Hi Nathan, please introduce yourself and Noise Jockey:
I’m a multi-disciplinary designer, and sound has been a consistent thread across most of the work that I do, from motion design to software interfaces to interactive installations. Growing up, I made audio collages on dual cassette recorders, and in college I got exposed to synthesis in college after years of playing saxophone and guitar.
I started making electronic music, releasing an album and doing a bunch of remixing, and I eventually realized that I liked designing sounds as much, or more, as composing. Being a heavy sampler user, field recording was the logical next step in my search for unique sounds. At a certain point, field recording became the ends, as well as the means, and that’s when Noise Jockey was born.
The blog itself focuses on documenting my explorations, experiments, and discoveries, but I’ve also found it natural to write articles on workflow, technology, technique, and creativity. Sound design and field recording share so much with other creative disciplines, and my whole career has involved hybridizing workflows and processes between those disciplines, so I try to share those stories when I can.
My creativity is cyclical, from visuals to sound design to music and back again, and the blog format is perfect for flexing along with my own interests. I just wasn’t ready for how well it would be received…frankly, I’m even now surprised that blogs like yours express interest in what I do. That’s been a huge unexpected honor.
Finally, I like sharing my failures as much as my successes. I think we all have more of those than we care to admit, and we can learn faster from our failures.
What’s been one of the best moments running Noise Jockey?
The single best thing to come out of Noise Jockey has been the unexpected friendships with those in the audio community. My background and work is atypical of those in the sound design, recording, and post-production industries, and I try to be really clear that while audio is part of what I do professionally, I’m not a career audio professional.
However, I’ve still found the sound design community to be the most open and warm professional discipline I’ve ever seen. It’s far more welcoming, more supportive, and less argumentative than, say, the world of interaction design, or filmmakers, or graphic design. (Illustrators, for some reason, are also super mellow and egalitarian, like audio post folks.) I try to pay forward their kindness, and how much they’ve taught me, whenever I can.
I like stories that start conversations. I did an article on the true Toffler-esque concept of prosumerism, and not only did that resonate with readers, but it allowed me to reach out to some of my heroes for help and advice on the piece. One of my audio posts got picked up by the photography community via Strobist.com, and I think that’s my single most-read post…which I love, because it has the single-most annoying/painful sound I’ve ever recorded!
What’s one of your favorite field recordings you’ve shared on the blog?
My favorite recordings are those done in the late hours of the night or the early hours of the morning. It could be of frogsong in a desert, the sound of elk bugling, or the sound of rain in an abandoned bunker. Besides being calming to listen to, they remind me of that vital mind-body connection that never happens sitting in front of a computer.
I remember the coffee I needed, the hike I needed to take, how cold it was, and that, right then, no one else in the universe had my perspective and opportunity to record that sound. That kind of recall from just a stream of sequenced ones and zeros is just mind boggling.
When field recording becomes autotelic – that is, when the action itself is the reward and the reason – one reaches a state of flow and you inhabit the moment with an amazing sense of expanded awareness.
It’s those recordings that express a unique moment in time that I adore. And no one else will probably ever have that reaction, because they weren’t there, and they weren’t me.
What particularly excites you in sound at the moment?
Sound design has new opportunities for enriching all manner of new devices and experiences. From wearables to virtual reality to electric cars, there are new platforms for sound delivery that have never existed before.
The more we learn about the importance of sound in natural ecosystems and sound’s impact on our own mind and body, the more we can start consciously sculpting soundscapes for our daily lives.
Who will be the Randy Thom of architecture, who gets builders and architects to think about sound as a fundamental aspect of human experience that can and should be consciously designed?
I’m also a musical progressive: I believe the best music in the world hasn’t been made yet. Anyone who now, or ever, says good music isn’t being made simply isn’t listening in the right place. This second, we’re in a great era for musical sound design (thanks to the modular resurgence and democratization of programming tools) and dark, heavy music (from instrumental post-rock to non-dance dark electronic), perhaps a reflection of technology, our time, and its anxieties. Both of these facts raises delicious questions and makes for great listening, at least for my aesthetic.
Anything readers can do to support Noise Jockey?
Keep your ears and mind open to the world around you, and add your voice to a rich conversation around sound, music, and all things audio.
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