[City of Voids] Individual Moodbox

(Made with AudioSauna and Audacity.)

A gentle breeze sweeps across the iridescent water, clear but for the occasional trout darting to the surface, and diving again as a small hand reaches to touch. A mother’s hand pulls the pouting child back from his precarious position, leaning over the edge. Under arched bridges of swaying wind chimes, the small gondola skims the water, leaving ripples in its wake. Leaves rustle as the wind blows again, the excitable child skipping off the boat as it reaches the docks of the town square, the prudent mother carefully stepping onto the elevated stone pavement as she hurries after the running child. It’s a happy celebration, but still one to be treated with reverence than wild merriment, and she chides the child to calm him down as she catches hold of his hand, leading him to the fountain around which the townspeople have gathered.

My music background is dubious, but I like composing, singing and harmonising, so I decided to remix it. It was too plain, so I added chords. The ending note didn’t seem to be an ending note, so I replaced it to make a cadence. I couldn’t quite synthesise the rustle sound, so I generated Brownian noise to replace it. It sounded too harsh, so I added airy vocals with legato. There wasn’t enough bass and the synthesiser’s bass was horrible, so I added vocals again. It’s a lot gentler than the original which juxtaposes harsh sounds against the softness of the resonating glockenspiel, but well.

I also like descriptive writing, so that’s the short passage I wrote upon hearing the sound, and Cheryl’s comment that it sounded like a festival. The remixed version is somewhat melancholic too, a precursor to a short passage about the world beneath the water, which reveals a darker side of the city of dreams: that those who are unloved by god are left there to work endlessly in drudgery, supporting the happy world above, where the beloved are unaware of, and unconcerned about their plight. That’s to link with the 2nd sound, which was eventually used for our final model, but you can see more about that sound over at Vanessa and Clara’s OSS posts!

The featured image is basically what I was imagining with the sound. Less green and more cyan, though. Also, here’s the original sound, which is a lot harsher sounding and fast paced.

I opted to work with paper, mostly because I happened to already have a pre-built box made of cartridge paper, and didn’t know what to do with it because it had been made on a whim at 3am under the influence of insomnia.

There was also the element of softness and elegance I felt the paper brought through, regardless, especially where it works well with warm lighting since it’s somewhat yellowed. (I also used washi tape which created a similarly soft feel to me).

I didn’t particularly observe the soundwave forms, instead opting to look more at how each sound “felt” to me, in terms of things like pitch, rhythm and timbre.

  • Scraping: Pitch is relatively low, but not the lowest I could possibly imagine, so it’s still above ground. I find that its timbre is rather rough, and as such I cut out triangles. Nevertheless, the sound is “flat” in a lack of inflections, and it has a smooth flow, such that I opted to make it a flat plane, and the triangles still give it a sense of unity in being a geometrically perfect shape.
  • Rustling: The sound has a directional flow, one that isn’t straight as opposed to curving. It also feels slender and has a diminuendo, so I made it into strips which flow from top to bottom. The sound itself is somewhat jagged, though, so I made it broken planes. It’s also a compilation of many of the same sounds, which sounds like falling beads, so I hole-punched many circles on the strips to indicate that.
  • Chiming: The sounds come in 2 groups of 3, which pierce the rustling. It’s a relatively high pitch, so I positioned above the ground.

I find that the glockenspiel chiming sound is tragically lacking, and it might have been nicer if it had been hovering (pardon the poor Photoshop):

If I could remake it again, perhaps I would consider the following materials to evoke each sound more:

  • Scraping: Balsa wood, a light-coloured one. Preferably with some woodbending involved to create a slight curve as per the slight taper of the scrape, though overall still flat.
  • Rustling: Beads, a lot of them glued together to form the strips which flow
  • Chiming: Something metallic and spherical, I’m not quite sure what, since it would be better if it was also somewhat soft with fading edges.