Sound creativity Asbjoern Andersen


How do you set your creativity free and get rid of the things that hold you back? Mark Kilborn has some interesting thoughts and ideas on that - and he's kindly allowed us to share it here on the blog:
Written by Mark Kilborn
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In my late 20s, a friend of my wife and I asked me to accompany she and her son to an audition. Her son, who was 5 or 6 at the time, was auditioning for a part on a TV show that was going to start filming in the area soon. At one point during the audition, the gentleman who met with us asked the boy to scream. He let out a timid scream, more like quietly mimicking a scream than actually screaming.
“No, scream! As loud as you can!” the man encouraged.

He let out another scream, a little bit louder, but still just at speaking volume. He tried two or three more times, and then the man moved on to a few other questions, and the audition wrapped up. He didn’t get a call back. He forgot about it, it wasn’t a big deal.
The man was trying to see how inhibited this kid was. Could he just completely let loose and scream at the top of his lungs on command? Or was he going to be too embarrassed, timid, shy, pick your reason? I imagine this information would give him an idea of how the kid would behave on set, whether he’d be willing to do whatever silly things they needed for the show, or whether he’d burn precious production time.

We have to be willing to try new approaches that may violate “the rules” of audio, to proceed despite the fear of failure

There’s a parallel between what this guy wanted to see this kid do, and what we do every time we sit down in front of a project: we have to be uninhibited. We have to be willing to try new approaches that may violate “the rules” of audio, to proceed despite the fear of failure.
I’ve talked with a lot of sound friends throughout my career, and a favorite topic I come back to is whether creativity can be learned/taught or not. It is my belief that the core concepts of it can be taught, certain behaviors and studies can be encouraged, but ultimately there are elements of the creative instinct that are either going to surface or not. One of those elements of the creative instinct is the ability to overcome inhibition and proceed in creative ways.

I struggled with this a lot early in my career, but I’ve come up with a few things that help me, and I’ve borrowed some from friends, and I wanted to share them with you in the hopes they will help you to get out of your own way and be creative when you need to.
 

Practice Breaking “Audio Rules”

One of the greatest creative inhibitors in the world of sound effects design is simply adherence to the “rules” of audio. You shouldn’t clip a bus. You have to put your time-based effects on an aux return, not use them as an insert. You shouldn’t hear a compressor pump.

There are so many rules. Practice breaking them. Do things that are wrong, do it intentionally, and if it makes you uncomfortable, that’s even better. Slam the hell out of some source material, then slam it some more, and hear what happens. Chain six delays in a row on a single layer in your build and hear what happens.

There are so many rules. Practice breaking them.

I believe very deeply that it’s important to understand the fundamentals of signal flow and good audio engineering, and I would encourage anyone pursuing our field to gain that knowledge. But you also need to achieve a level of comfort with violating those rules and experimenting. Following all of the rules and not pushing your methods and tools as far as you possibly can is you being afraid to scream as loudly as you can.
 

Force Yourself to Do Uncomfortable Things

Take a cue from the kid I mentioned earlier in the article: go outside and scream as loud as you can. Howl at the moon. If you want to really get out of your comfort zone, attempt something that scares you: bungee jumping, skydiving, eating strange foods, you name it.
I am one of those people that likes everything to look new, always. If I get even the tiniest crack in my phone screen, I want to fix the screen.

It’s like a muscle. The more you push yourself out of your comfort zone, the more easily you can do it in the future

When I used to buy laptops, I would never put stickers on them. Lately, I’ve been living with a minor crack in my screen. I’ve put stickers on my laptop. When I feel myself resisting doing something because it makes me feel uncomfortable, but I logically understand there’s no danger, I do it anyway. It’s like a muscle. The more you push yourself out of your comfort zone, the more easily you can do it in the future.
 

Put Your Editor in a Cage

Ray Bradbury, one of my favorite authors of all time, did a lot of free writing. When he passed away, his family found filing cabinets full of short stories, poems and other things he wrote over the course of his life. He wrote almost every single day, and he believed in writing down whatever story he could come up with, and not editing it as he worked. Once it was done, he would then review it with the editor’s eye, make changes and adjustments, and ultimately decide whether or not it was something he wanted to share with the world.

I encourage you to think of the editorial part of your brain as an individual separate from yourself. At the risk of making everyone think I’m a bit crazy, I’ll tell you that mine’s an asshole. He tells me everything that’s wrong with what I’ve done.
His voice shifts between the voices of a few critics I’ve had over the course of my career that did their best to tear me down at every opportunity. I don’t like him. But he serves a purpose. When I let the editor out of his cage, I listen to his criticisms, I decide what I think has value and what doesn’t, and then I tell him to shut the hell up and lock him away again.

When I was young, I read an interview with Tori Amos in which she described her songs as “girls” that she knew, and talked about their personalities. I thought she was crazy at the time, but now I understand how personifying components of your creative process can help you internally manage the process.


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    • “Multi” and “One Shot” files provided for most sounds
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Meditation

In early 2019, I began practicing meditation, and I’ve found it to be tremendously beneficial to me. I’m not as diligent about it as I should be, especially as I write this (in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with my wife and three children in our house always, it’s very difficult to get alone time), but it’s been wonderful.

The method I use is transcendental meditation. I visited a teacher, he taught me how to do it, and I do it. But the specific method isn’t important. What’s important is that it allows me to perform a sort of emotional reboot of myself.

I’ve found this helps me keep the editor in his cage, and creates less mental resistance to experimenting and trying different ideas

Turning inward, focusing on my mantra, and allowing the world to just go by me for 25 minutes or so relieves stress, tension, and allows me to sit down at my desk and focus on my work with fewer worries lingering in the back of my mind.
I’ve found this helps me keep the editor in his cage, and creates less mental resistance to experimenting and trying different ideas.
 

Following (and Breaking) Established Processes

In talking about being creatively uninhibited, it may seem odd to mention established processes as a method to spark creativity, but I’ve found it works well for me. I have a method to my practice for designing the sound of a project on a higher level, but also specific methods I like to use when attempting to create certain types of sound effects. I have sound effects templates in Reaper and sound effects chains in Soundminer that are built around these various methods, and I use them as a starting point when building certain types of sound.

Often it’s better for me to start with a framework of rules, an established process, and then deviate from it once I’ve started chasing a spark and instinct has taken over

I’ve found in my practice that having a completely open-ended process, with no boundaries whatsoever, is intimidating. Where do I start? What should I do? There are too many choices: too many plugins, too many recordings in the library. Some days I can overcome this, pick a direction and just start going, but often it’s better for me to start with a framework of rules, an established process, and then deviate from it once I’ve started chasing a spark and instinct has taken over.
 

Creative Fear

As I’ve grown in my career, I’ve had the chance to talk to some of my heroes, and to a lot of sound designers who are far more experienced than I am. One of the topics I like to ask them about is how confident they are about their work. Do they really know what they’re doing every time they sit down to work? Do they know if they’ll reach a result? Are they just winging it?
Fear of failure has haunted me most of my life, as it has many people. But what I’ve learned from talking to some of the most talented sound folks I know is that they often don’t know what the hell they’re doing either. I’ve had Oscar winning sound people tell me that they fail regularly in their work. And we’re not talking about a few times a year, we’re talking about hundreds of times on a single project. They make something, it doesn’t work, they trash it and start again.
They regularly feel the pressure of not knowing how they’re going to overcome the challenge in front of them, but they charge ahead despite the fear because, well they’re on the hook and really have no choice.

Don’t be afraid to start because you don’t know how you will reach the end result you desire. And don’t think you have to hear the sound in your head before you can make it.

The important takeaway here? Don’t be afraid to try something because you don’t know how it’s going to work out. Don’t be afraid to start because you don’t know how you will reach the end result you desire. And don’t think you have to hear the sound in your head before you can make it. Acknowledge the fear, but let go, lose yourself in the process, and trust that something will work out.
Your heroes, the people who have made amazing sounding films and games, whose interviews you read and study for any little tidbit you can learn from? Odds are they don’t know how the hell they’re going to get through their next project. They just know that they will, because they’ve figured it before. So will you.

A big thanks to Mark Kilborn for letting us share his thoughts on how to deal with creative inhibitions! Learn more about Mark Kilborn and his work here

 

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Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Animal Sound Effects The Animal Symphony – Watusi Play Track 183 sounds included, 10 mins total $12

    The Animal Symphony will be a series of animal recording libraries, created to offer a wide variety of authentic animal sounds. Over the next few months, each installment in this series will capture the essence of different animal species.

    General description:
    The Animal Symphony – Watusi” features a total of 52 audios, with 183 individual sounds of Watusis mooing, all recorded in exceptional quality. Using two high-end microphones, the Sennheiser MKH 8050 and an EM258 capsule microphone, we have managed to capture every detail and nuance of these natural sounds. Each recording was made at a 192 kHz, 24-bit, ensuring professional clarity and depth.

    Featured Features:
    – Variety of Watusi Sounds: Enjoy a wide range of Watusi sounds, from soft moos to powerful calls, perfect for adding realism and authenticity to your projects.
    – Diversity in Recordings: With multiple takes and variations, with long, short and group moos, so this library offers the necessary flexibility for any type of production that requires this type of animal.
    – Careful Editing: All recordings have been carefully edited to eliminate any external noise, such as birds, wind or people, ensuring pure, clean sounds.

    This collection is ideal for a variety of applications:
    – Video games: Add realism and depth to the natural environments of your games.
    – Cinema and Documentaries: African environment and scenes that require authenticity in fauna.
    – Educational Applications: Use these sounds in educational projects to teach about wildlife and animal behavior.
    – Multimedia Projects: Ideal for any project that seeks to enrich the user’s listening experience.

    Technical details:
    – Total Audios: 52
    – Total Sounds: 183
    – Format: 192kHz/24bit
    – Equipment Used: Sennheiser MKH 8050 Microphone and EM258 Capsule Microphone

    License:
    The sounds from “The Animal Symphony – Watusi” are available under a royalty-free license, allowing their use in multiple projects without additional costs or royalties. You can use these sound effects in your games, trailers, Kickstarter campaigns, and more, as many times as you like.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1717711199
  • This library covers the sounds of the Trabant 601, equipped with a two-cylinder, two-stroke Otto-type engine from the late 1980s.

    The driving section contains 48 tracks with a total length of about 36 minutes. These tracks include engine ramps and driving sequences at various constant RPMs, suitable for game implementation. Additionally, there are takes featuring more common driving and pass-bys, which are better suited for linear media usage. Interior and exterior mixes are also included.

    The foley section comprises 23 tracks with a total length of 8 minutes. It covers all basic sounds, such as opening and closing doors, hood and trunk, gearstick shifts, handbrake usage, and horn sounds. These sounds were primarily captured from a close perspective using a shotgun microphone.

    Microphone setup:

    • Sennheiser MKH8040 (ORTF) – Cabin
    • Neumann KMR81i – Cabin / Foley
    • Neumann KM184 – Exhaust
    • Shure SM11 – Engine bay
    • Shure VP88 (M/S) – Exterior
    • Tascam DR40 (XY) – Exterior
  • Sports Sound Effects Pool Play Track 351 sounds included $5.99

    This is a sound library containing the sounds of cue sports games such as pool or snooker. Includes a range of sounds such as ball interactions, potting, breaking, and more, with sounds from both a standard set of 2″ pool balls and a smaller set too.

     

    Features: 

    • 350+ audio files in 24 bit 96kHz quality WAV format
    • “Multi” and “One Shot” files provided for most sounds
    • All files are metadata-tagged, allowing for easy searching in sound library management tools
    • UCS compliant file naming
    • Available for commercial or personal use without attribution

     

    View a summary of included sounds here

    View a full list of included files here

    33 %
    OFF
  • 30 Alicante sound effects recordings of urban street life from a southern Spanish city.

  • Soar across the skies with Boeing 737 jet airliner interior clips from idling, taxiing, flying, landing, and others.


   

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