Digital Audio Basics

This first audio project was right up my alley.  I’m a fairly serious audiophile and total music snob, and many in my peer group are the same way. This means I’ve spent some time in music “studios” in friends’ parents’ basements tinkering with audio sequencing programs like Logic and Reason.  Some of my friends have gone on to find some success in music production, while I realized lacked both the patience for seven-hour mastering sessions and the ability for strict sequential thought processes required for this skill. At any rate, my basic background in audio editing made this project a breeze.  It reminded me that I still have some skills, though unfortunately they’ll probably never pay any of my bills.

Below are two sound files imported from Soundcloud.  The first is the raw audio, featuring yours truly on vocals, reciting jumbled numbers one through ten. The second file is the edited version, where all the numbers have been rearranged and presented in the correct order.

The purpose of this assignment is to become familiar with simple audio editing software. I used a program called Audacity for Mac OS.  After losing track of the lamelib file I needed to transcode the proprietary audio file (my Mac didn’t prompt correctly), I spent an hour feverishly trying to track it down.  Eventually I succeeded, and I discovered that Audacity is very simple and easy to use. . . once you get it installed.  Cutting, copying, and pasting couldn’t be more intuitive, and I completed the assignment in only a few minutes. I expected the edit to sound more unnatural, considering the numbers were out of order when I spoke them aloud, but it happens that a dry monotone helps to cover up incongruities in tone or cadence.

Counting and reordering was a useful exercise, but recording ambient audio required some creativity, and it was a challenge I was anxious to meet.  I realized right away that the volume on my Sony digital recorder didn’t just stop at 11, I could crank it all the way to 30.  I thought that might be overdoing it, and I wanted to minimize white background noise, so I dialed the volume down to 23 and began recording. It was easier to covertly record someone in a crowd than to take their picture, and so I boldly recorded the checkout at Target in Casper, motorcycles on the street, and assorted racket from around campus. In headphones, the levels sounded good, if a little loud, and I turned the recorder down a few clicks before continuing.

After two days of aggressive sampling, I uploaded the sounds to my laptop.  To my dismay, almost every file was congested with the white noise I had tried to avoid.  The fuzz was often accompanied by other background distractions like traffic or distant stereos I hadn’t noticed when recording.  Undeterred, I set out again to record, and this time I turned my recorder down to 10, which seemed to do the trick.  In fact, you be the judge. Here are a few of my faves.

Modem is the only premeditated sound I recorded for this project. My grandparents live in a very rural neighborhood on the extreme outskirts of Casper, Wyoming that has no broadband service, and I love the weird clicks and twisted tones of old dial-up modems.  I recorded the whole process, which took about 30 seconds, and then pared it down to the most recognizable ten seconds.  It may seem obvious, but I imagine this sample between audio interviews in a story about the inaccessibility of high-speed internet for large numbers of perhaps less tech-savvy rural families around America.

Printer is a recording of the printer in my house, and it is possibly the worst Hewlett Packard product of all time. While my hatred of this engineering catastrophe is nearly infinite, I feel slightly less ripped-off now that it provided me, at least, with a cool sample.

Telephone is instantly recognizable to anyone who’s ever worked in an office, although it may throw some off to hear only one phone ringing. I called a phone in the main office of Natrona County High School in Casper to capture the ring of a modern-yet-obsolete office phone.

Dogs eating is the sound of my parents’ two labs diving into their dinner in Casper.

Dogs Panting is the same two dogs. Apparently they were happy to see me when I visited my folks’ house in Casper last weekend!

Water swirl was created with a long stick in a small pond: my grandparents’ fish pond on their property in Casper.

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