seeing sound

This is the first line of Chrissy Klocek-Lim‘s Boulder Caves, now up as a recording at Whale Sound. Isn’t it beautiful?!

I think so! Little by little I’m getting better at understanding where a recording is just by looking at the visual track as presented by the Audacity software I am using. The pauses, the emphases, the endings, the overall sound quality, and what needs fixing. And the ways Audacity’s editing tools and capabilities can be creatively used in one way or another. For example, if I have two different ideas about how to read a particular segment of a poem, rather than record the whole thing through twice, I have learned I can simply repeat the segment in question during a single recording, each version with its own twist, then decide during playback which way is better. If the recording is otherwise final, I just have to delete the non-preferred segment and recheck timing/pauses in the revision.

It takes a long while and many recorded versions to get to ‘final,’ though. And I find that I’m getting pickier, the more I understand the software and manage to improve recording quality.

I only have one metaphysical/strategic problem with the otherwise excellent Audacity software.

Once you get to the point of exporting your project file as an MP3 file (the sine qua non of web dissemination, it appears) Audacity has upward of 90 ways to categorize your “music” file. Take your pick in 90 different ways – blues, grunge, jazz, country, rock, techno. I mean, truly – you name it, ad the most nauseous musical nauseum.

It seems that those of us who are trafficking in mere poetry, however, have almost NO choice but a pathetic “Other” with which to categorize our MP3 export.

Really?? Not even a simple ‘Poetry’?

Are you listening, Audacity?!

All Whale Sound process notes

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9 thoughts on “seeing sound

  1. When I bought my Mac, I was introduced to Garageband and have loved it ever since.

    It has been so helpful for many things. It really is fascinating to make sound visual.

  2. I was reading about Garageband just the other day — seems like a nifty program. I keep promising myself my next computer will be a Mac, but my courage always fails me at the last minute. Next time, maybe!

  3. Dave Bonta says:

    I could never get the “export as mp3″ function to work for me, so exported as wav instead and converted to mp3 using different software. So I didn’t know about all those choices! Nowadays I use Adobe Audition, which is very feature-rich and sophisticated, and I know I would’ve been very intimidated by it if I hadn’t learned all the basic stuff on the simpler Audacity. I’ve never used Garageband, but one of our more tech-savvy qarrtsiluni authors told me a little while ago he found it actually not as good as Audacity. I don’t know. All I know is that Audition is great for removing noise, which is mostly what I need it for at qarrtsiluni.

    • I’m finally getting to the point, after many twists and painful turns, where I can create recordings without Noise That Needs Removing. What a pilgrimage! But like every destination, the noise-free-zone proved to be just another starting point, from which I could begin to focus on tone, timbre, emotion, pitch, pacing, and the like. Maybe one day in the distant future I’ll graduate to Adobe Audition (for now Audacity is complicated enough, though) – thanks for the tip!

      • Dave Bonta says:

        Yes, I’ve noticed the improvement as you’ve gone along. For recording yourself, though, it makes more sense to spend money on a good mike than on software like Audition; the reason why I wanted its superior noise-reduction capabilities was that we get recordings made by other people under a wide variety of conditions (and there are still some pops that have to be removed individually, by zeroing in on that spot in the waveform display). One cool if (for me) superfluous feature of audition, BTW, is that it has three other ways of displaying sound in addition to the waveform: spectral frequence, spectral pan, and spectral phase, each also rather beautiful.

      • Dave Bonta says:

        (Spectral frequency, not frequence.)

  4. I think you’re right and I’m researching mikes as I write.

    • Dave Bonta says:

      I got a really good deal on a Snowball Blue mike from Amazon last year. My cousin Tony, who used to have a professional recording studio, was pretty impressed that they’d made a condenser microphone so affordable. The manual is short and written in plain English. Plus? It looks freakin’ awesome! I don’t usually succumb to gadget lust, but I love this thing.

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