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Further Thoughts on Sound Effects

Authored By: 
The Beekman School Technology Teacher

Continuing on from my last blog about sound effects, I noticed that the use of them can make a boring creative endeavor more personal and fulfilling to the student.  I teach an Audio Mixing class at Beekman.  Most of the work involves working with loops of pre-existing audio to create an original mixed piece of music.

The class attracts two types of students: ones who are already involved in creating original music and those who are not.  The students already interested in audio mixing excel from the get-go and produce great, complex pieces.  The students who are not already interested often become bored and lose whatever initial gusto they had.

I was flummoxed with one such student who got bored at the task.  He found no interest in the results of mixing the pre-recorded loops.  Finally, I said to him, “Why don’t you create and record and mix your own sound effects? (In the audio business, this type of sound effect is known as foley, and it has been used quite extensively in music and movies.)  The student said, “Really?  I can do that?”  And with that came an explosive wave of creative activity I have never seen before in any student of mine.

He worked hard and fast and built an amazing, complex structure of interconnected sounds that told a multilevel story.  He bordered on the ecstatic state of a true artist. He was in such joy of his creation that he had to have everyone hear and engage in his work.  While the audiophiles in the class rejected it as "not music", the student who was accepted by his peers as a great artist declared his work to be “true genius.” He kept working the mix and reworking it until I told him he had to let go before he ruined it.  It took 3 days to wind him down from it. (He’d sneakily work on it while I wasn’t looking!)  He finally relented when we moved onto the next project.

I am thoroughly impressed that allowing someone to make their own sound effects can have such dramatic consequences.  Perhaps it is because the ownership is more personal and intimate, like writing poetry.  Or perhaps it is because it is an experience in performance art.  Either way, going forward, I will assign this sound effects project to my entire class with the hope I get more students to experience that level of intense, artistic rapture.


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