Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Well, I'm back at the Electronic Music Unit after twelve 'glorious' months of Music Education. Now I'm a fully qualified music teacher. I will fail your future children, so be nice to me.

First things first, I'm going to update this page design with something more... formal. As fitting as it is in regards to my Honours topic, I'm sick to death of it and I actually enjoy HTML coding.

Secondly, I'm going to find out whether I even need to use this blog any more. I think it works well for documentation purposes, even though all the file links die in 6 months (apparently).

For those interested, My Honours topic is something along the lines of Context Driven Game Audio Design. Basically I'm looking at how and why certain sounds 'fit' better than other sounds for a given situation in video games.

Yes, you are free to view it as 'just an excuse'.

This'd be me if I smoked.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Creative Computing Major Project

For my project I endeavoured to make a multiple-sample break-beat cutting program. The idea was that you could use it in a live situation to cut up and mix samples into a real-time composition.

"MultiCutter" ultimately did not reach its final form, however the concepts were all realised in some sense. The program uses GUI controls to change values of BBCut algorithms, which in turn change the playback of samples being cut up by each respective BBCut. I feel that the biggest success of my program was the efficiency of the GUI creation and BBCut instancing. The GUI slider, label and number box are only written once in the code, and are then reproduced for each control parameter for BBCut. This process is then repeated for each BBCut, meaning the slider, label and numbox are again duplicated and assigned a parameter. The BBCut is also only written once, but it is duplicated for each sample. This easily expandable environment would have eventually been used to change GUI elements and number of BBCuts depending on the number of samples chosen by the user.

I had two fatal bugs in my program; the worst involved trying to get each instance of BBCut to read an individual sample source. Each instance was assigned a number (under argument xPos) which I attempted to replace with a letter so that BBCut could use it as a buffer address. Replacing the instace number with a letter was easy (I left that bit of code in comments) however it simply would not work in BBCut as a buffer address. This meant that each instance of BBCut would not load a different sound file. Replacing the buffer address with a constant (“g”) results in each BBCut playing the same sample. This is how I have left the patch, as it proves that each instance of BBCut is individually controllable by its respective GUI.

The other bug involved using a master tempo slider to control every instance of BBCut. Looking back, I would have needed to redesign the code so that the TempoClock was outside of the instace-creating do-loop.

MultiCutter + Sound Samples : 370kB

Audio Arts Major Project


Sound and Music by Ben Probert

The segment of Nosferatu I chose to create sound and music for has five scenes: The village talking about the vampire, the first Knock chase scene, Ellen sewing, the second Knock chase scene, and the Orlock and Ellen scene. I based the sound design around the fusing of two approaches; old-sounding piano and modern sound design.


To make the piano sound old I recorded a slightly out-of-tune piano and cut off the low and high frequencies using an equaliser, which resulted in a tinny sound likened to an old recording on a vinyl LP. I also recorded the pops and scratches from the start of a real LP so that it sounds like somebody putting on a record at the beginning of the clip. I originally had the LP crackling throughout the entire clip, however it became too distracting.

The choir recording originally consisted of my own voice layered several times for each part, however the soprano part ultimately sounded too much like a male falsetto. I asked fellow Music Tech student Poppi Doser to sing the soprano and alto parts, which certainly helped with the falsetto issue. I was very grateful that she could reach the high B flat, as it is the pivotal part of the end of the scene. I filled out the ‘rest’ of the choir using a lot of reverb.

The sound effects in the first scene are fairly subliminal. For a later scene I recorded the sound of a table dragging across a hard floor, and for this scene I used some of the accidental sounds from the room, reversed to add an unnatural feel. There is also heavy stereo delay applied to the sound, which gave it a more swirling feel.

The obvious sound required for this scene is the footsteps. After much experimentation I decided that creating the footstep sounds for a crowd of 70 people is beyond the scope of this project, and the sounds I did create overwhelmed the piano. The sound I used is very much underneath the piano sound, except where there is only a single person running. For a couple of the Knock running scenes where he is the only person in frame I matched up footstep recordings one foot at a time.

When Ellen looks up from her sewing I introduced a raspy scraping sound (a table being dragged along a floor) combined with a deep growl (my own voice), which would later be connected to Orlock. I used the sound here to insinuate that Ellen was somehow connected to Orlock, however this would not become apparent until the final Ellen and Orlock scene.

Like the previous chase scene there were many footsteps to account for, which ultimately took a back seat to the music. As this chase is in the wilderness, I superimposed a recording of outdoor ambience including bird sounds. The very end of this scene uses a transitional sound effect I created at my work by hitting a large bin with a hammer. This sound was run through numerous reverbs until it sounded like a giant wave of sound. For the scene I only used the build-up of the sound, then cut it off suddenly to emphasise the sudden chance of scene.

For this scene I went all-out with the sound design, as I wanted to change the feeling from action to suspense. The first sound that can be noticed is the Orlock sound mentioned previously, using a table dragging sound mixed with a low growl. I use this throughout the scene whenever Orlock is on screen, making it louder as the scene progresses. The table dragging sound is also used as a suspense device, as I mixed together many different recordings of the table being dragged at different severities so that the sound builds up over the entire scene. The main benefit from this sound is its sub-harmonic quality, which sounds particularly good through a sub-woofer. I also used a recording I made at work of a bunch of industrial-sized bins being towed by a little car. The rumble that these bins make can be heard from the fourth floor of the building, so it was particularly useful for creating suspense towards the end of the scene. It can be heard easily during the credits. Another sound I used was screams that were recorded in the stairwell of the Schulz building. The natural reverberation that occurs in the 12-storey room meant all I had to do was reverse the sound, so you can hear the reverb before the sound itself. I used this most prominently as the lead-in to the choir section.


For this scene I created a heavy, unmetered piano part that uses chromatic lines to mimic speech. This is to supplement the superimposed text that occurs when the villagers are discussing the vampire. The left hand is playing an ostinato between D, G# and D. This tritone hides any true tonality, and when combined with the chromatic ‘vocal’ lines in the right hand it creates a very uneasy feeling.

The first chase scene uses a low repeated D pounded in a constant rhythm, with a clich├ęd horror melody played in octaves with the right hand.

There is also a small three-note motif played, which is later established as the Knock theme. The end of this scene finishes with a repeating high D octave, ultimately landing on a low cluster chord to coincide with Knock jumping off of a roof. The high D octave is in fact a segue to the next scene.

The Ellen Sewing scene begins with a haunting melody starting on D. The intervals minor 2nd and minor 3rd (also a diminished 4th from the root) were chosen to express that despite the scene being a fairly relaxing moment, there was still tension regarding events occurring elsewhere.

The previous scene quickly leads to the introduction of the second Knock chase scene theme. A simple six-finger pattern is played on five notes.

This the fades into the same pattern three octaves lower, forming the start of the chase scene. The 6-note pattern moves across several chords, generally only changing two notes at a time. The Knock theme is also played over the top of the pattern in the second half of the chase scene.

The final scene is a much more heavily composed piece, and the changes in the composition generally mimic changes in the clip. I included voice for the climax as the piano simply wasn’t able to bring the scene to life. While doing so certainly takes a step away from the ‘old piano’ concept, I feel it was a necessary step to properly realise the scene, and still falls under the banner of ‘modern sound design’. Following is the complete score for the Orlock and Ellen scene, sans the sound effects.

Orlock & Ellen Sheet Music 137kB

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Blog Crash

Finally fixed the template, turns out (where my pictures are stored) was incorrectly registering download bandwidth and maxing out my limit every day. I sent an email to ripway support and within an hour they had fixed the problem. Not bad for a free service!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Forum | Week 9 | Student Presentations III

Today the remainder of the 3rd Year students presented to the Music Technology horde. I was first, presenting my failed MaxMSP patch from Semester 1 2007, Fantastical Metal. The patch seemed to work well (in it's own way), but I would have liked to present my SuperCollider patch from last semester so as to round off a 'My Failures' theme.

Luke's SuperCollider patch was aesthetically pleasing to listen to, especially the combined organ sounds. The end was a little abrupt, and I think it may benefit from a nice thumpy kick drum throughout the piece.

Will presented his Max patch from last year, which we didn't really get to listen to. His environment sounds for a video game were well done, however they seemed to pale in comparison to the Half-Life 2 SFX.

Dave's patch obviously took a lot of effort to create, and the inclusion of drum beats and random samples helped to 'keep it from being boring'. I like the idea that the patch sounds fairly different each time it is run.

Last was Jake, who played us his SuperCollider patch from last semester. This was a 5.1 channel industrial ambient piece, and was certainly intense and very enjoyable. Jake obviously has a good understanding of the 5.1 sound field, with a 'spawning' effect perceivable throughout.