A Sense of Place

Unit One: Sound Creation and Manipulation

We seem at first to be in the Electronic World still, flying over a vast circuit board lit by countless dots of light. […] As we fly over the grid, descending, the image comes into clearer focus, and we realize that this is not a circuit board, but rather an actual landscape, a suburban grid at twilight (Haas, 1981).

While many of us interact with computers and technology on a daily basis, very few of us know (or even care) what goes on inside these little ‘black boxes’. All we see and hear are the inputs and outputs; we have very little (if any) idea about the internal workings of these ubiquitous devices.

Inspired by a scene from the 1982 science fiction movie Tron, I decided to go ‘on location’ from deep within this hidden ‘Electronic World’, and, with the aid of a telephone pick-up coil, a digital recorder and a copy of Pro Tools, send back a transmission from this strange and unfamiliar place.

Looking for all the world like the business end of a doctor’s stethoscope, the telephone pick-up coil probes into this microscopic world of electrical impulses. Via its finely tuned ear, the sparks from a trillion tiny switches are transformed through Faraday’s law of induction into the amplified roar of an information autobahn.

Layering these ‘field recordings’ to computer, my goal was to create what artist Steve Roden referred to as a ‘possible landscape’ (2005). Through sound, I hope to evoke a sense of the wide-open spaces contained within the humble integrated circuit.


Haas, C. (1981) Tron: fourth draft screenplay [Internet], 6 April. Available from: <http://www.imsdb.com/scripts/TRON.html> [Accessed 14 December 2010].

Roden, S. (2005) What are you doing with your music? In: Marley, B. & Wastell, M. eds. Blocks of Consciousness and the Unbroken Continuum. London: Sound 323.


Tutor Rob Mullender’s comments:

This is a great sounding piece. The subtleties of the sounds you gathered from electronic paraphernalia come out well, and benefit from the gentle phasing and pitch-shifts you have employed, which don’t dominate proceedings. The sound environment is nicely constructed – again not too showy – and the voices describing the workings of a computer do their job effectively; although they threaten to get lost in the mix at times. The overall compositional shape is a little flat, but that doesn’t detract; in fact it might be said to be appropriate. […] All in all, a compelling listen, and a very successful piece.


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