String Ambience, a work ultimately inspired by Alex Roman’s The Third and the Seventh, was a variant assignment response to dubbing a pre-existing video. In the example of Benjamin Burt, who designs sounds for films, we were tasked to supplement an original audio track to a video of our choice.

The proposal for my project was explore the purpose of sound design. Sound design, in many cases, is limited by the visual presentation it is associated with. What occurs on screen usually dictates what qualities of sounds are necessary to give life to an person, object, or event. This is not to say that the audio-element of films has no room for creativity and independence. In fact, sound designers have tremendous liberties with exactly how to produce the sound; what ultimately becomes complicated is the timing of the sound, and the audience’s ability to understand or recognize the sound (regardless of the source material).

With this in mind, I decided to approach my work through the visual and auditory relationship of unique spaces, avoiding the additional constraints of sound effect timing. This approach allowed me to discover and learn much more about recording quality, ambience effects, as well as video editing. One odd thing about sound is in its continuity. Video editing involves splicing different perspectives together, which inherently introduces scene cuts and abrupt view changes. Much of the time, this is eased by the fact the video has a soundtrack or consistent sound effects to imply a sense of connection. By evoking a cello line that continues through the entire video, even with its changing resonance, we feel and get a sense of overall coherence, where even though we physically cannot transport ourselves to different spaces so quickly, we can understand and feel it.

The project took about a week to complete, and this involved travelling to various locations around the University of Virginia and the greater Charlottesville area and recording my cello as I went, which attracted a considerable amount of attention as I carried my instrument around downtown. After the initial recordings, I re-ordered parts of Alex Roman’s video to match with the sound recordings I had created. I then scored a cello solo line that I would re-record in the same, desired locations. Additional location recordings were required (ie, birds, insects, wind, and water); the final product you see here is the culmination of my field recordings and mixing them together.

There are definitely some edits that could have been improved, particularly the one at 1:15. I intended the sound to change after the scene change, as it does sometimes where we either sound last longer than a fade out, or appear before a fade/cut in. The resulting product, however, turned out to be awkward. I am probably most proud of the very beginning 30-40 seconds of this project.