses. The kinetic movement of the sculpture in the wind will also add interest and draw the viewer in for a closer look and more detailed analysis. I aim to have the sculpture being interactive through the use of oil pump leavers that will push air into the pipes and generate a louder droning sound.

A sound sculpture is somehow the earliest form of sound art. Suffice it to think about the lithophone Japanese-stone bells, where stone vibrates when struck by a mallet. Diachronically speaking, it was the Dada movement (20th century) that ritualized such tension thanks to the avant-garde and starting with Marcel Duchamp, e. g. A Bruit Secret(1916) – a ball of twine containing an unknown object producing a sound when shaken and Man Ray‘s Indestructible Object (1923/1958), a metronome with a photograph of an eye on pendulum.” (Napolitano, P. 2016)

Following on from my 2017 sonic sculpture, ‘Migaloo’s Song’ I aim to generate a more permeant installation. ‘Migaloo’s Song’ was a 10-metre long kinetic wind harp shaped in a one to one scale of Migaloo the white whale. It is the largest rigid steel bodied string harp in the world, with 310m of strings, tuned to E major7 and performs a complex 3-part whale song I composed to match the Humpback whale songs in nature. It won the Environmental Awareness Award and People’s Choice Award at the 15th anniversary of the Swell Sculpture Festival on the Gold Coast this year. While representing Migaloo, one of the natural visitors to the East Coast of Australia, the sound generated by the wind was also recorded and collaborated with by local musicians into a song called ‘We Become the Fire’.  The profits from the sale of the song went to Sea Shepard Australia and also brought awareness about the natural connection between humans the Humpback whales through music. The combination of physical sculpture and audio generation by nature created a connection between the natural world and science, bringing the ocean and Humpback whale’s life to the people on the beach at the festival.

Mood Board (Guy Cooper)

With the concept being based on coral formations, the actual form of the sculpture will be one large coral piece approx. 5m x 5m x 3m and be made primarily from steel organ pipes with fiberglass wrapping to be shaped into the form of coral. The bottom half of the sculpture will be bleached white and the top half will be still living with vivid colors and moving attachments that represent the living and breathing coral. The organ pipes will be placed with tunings from four directional sides so that the tones produced will be harmonious and depend on the wind direction to choose the chords. The affect created by the droning sounds and bleached bottom structure will attempt to mimic a marine graveyard.

The movement created at the top of the sculpture will follow kinetic work by Anthony Howe (Full Compilation of Kinetic Masterpieces by Anthony Howe, 2015) and help create the feeling that the coral is living. This movement covered in color will contrast with the static bleached white base of the coral structure.

Moving past the concept of music and sound being delivered in a linear function, the sonic sculpture creates a more immersive experience for the listener in the installations location at the time of viewing. Pasquale Napolitano discusses the potential of sound art to be more immersive in his article ‘About sonic sculpture. Between disciplines and categories’.

“Sound art rejects music’s potential to compete with other time-based and narrative-driven art forms. Sound art addresses definitely to a more immersive craving for perception: the sound in space.” (Napolitano, P. 2016)

The combination of sound and sculpture in Australia is considered to be of higher artistic worth in art circles. The use of physics and art in setting a more immersive environment for the audience, helps to translate the meaning of the piece in a more direct way than a innate structure.

The affective quality of the droning sounds generated from the wind blowing through the pipes will be in the key of Dminor and Bminor from either Northern and Southerly or Eastern and Westerly breezes respectively. Utilising lower and mid harmonic pipes that will resonate at around 35-70dB depending on the wind speed. The use of the wind to generate the sounds will create a breathing effect on the sound and tones and in addition to the moving parts on the top half, it will create the effect of living coral. The intension is to contrast to the living aspects of coral and that it is dying due to our effect on global warming and directly coal mining in Australia. The droning sound will attempt to mimic the quiet eeriness of the graveyard, the pipes of a funeral procession, the low solemn tones of respect and bereavement. The emotional impact of the concept of death and the funeral can be a powerful motivator in reaching the audience with this topic. Duffy discusses this impact in her 2010 article on ‘Sound Ecologies’.

“Sound is not simply a physiological outcome of hearing sonic qualities and, therefore, merely a background to what is happening in the everyday. Rather, what often goes undetected are the ways in which certain sounds are accorded particular personal and ideologically loaded meanings that have an emotional impact” (Duffy, M. 2010)

Although not everyone has the same reaction to sounds, the combination of the visual and audio will help direct the intention of the sculpture towards the view of the slow sad passing of the living reef due to the mining and its impact on one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

The large visual display of the oversized coral will help bring attention to the scale of the issue, setting an aesthetic display and contradiction between the vivid colourful coral sprouting life surrounded by renewable energy devices and the dying bleached white parts surrounded by coal. The solar and wind generators at the top suggest a way that we can have energy and thrive in a sustainable way with this ecosystem. The piece also shows that although it is dying, it is not dead yet and through our impact has been negative, the fact that we have an impact suggests that we could also make it a positive one. The focus for the solution will be that with renewable energy systems instead of coal mining, we can save the Great Barrier Reef.

The audience for this sonic sculpture is intended directly for people attending the 2018 Swell Festival Gold Coast, the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and Sculptures by The Sea in Sydney. A blend of the artistic community and public. The sculpture will be artistically and aesthetically pleasing, as a visual piece of man-made natural form and the addition of the sound element will draw more emotion from the viewer towards the intention of the piece.

Other kinetic pipe organ sculptures I have sourced for inspiration include the ‘Wave Organ’ (Wave Organ, 2016) by Peter Richards and George Gonzalez in San Fransico, which uses the wave and tidal movements to amplify the sound of water and the ocean. The Singing Tree (The Singing, Ringing Tree, 2007) by Tonkin Liu Architects in Burnley, UK, a collection of steel pipes that utilise the wind to create sound. The ‘Aeolus’ at the Eden Project’(Aeolus at the Eden Project, 2011) by Luke Jerram in the UK and the ‘Zadar Sea Organ’ (Zader Sea Organ, 2015) by Nikola Basic in the town of Zadar in Croatia.

In all of the examples above, it is the combination of visual and sound that deliver the meaning. Although the intention and meaning of the creators is up for interpretation by the audience. All also require a physical visit to fully appreciate as the pieces are one-off sculptures. Video and audio recordings can simulate the experience, but the location in which the pieces are set to play an integral role. The piece will force the audience to not only consume the visuals but also encourage them to decode the meaning of the sculpture. The strong visual statement from the coal piles and bleached coral will hint at the purpose and the eerie and morbid sounds will evoke strong emotional reactions and feelings towards the uncomfortable topic of death.

The surrounding landscape of the beach and ocean on the Gold Coast and Sydney complement the sculpture and create sounds or pieces of music that are time dependent for those locations and the wind or tidal changes that exist in that moment. Moving around the sculpture the audience will experience different sonic effects and visual perspectives.

George Klein discusses the perception of sound sculptures on the environment in his 2009 book ‘Site Sounds: On strategies of sound art in public space’.

“It was not until the development of sound installation art that space was discovered in a concrete manner. The specificity of a certain space could be brought out: sound artists work with the atmosphere of a particular space, its acoustic conditions and its visual and architectonic characteristics, to which they carefully give a new timbre or which they present dramatically through the medium of sound. The sound of a space is no longer one of several compositional dimensions, but moves to the centre of perception as sound space, as space that is made to resound, which is reflected in the behaviour of the recipient. If the visual focus of a performing musician or ensemble is removed and listeners are no longer compelled to sit in fixed seats but can move around freely within the space, a much stronger spatial perception is possible.”(Klein, G. 2009)

The location and environment are integral to the aesthetics and concept of the sculpture. As Klein suggests the sound installation art creates a concrete space in which the acoustics and timbre of the sounds interact with the user as they explore the sculpture, walking around it, hearing and visualizing the changes that exist in that space. The affect will be contradictory, viewing the beauty of the top half of the coral, the movement and harmonious sounds, set against the dying graveyard on the bottom half. Intended to bring up uncomfortable feelings of remorse and death of a living creature due to man’s use of coal and burning fossil fuels.

Going back to Duffy’s 2010 book ‘Sound Ecologies’, the audio and sonic qualities of the sculpture can also help effect how we listen and how we think, he says that,

“Maybe, too, we need to distinguish how we hear from how we listen. Jean-Luc Nancy defines hearing in terms of understanding and comprehension, while listening (the French term ecouter) is an experience of sound in which we donft fully interpret the experience.2 Listening, then, is perhaps more aligned to our emotional and bodily responses than to our sonic environments. Such a framework has implications for understanding the role of sound in social processes and place-making. Sound is not simply a background to the (visual, social) world. Instead, our social relationships help comprise particular spatial contexts, and sounds provide a range of affective affordances appropriated by individuals to deeply inform not only how to move and mingle but crucially also how to think” (Duffy, M. 2010)



Australia’s Great Natural Wonder. (n.d.). Retrieved December 13, 2017, from

Franks, D. M., Brereton, D., & Moran, C. J. (2010). Managing the cumulative impacts of coal mining on regional communities and environments in Australia. Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal28(4), 299-312.

De’ath, G., Fabricius, K. E., Sweatman, H., & Puotinen, M. (2012). The 27–year decline of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef and its causes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences109(44), 17995-17999.

Swan, J. M., Neff, J. M., & Young, P. C. (1994). Environmental implications of offshore oil and gas development in Australia. The finding of an independent scientific review.

Napolitano, P. (2016, June 11). About Sonic Sculpture. Between Disciplines Categories. Retrieved December 12, 2017, from

Duffy, M. (2010). Sound ecologies. Cultural Studies Review, 16(1), 43-59. Retrieved from

Georg Klein (2009). Site-Sounds: On strategies of sound art in public space. Organised Sound, 14, pp 101­108 doi:10.1017/ S1355771809000132

(2016, April 24). Wave Organ. Retrieved December 12, 2017, from

(2007, January 07). The Singing, Ringing Tree. Retrieved December 12, 2017, from

(2011, September 22). Aeolus at the Eden Project. Retrieved December 12, 2017, from

(2015, March 10). Zader Sea Organ. Retrieved December 13, 2017, from

(2015, June 12). Full Compilation of Kinetic Masterpieces by Anthony Howe. Retrieved December 13, 2017, from



Neil Perry Research Lecturer, Western Sydney University. (2017, November 29). What’s the economic value of the Great Barrier Reef? It’s priceless. Retrieved December 13, 2017, from

(2009, March 30). Great Barrier Reef, Exploring Oceans. Retrieved December 13, 2017, from

(2015, October 05). Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Retrieved December 13, 2017, from

(2016, August 28). First Ever Footage: Watch Coral Bleaching Happen Before Your Eyes, National Geographic. Retrieved December 13, 2017, from

(2017, March 29). Digging for Hope. Retrieved December 13, 2017, from

New Charlie Rebel JAPAN film-clip STARE AT THE SUN

The new film-clip for the Charlie Rebel STARE AT THE SUN single is out now. Compiled with footage from the Japan tour we had a few months ago, along with the full ep at We had a wild time and will be heading back to Japan in May 2018 with a new album.
Human Records.

Media Ecology: Is Technology Moral?

Neil Postman asks in his 1993 book ‘Technopoly: the surrender of culture to technology’ (Postman, 1993), is technology moral? As technology changes, the culture surrounding it and the way in which people use technology to communicate also changes. We are driven to participate in media through society, our western culture dictates that in order to stay connected with those around us, we must use the new technologies. The media environment that we exist in today defines the range of responses and actions that we take, the way we communicate with others and puts restrictions on the full human experience that we would have had prior to the digital revolution. Lance Strate suggests the following,

“As environments, media do not determine our actions, but they define the range of possible actions we can take, and facilitate certain actions while discouraging others.” (Strate, 2008)

His paper on ‘Studying media as media’ (Strate, 2008) delves into the study of media ecology focusing on Marshall McLuhan’s work in the book ‘The Medium is the Massage’ (McLuhan, M., Fiore, Q., & Agel, J, 1967). Media ecology is the study of media as media and McLuhan, Strate and Postman all point at the situation that as media and technology change, it is important that we are aware of how the medium (the technology) is altering the way in which we send and perceive the message it contains.

Technology is embedded in everyday life for most of us, access to the internet with customized information is available in our pockets and all around us. It would seem that the advancement of new technologies in entertainment, communication and connectivity is continually pushed forward for the sake of consumerism and financial gain without any thought into the social and human ways in which we have learnt to interact prior. Technology can shape the way we interact in a positive way by bringing people together geographically, giving rise to independently sharing ideas, events and concerns that would have previously been suppressed by old media and government control. This is seen directly for most people in the use of social media sites.


But in contrast, this new media environment is also growing unchecked and the overload of information, content created by all users in a convergence culture (Jenkins, 2008) is what Postman is suggesting could create a disconnection between using the technology and being used by the technology. Is technology being moral in developing ways and mediums of communicating media faster than we can make sense of the ethically right way of adapting to it?

“Whatever the consequences of the messages we send, it is the media we use that play the leading role in human affairs; it is our technologies that shape us individually and collectively. It may be true that a good part of what we call reality is a social construction, but the construction we end up with is not necessarily one that we intended to build.” (Strate, 2008)

In my lifetime since 1980, I have seen the rise of the personal computer and the connection of this to the network we call the internet. It has drastically changed and shaped the way we find and collate information, while much more is available with ease from my home, I have found less of a need to transcribe and collect my own thoughts on topics, rather relying on searching for others thoughts and research. In hindsight, it is clear to see where the moral and ethical consequences of the impact of media and technology on society have made mistakes and could be improved. The adaptation of new media and technology always seems to come first without the thought of its effects.

Neil Postman’s views on the effects of technology on culture (Postman, 1993) are drawn from a standpoint of creating the discussion around the topic. This awareness of the cultural impacts that technology has on us is perhaps the main trigger that is needed in order to make an ethical judgement on our use and interaction with new media. I don’t consider Postman’s views to be extreme, but rather an introduction to thinking before we leap into changing the way we communicate with each other. At the time it was introduced in the mid-early nineties, we were beginning to see the rise of the new internet SLIP/PPP protocols (PPP and SLIP protocols, 2017) that constantly connects our digital devices to a network that today spans the globe. Postman’s metaphor at the time was relevant to the change from written and oral communication to print and TV, but its even more important in today’s culture as digital mediums slowly reform all forms of print, written, oral and video media. In this video, he discusses his book and defines what he refers to as technology.


Strate suggested that McLuhan’s goals were to communicate that we should take care in paying attention to the medium, as it can direct the ways in which we live our lives.

“McLuhan’s goal was the liberation of the human mind and spirit from its subjugation to symbol systems, media, and technologies. This can only begin with a call to pay attention to the medium, because it is the medium that has the greatest impact on human affairs, not the specific messages we send or receive. It is the symbolic form that is most significant, not the content. It is the technology that matters the most, its nature and its structure, and not our intentions. It is the materials that we work with, and the methods we use to work with them, that have the most to do with the final outcome of our labors.” (Strate, 2008)

The discussion and study of media as media, media ecology is an important step to deciphering the paths and methods of adapting to the new media technologies. While not all new technologies are considered useful to our lives, change in technologies and the ways in which they integrate into our lives are inevitable. It is perhaps only after using and then considering what we have lost with new technologies, that it can become apparent the precautions that should have been taken. Each user has a choice to some extent to involve or not involve themselves in the changing media landscape, but failure to do so can result in being uninformed to the current situations and events. As new media technologies arise, it is important for users to change their habits and become more aware of how they themselves fit into the media environment and this awareness can help lead us to a more balanced media ecology.



Postman, N. (1993). Technopoly: the surrender of culture to technology. New York: Vintage Books.

Lance Strate (2008), Studying Media AS Media: McLuhan and the Media Ecology Approach, MediaTropes eJournal Vol I (2008): 127–142

McLuhan, M., Fiore, Q., & Agel, J. (1967). The medium is the massage: an inventory of effects. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Jenkins, H. (2008). Convergence culture: where old and new media collide. New York: New York University Press.

PPP and SLIP protocols. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2017, from

B. (2009, October 19). Retrieved November 28, 2017, from


Creative Statement – Guy Cooper

Media Ecology share

AUD451 TET Distortion & Quantization Error

Guy Cooper Distortion TET.png

The sound used to analyze the quantization error created by the bit depth change was the preloaded full drum kit recording. The cymbal-heavy sections were difficult to determine the changes, but the lower frequency tom sections and quieter sections made it easy.

A sound with less audio content would make it easier to hear the quantization error. The dynamic range is 96.33dB at 16bit, 72.22dB at 12bit, 48.16dB at 8bit, 24.08dB at 4bit and 12.04dB at 2bit. (Smith, 2007)

Therefore it would be easy to determine the quantization error noise if you can aurally analyze the noise in the signal during sections with less audio content. (Corey, J. 2010)

The quantization error is more noticeable in the higher frequencies due to the larger and changes in level per sample. Sounds with lots of high-frequency content such as cymbals would make it harder to hear the noise created by the quantization error due to masking.

“Critical bands are important in many audio disciplines. For example, codecs such as AAC, MP3, and WMA are based on the principle of masking. A tone (a music signal) will mask quantization noise that lies within a critical band centred at the tone’s frequency. However, if the noise extends outside the critical band, it will not be masked by the tone. One critical band is defined as having a width of 1 bark (named after German physicist Heinrich Barkhausen).” (Everest, F. A., & Pohlmann, K. C. 2015)

Smith, J. (2007). “Pulse Code Modulation (PCM)”. Mathematics of the Discrete Fourier Transform (DFT) with Audio Applications, Second Edition, online book.

Corey, J. (2010). Audio production and critical listening: Technical ear training. Burlington, MA: Focal Press.

Everest, F. A., & Pohlmann, K. C. (2015). The master handbook of acoustics. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Affect and aesthetics in music creation & how does music make us feel?

How do you create music that affects people? I’m a person, can I not simply create music and media that speaks a certain aesthetic emotion to myself and assume that others will feel the same emotions? Are there universal connections that can be made between the emotions that people feel and the sounds that generated them?

Music is considered one of the most emotionally connecting art forms, it’s can conjure up memories in our heads, make us mentally stronger or help us process heartbreak. Blanchard & Acree talk about music and its effect on emotions, saying that music helps to enhance their emotions and compares it to a close friend.

“Music has been my steadfast friend on my happiest days and on my saddest. It has enhanced my fondest moments and soothed my greatest heartaches.” (Blanchard & Acree, 2007)

This comparison suggests a strong relationship between the music and the emotions it triggers, but are those triggers universally connected to the same emotions for every person? What emotion or affect do you feel when listening to this Adele song?

(Adele – Someone Like You, 2011)

Milliman suggested in his 1973 journal article ‘Using background music to affect the behaviour of supermarket shoppers’ that music is generally used as an entertainment medium but can also be used to achieve other objectives in production facilitates or retail stores to produce certain attitudes and behaviours. But despite the widespread use of the music in the marketplace, research documenting the actual effects of the specific music is limited and the results are varied and inconclusive. (Milliman, 1982)

Most of us feel something when a song connects with us, it might be the lyrics, the melody, or the tone and frequencies of the sound itself. Myskja and Lindbaek talk about this physical effect on the body in their book ‘How does music affect the human body?’. Their research leads to how music can affect physical reactions in our bodies, but again that the specific type of music to create different reactions are unclear.

“Research has shown that music may influence central physiological variables like blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, EEG measurements, body temperature and galvanic skin response. Music influences immune and endocrine function. The existing research literature shows growing knowledge of how music can ameliorate pain, anxiety, nausea, fatigue and depression. There is less research done on how music, and what type of music, is utilized and administered specifically for optimum effect in specific clinical situations.” (Myskja & Lindbaek, 2000)

In 2009 Marin and Bhattacharya discussed in more depth the research and connection between music and emotion (Marin & Bhattacharya, 2009), discussing that different people respond to music emotionally in different ways. Cultural differences, familiarity and even gender can change how different people perceive the specific affect in a piece of music.  Also that someone with more musical experience such as musician, might feel a completely different emotion to someone else due to focusing on other technical attributes of the song. Perhaps you are someone that listens to the lyrics and vocals or maybe you are focusing on a particular rising melody on the guitars.

It is possible, however, that our perception of the emotion in music could be connected with other people who have had similar experiences in life to us. Denora also spoke of a similar situation, that we can draw many different emotions from music when listening, attempting to definitively define the specific emotions and how they will affect different people is again unclear.

“At the level of the listening experience, for example, music seems imbued with affect while, at the level of analysis, it seems perpetually capable of eluding attempts to specify just what kind of meaning music holds and just how it will affect its hearers.” (DeNora, 2000)

Serrano-Puche also states when discussing the connection between emotions and digital technologies, that as well as the technology helping deliver the emotion, that this connection also affects those we are connected to around us on social media for example.

“We can conclude that the technology not only serves as a channel for the expression of the affections of the people but also contributes to model these affections.” (SERRANO-PUCHE, 2015)

Focusing back on an initial question of, can I not simply create music and media that speaks a certain aesthetic emotion to myself and assume that others will feel the same emotions? I would say yes, but only if the audience was from a similar generation and geographical location as myself.

Technology also plays a large role in delivering and persuading our emotions today. (SERRANO-PUCHE, 2015) Perhaps our reaction to events, music and film in the western world are closer globally, how we respond to music and the experience we all have is possibly becoming more similar and hence the emotions we take from certain musical cues can also become more similar. Although I would still expect that there is a divide between my perception of emotion in a piece of music and that of people in non-western countries.

Regardless of other people picking up on the same affect I was attempting to put into productions, embedding any emotion into art is most likely going to be beneficial. So assuming the audience has had a similar cultural experience to me, how can I create music that affects people in my production process?

To me, the vocals in most music recordings and productions are often the most human element and the delivery of the lyrics can be as important as the lyric content itself. My production method on most songs starts with identifying the core emotion or narrative of the song. Sometimes this can be from lyric content but it is often more apparent from the tempo, flow and delivery of the main melody and/or vocal. Once this core emotion has been identified and discussed with the artist, we follow through with instrumentation, production, effects and layering that we feel best translates this emotion to the audience.

Below is a list of songs that I would consider have the affect of both heartbreak and then also strong in overcoming that pain.

In the verses of each vocalists tone and delivery, you can hear the dragging of the voice, the slight breakup and vibrato, long slower notes, a more whispered and almost traumatized vocal, suggesting the frailness of the singer. Quieter in level and more dynamic, less if perhaps any reverb/delay and more isolated vocals, often with just one or two other low octave ranged instruments (bass, piano, cello).

This is then contrasted with the change (often in the chorus, sometimes at the end of the song) into a louder and more even tone. A vocal that is rising above the instruments in level and thickness, opening up the diaphragm and projecting. Heavy compression, more balanced frequency range and heavier reverb/delay. Often more instrumentation adds to the rise and change in this emotion.

This change from heartbreak into strong was the same combination of affects that were used when I was producing Holly Terren’s’ song ‘Not The Same’, it was essential to translate the feeling, that the main vocal was delivered in the verses while in the same emotional state as Holly felt when she wrote the song.

(Terrens, H. 2016. Not The Same.)

The track deals with issues of relationship breakdown and the changes we go through in separating from a romantic partner, moving onto the strength of how she has changed. At the time we recorded this song, Holly had moved on from the emotions she felt when it was written and the initial recordings were strong and smoothly delivered, which suited very well for the choruses, but lacked the emotional connection to the original meaning of the song for the verses.

To get the vocal take that best expressed the affect of the song, I asked Holly to try and bring herself back into the emotional mindset she was in when the breakup was occurring. The resulting takes connected better with the intent of the track, coaching her towards the slight dragging of each line and breathing patterns help enhance the affect of the song to the audience. The breaking up of the breath at the end of certain lines added to the feeling that the singer was shaken and in some distress. This fragility in the vocal helped to translate the emotional state of heartbreak to the audience. This is complemented with the melodically complex piano part expressing the confusion in the thoughts by Holly. The underlying cello and flute parts were used initially to drag Holly’s voice and help her rise and fall while keeping the voice isolated and in an intimate space. As stated earlier this could translate differently to someone from a different age group and nationality to Holly and myself.

The transition into the ‘answer’ section is the chorus with the entry of the drums, bass, guitar and extra vocal parts, it changes the tone and affect into a strong and more positive feeling, the rise from the depression and confusion of the verses. The vocals are returning to be on the main pulse, double tracked, more compression and the introduction of thicker layering and more powerful sounds.

As a producer, the direction of the performing artists in relation to their emotional states as they perform is essential to capturing that extra 10% in the part. We are recreating and re-telling the affect that created the songs we write and produce. The choice of key, octaves, melodic and percussive movement, tonality in the instrument, pickups, amp, microphone and preamp choice, equalization, compression and effects all add to the affect, but the essential element was emotionally placing the performer into the mindset of the content. This was done in this case, by removing Holly from the studio, placing her in a more intimate space, changing the lighting and prompting her with questions that lead her back to feeling the emotions she was experiencing at the creation of the song. Followed of course by a hug and bringing her back to her current reality.

I applied a similar technique in the track ‘Kingdom of Glass’ by the band ‘The Matador’ from their 2012 album ‘Decent into the Maelstrom’. A long progressive metal track, it transitions between two main emotions, a softer longing and exploration of the main melody that transitions into anger at around 4mins.

(The Matador. Kingdom of Glass. 2012)

The initial instrumental intro over the first 4 mins is the introduction to the album and the live show, it was explained to me as setting the scene and was to express the amazing technicality of nature, life and the earth. The descending 4ths and overlaying polyrhythms from the bass and drums create two separate lines of production that follow the same base tempo, for this, the band was separated into two rooms and imagery was mapped out to help keep the flow of the progressions.

The issue with applying affect for this track came with the change around 4mins in with the vocals again. Musically and Instrumentally we can change the tonal mix, tempo, time signature, timbre, physical performance and sounds to match the anger aesthetic, but the vocals didn’t match the intensity required. The complexity of the melodies was being overthought and it caused the singer to deliver technically accurate lines, loud and throttled in an angry tone, but lacked the out of control anger required for the change.

To put the vocalist in a mindset to that allowed him to stop thinking about the timing and key changes and focus on the attitude, I removed the band from the live rooms and went in to make him angry. Attacking and somewhat physically assaulting him back into a physically angry emotional state and then making him do the new takes right away yielded a much better result. Again, followed by a hug and an explanation.

Both examples have shown me that while I can adapt the sound and production to suit the affect and emotion required for a song, the emotional state of the performer is required to match to get great takes. The difference in the takes is seen through the audience and industry reaction to hearing the songs. As humans, we have learnt communication through life with other humans and part of this is understanding physical and verbal cues that help us understand the people around us. It is essential to me when performing music that we not only attempt to recreate these emotions in small movements but to return to that mind space to fully and effectively translate this into the physical actions that represent them.



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