Ideas #1



I’m going to write some posts about personal projects.

I’ve been undertaking lots of work lately for other people, or for my master’s degree course, which has been incredibly valuable for learning and establishing working relationships with other creative producers.

Because of this, my own areas of interest, as explored right here in this blog, have been slightly shelved during this time, even if the other projects feed into ideas and technical skills – so I felt it would be helpful to articulate some of what I want to have a go at, to ensure the ideas don’t ‘drift‘.

I have been thinking on about sensory subjectivity and autism, which continues to interest me, as at the heart of it, really, is the same old question ‘what is consciousness?’ (I just started reading this book, which promises to look askance at the same question, from a different perspective, and might fuel some interesting ideas for further work, though I note the reader reviews are pretty mixed.)

I had an online conversation with an autistic adult a few years ago, during which he told me a little of his childhood.  He was saying that his parents used to worry like crazy about what looked to them like a cognitive absence as he was visually ‘stimming’.  He wished to reassure other parents of children with autism that it is OK, the stimming is a useful thing, that autistic children will turn into interesting, capable autistic adults, but that they must be allowed to regulate their sensory processes.  It was a very kind comment.  But it was the description of what stimming looked and felt like that captured me.  He said that if he stared long enough at certain patterns, they took on a kind of iridescent quality that eventually pulled him into a peaceful, beautiful landscape, a place of mental repose for him – and also a source of delight.

One idea for a final major project for the degree is to produce my own animation, a highly-coloured artistic representation of this effect, and an accompanying sound-world that draws in natural sounds and transforms them, to try and replicate the neurological journey.  It would be flanked by two monochrome sections where a parent is trying and failing to engage a child in communication, failing to see that the child is clearly communicating that s/he needs right now to be doing exactly what s/he is doing and that this is no cause for sadness.

I was put in contact by a mutual friend with American artist Angela Weddle, who produced this digital sketch for me, from her own projection of what such a world might ‘feel’ like, drawing partly on her own experience.

Here is a video showing how the image was built:

And here is the finished image:

Spinning Tops A Weddle

As I am keen to be involved in producing the animation as far as my limited visual creative prowess allows, I am doing my best not to anticipate how it will sound too early in the process, tempting though it is!  But I already known the incremental layering of strands seen here must be present in the soundtrack, and that it must use the naturally occurring sound design and Foley with added sounds representing the child’s own internal processes, in order to present the child’s entire neural construct of the world, with all the elements that build it.

I’ll keep you posted on this work!

The Charity Film Awards

The National Autistic Society tell me they have just been awarded by the Charity Film Awards for this short but powerful little film about overload in autistic people:


I didn’t know about the Charity Film Awards, but this would appear to be a very good place to begin looking in this sector of the film industry, a sector made hugely important by the recent explosion in social media and one that is directly relevant to my interests.

The Charity Film Awards

I will watch those nominated films that interest me and report back on what I learn about use of soundtrack!

Given my interest in trying to use soundtrack in film to generate empathy, this may also be an excellent place to look for interviewees for next semester’s creative economies module, which requires us to find a senior figure in the part of our industry that interests us, in order to interview them about an up-to-date issue.

My first audio documentary!

This is what I made in response to that call for audio documentaries that I posted about previously.

I have decided to continue this practice and interview some more people.  I hope to end up with a whole series!

I will continue to focus on hearing, listening and personal experience of the world.  I will also do my best to work with sound and music, building on what the interviewee is saying to make a picture for the audience of what the interviewee is describing.

This will double up as really useful research to supplement and enrich my reading, listening and viewing.

I have to admit to a few headaches producing this one.  Part of the issue is that I was working with a close friend this first time.

It was very tempting to use every tool in my box to tell the story that I hear from the interviewee – which may not be the same message as is actually being spoken.

For example, in this interview, Tom speaks both about his social anxiety and about his bad experience of school.  I use recurring instances of sound recorded in a primary school playground.  In one case I put this sound behind our explorations of his adult perception of social interaction.  In doing this I am inviting the audience to question whether childhood bullies have exacerbated the anxiety already brought on by the sensory onslaught and social differences associated with Asperger Syndrome.

Although Tom may agree with this implicit comment in this case, it has really sharpened my appreciation of the power an editor, producer, composer and sound designer have over what the audience hears and understands.

Even what I choose to leave in and take out, and the order I put them in makes a difference.  In this case is not chronological: the fragment about talking to fast food chain staff at the end actually came earlier in the conversation but, again, it felt right to come a full circle from adulthood to childhood to adulthood to see the (not entirely linear) continuum of experience on which a person’s world-view is based.

Here it is, anyway:

Reading #3 – neurological differences in sound processing

Auditory Processing in High-Functioning Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder (DePape et all: 2012)

This was a ‘write-up’ of six separate tests conducted on groups of teenagers, some on the autistic spectrum, some with typical neurology.

They looked at the following:

  • The ability to filter out sounds in noisy environments – ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) people needed a higher speech to noise ratio when picking speech out when there is a second speaker than did the neurotypical (NT) group.
  • Whether people with ASD at the age of 1 year could discriminate between speech sounds in their native language when compared to foreign sounds as could the NT peers.  Typically, by one year, a child has already pruned synapses to allow them to discriminate the language spoken by primary carers but the researchers found this to be a less developed process in children with ASD.
  • Whether ASD individuals were less fazed by being shown faces making sounds other than those they were synced up with as they listened than were the NT group.  They were.
  • Whether ASD people are more likely to have absolute pitch (they are).  This is a rare and useful musical ability but also shows that sound processing is more absolute and less contextual for ASD individuals, which has implications for communication in a speech-dominated world.
  • Whether ASD individuals were slower to develop the discrimination of Western music-specific meters (regular, simple-time patterns) in infancy.  Essentially, they found that ASD people retained the ability to hear rhythm in a more absolute way that is less governed by the kind of music they hear where they live, beyond the age where NT peers have pruned their synapses to pick up on native rhythms and meters.
  • They did the same with harmony as they did with the Western rhythms they looked at in test 5 – did ASD individuals retain the ability to hear harmony without a bias to the music that their culture saturated them with for longer?  In this one, there was no big difference between the ASD subjects reactions and the control groups.

This research was clearly geared towards the hypothesis that the neural ‘roads’ that sound travels along and the way sound is organised and interpreted by the brain are different in autistic people and that this affects spoken communication.  However, I found it interesting to note that while the tests seemed to show that it was harder for autistic people to train their brains to hone in on the ‘right’ sounds to be sociable, it could be looked at from the other direction too: what listening benefits does this neural difference bring?

We have discussed in our electroacoustic music sessions Pierre Schaeffer’s notion of reduced listening, in which an audient attempts to detach a sound from its context, meaning, origin or connotations and hear only its sonic properties.  (Schaeffer, 1967) Could I, for example, manage to hear a dentist’s drill, gun shot or moan of pleasure without responding to my knowledge of what makes that sound, and only hear what is in the noise?  I am interested in the concepts of referential versus abstract sound, how much each has respectively on our experience as listeners, and how much we would find them to overlap.

(As an aside, it was also mentioned in lectures that Pythagoras liked to teach from behind a screen.  His theory was that his audience would concentrate better on his words if they were not distracted by his face and body language.  My autistic 8-year-old gets terribly distracted by people’s faces when they speak to him and will often look away in order to hear, whereas I would say that it is more typical for people to find that information is added by the non-verbal parts of communication.  To ‘listen’ to someone’s animated face or body language along with the words can make information easier to absorb and more memorable for me.  I wonder if Pythagoras himself was on the autistic spectrum?)

This research seems to suggest that autistic people ought to be able to practise reduced listening more readily and effectively than neurotypicals, as the neural road along which an autistic’s sound processing travels lends itself better to pure experience of sound than it does to picking out the social (or maybe the referential) meaning within the sound.

DEPAPE, A.-M.R., HALL, G.B.C., TILLMANN, B., TRAINOR, L.J. (2012) Auditory Processing in High-Functioning Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder. PLOS ONE 7, e44084. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044084
SCHAEFFER, P. (1967) Traité des objets musicaux. Paris: Seuil

Some of my reading lately

There are so many areas and disciplines that could feed into my discussions of cuing an audience into subjectivity, world-view (or sensory world-experience) and hearing with another person’s point of audition, that it’s hard to know where to focus.

I have read articles (for example!) on:

  • How playing a single frequency to young rats enlarges the area of the auditory cortex associated with that frequency, making the rat less sensitive to that one, but more sensitive to neighbouring frequencies.
  • An analysis of the use of sound to create identification with characters in the animated film Ratatouille.
  • A write up of a series of tests to probe how autistic adolescents process sound as compared to peers with more typical neurology.
  • A fascinating analysis of why discipline broke down during a traditional ceremonial officers’ dinner in a British Army corps soon after a stressful tour of duty in Afghanistan.
  • An article putting forth some interesting theories about gender in the soundtrack to Forbidden Planet.

All of this is relevant.  Lets take them one by one.

The Baby Rats! (Han et al, 2007)

The evidence that exposure to a specific noise can alter cortical sensory neurons in early life raises all sorts of interesting speculation for me.

If a child grows up in a noisy, environment (for example, if the telly is on constantly, or the family habitually speaks loudly or aggressively) and if, like the rats, the neurons arrange themselves so that the child hears less of that kind of sound, how does that affect future responses to environment and where they may choose to be (where they settle, where they ‘hang out’, etc).

It seems to me it would have an impact on how they conduct interactions or even how, and with whom, they form relationships?

And could this be reflected in a film by making an audience accustomed to a background noise and then abruptly losing it as we switch?

HAN, Y.K., KöVER, H., INSANALLY, M.N., SEMERDJIAN, J.H., BAO, S. (2007) Early experience impairs perceptual discrimination. Nat Neurosci 10, 1191–1197. doi:10.1038/nn1941

Points of Audition 2 – Hikaru

What sensory overload is

“The thing about sensory overload is that it is the inability of the brain to filter out anything, because all things are information. Touch, sound, words, visual stimuli, light, dark, touch, even the body’s own systems such as heartbeat which is always in the background, the brain’s own electrical sound which is often received as perpetual tinnitus which most autisics/aspies listen through in order to hear their environment.”

“…it’s so loud, it’s deafening. Do not think in terms of volume as in loudness, but rather as in volume as in capacity ie. Too much information.”

“…multiple sounds from multiple objects/environment, immediate environment. All sound is at the same ‘volume’ as in level. So all sounds, regardless of level are received at the same ‘volume’ ie. there is no distinction between soft, light, quiet, loud, ear-shattering, ear-piercing…”

“Even though it is 7am and everyone else in the house is asleep, I can hear at equal volume:

  • 8KHz fuzz from my brain
  • The fan of my PC which modulates slightly
  • My neck making small clicking noises as I move my head
  • Some cars outside, even though the nearest road is about 100m away
  • An aeroplane flying overhead, it is quite high and has propellers
  • An external hard disk which has just “woken up” and the disk is spinning up
  • A cat scratching in another room.”

The effect it has

“…if I can give you a visual example (as Autistic I think visually) I would say this: a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy, and then on and on and on until the original image is so degraded it cannot be understood … then [I experience the] blue screen of death type experience. This is the only way I can convey what it is like.”

“…remember analogue loop machine recorders where one would sample a sound and then loop it, and then be able to sample that and loop again?…”

“Sound becomes like finger nails going down a chalk board, which increase in intensity until it becomes one solid noise.”

“…distortion … a single phrase/voice saying something becomes repeated over and over again until it becomes so distorted it is unrecognisable and message is unable to be understood.”

“…think in terms of what a machine would do, or what would happen if a machine were overloaded, ie, a fuse blows, it heats up/overheats, things become distorted, computer gives blue screen of death…”

“Every vibration from them moving around in the flat above me, is as if someone is hovering directly over my head getting closer & closer. Until it literally feels as if they are walking all over my head. Yet others who are in my flat at the time & don’t have heightened senses usually claim they can’t even hear any noise.”

“When I’m at my computer & get sensory overload it can be like a glowing light is coming out of the computer. It quickly increases until it’s as if it’s going directly into my brain. That light beam becomes all that I can think about or see.”

‘Proximity Effect’ (autistic version…)

“A sound right in one’s face really isn’t very nice, it’s … like a needle under the skin, or a hostile attack.”

What abrupt noises do

“… [an] example: at a cafe, a waiter dropped a plate onto another plate behind the serving area. The sound was high piercing and sharp and physically experienced for me like a gun or a canon going off, it went right through my body, my whole being felt the sharpness of it. It made me jump. It jarred. It’s not nice. It feels hostile.”

What your own body sounds like if you experience sensory overload

“…the perpetual tinnitus, this sound is like the old TV’s when you unplug the aerial, but at a higher frequency. For me this frequency is about 8KHz.”

How it affects the day-to-day life of someone who experiences it

Perhaps the best example I can give you is if you have a bad hangover. You now have to go and do an IQ test whilst sitting in a children’s nursery full of playing / screaming kids. After 8 hours would you rather go home and sit quietly or go out to a party?

These are direct quotations from adults on the autistic spectrum.  They gave their time generously and patiently to help me understand as best I can what overload feels like.  This really helped me get inside little Hikaru’s head and I am very grateful to them.

Although, as one contributor pointed out, no one experience is the same, there is enough obvious common ground for us to agree comfortably that we can understand one another when we use the term ‘sensory overload’.

From these discussions, I isolated a series of aural-neurological phenomena:

  • a build-up of simultaneous sonic events, for someone who cannot filter aural information as a typically-wired brain can, will easily tip the brain into distress and it shuts down into panic mode: the ‘blue screen of death’.  There is no ‘cocktail party effect‘.
  • Many people with autism cannot filter out their own body sounds, so they hear their brains as a kind of tinnitus, as well as other sounds from inside the body.  A neurotypical person would only notice these things if in a place of unusual quiet.
  • Sounds close up feel like invasions – proximity is amplified.
  • Abrupt, sharp sounds are distressing and felt physically.
  • When overload is triggered, it can be hard for the brain to stop processing sound information, and it sounds something like it would if I could put a delay plug-in on real life!
  • Every day life with less neural filtering and different sensory information processing can be as exhausting as spending a working day in a room full of screaming children with a hangover while concentrating very hard on a difficult task.  If an adult, who is accustomed to this experience of the world finds it this jarring and draining, imagine how a pre-school child, who has neither the learning nor the brain maturity to find coping mechanisms, would handle it!

So here is how I replicated it:

  • The build up of events was generated by layering.  I used the same recording of ‘party hubbub’ five times over, one in each channel clean, and then three processed with various distortions (chorus; phaser; enhanced reverbs).  Each sound had a different EQ setting, automated to boost different frequencies at different times like a kind of sonic Mexican wave.  I also automated the panning to add to the confusion.  The distorted versions come in after the clean versions.
  • I underlined this confusing version of ambience with sine wave drones on C0 and C1 to try and replicate the physical feeling of being invaded by the sound.
  • The ‘tinnitus hum’ was easy, as someone had very helpfully given a description and even a frequency!  I simply used Cubase’s built in synth, Retrologue, to add white noise and distortion to a C7 (roughly equivalent to 8KHz), playing by ear until it sounded like a high-pitched version of a de-tuned television hiss.  This enters, you notice, as soon as we enter Hikaru’s point of audition and acts as a signpost.  Although he is holding it together in the first picture of him in the temple, we are still starting to hear what he hears and the music is perhaps foreshadowing the meltdown to come.
  • The abrupt and close-up sounds I chose to use were a loud man’s laugh and a chair being knocked down.  Both of these sounds were heavily compressed and artificially raised in levels with make-up gain.  They also both had some brutal EQ settings!  The man’s voice was heavily boosted in a shallow curve peaking at 1000Hz, which is where his most penetrating overtones seemed to sit.  
  • Using a delay-plug in on these sounds to replicate the inability to finish processing a sound when the brain is tipping into overload didn’t seem to work as well as layering these sounds manually, so that is what I did.  The chair had its lower frequencies enhanced in the repetitions of the sound, as though the brain is ‘dwelling’ on the boomy, thunderous quality within that sound.
  • The chanting that we see pictured was also a good cue to bring in a sonic event hard to process, that might seem frightening to a little boy nearly at the point of sensory meltdown.  I found a recording of Buddhist chanting and, again, I suppressed higher and enhanced lower frequencies as well as slightly time-stretching, to give a kind of submerged feeling to them.  I felt this made the sound more threatening, as though muffled by a panicking brain.  I also gave it its own special convolusion reverb.
  • The chanting was layered with a special adulterated cello section, boosted at around 100Hz, treated with a distortion plug-in and put through an algorithm reverb and quite viciously panned, automated between extreme left and right .  This was an attempt to pull out from the original sound something like what Hikaru might pick up from it after a moment, a sort of amplified, engorged, mechanised insect buzzing.
  • The final sonic event is some tinging bells, which appear in the illustrations and I have also heard on recordings of chanting.  I found a suitable bell sound, a brittle, high pitched instrument, then used a distorted piccolo to pick up the note and continue it, bending the pitch up and crescendoing towards the end of each one, like a piercing neural echo of the original, cutting, sound. 
  • This final event repeats with increasing rapidity, culminating in the climax that is Hikaru’s eventual meltdown.  I emphasised this rising panic with a reversed cymbal and reversed triangles joining the piccolo.

During the meltdown itself, the tinnitus hiss and the low-frequency drones continue, as they represent internal sound and unrest, but the other events cut in and out, simultaneously and randomly, as though Hikaru’s brain is now processing the distressing onslaught of sound information in fits and starts, like a car engine spluttering and cutting in and out, perhaps.  The music here features Hikaru’s inwardly resolving tritone motif: rapid, panicked, and played on a distorted piano sound.

I synced distorted, reversed taps on the mic with Hikaru banging his head to try and relieve the electrical storm inside it.  These, the low-frequency drone and the tinnitus hiss continue into the garden, as the brain activity calms down.  When the hiss cuts out, we know we are back to Sachiko’s point of audience.

Here is the entire sequence:

I think I learned more about sensory overload by doing this exercise than any of the reading I’ve done around the subject.  My helpful autistic allies, by the way, confirmed that this section of sound is an accurate representation of what they experience in sensory overload.

Leitmotif of Noise?

Welcome to my research and enquiry blog!

I have decided to start by looking afresh at my recent work in the light of our studies at University of Hertfordshire.

We have been given an overview of the varied and interdependent functions of soundtrack in the context of a film in the past fortnight.

A few ideas leaped out as being techniques I have used in some way before, and that might be worth developing.

I’m going to take them one by one and give them a post each.

So, the first one that I started thinking about was…

‘Leitmotif of Noise’

We looked in our first week at the creatively fruitful phenomenon in film that happens when diegetic sound fulfills the traditional role of non-diegetic music.  We were shown a little of Forbidden Planet, with its ground-breaking electronic soundtrack by Louis and Bebe Barron.  We noted that the soundtrack seems to occur in the narrative space and also to comment on the characters’ states of mind simultaneously.

As we examined this, I thought about traditional film scoring’s heavy use of leitmotif to cue audiences into the big themes of the story and the characterisation.  However, contemporary scoring seems to be rejecting this, focusing on acting as the general subconscious of the story.  I wondered if, as a kind of substitute signpost, diegetic sounds crossing into the non-diegetic realm could essentially act as a ‘leitmotif of noise’.  So, associating a certain recurring sonic event with a theme or character.

This would, I thought, need a conscious and deliberate focussing of the use of sound.


I tried to think of examples of where this has happened.

I decided as a starting point, I would have a look at Brief Encounter.  Because the film-makers had chosen to use Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto, there was no purpose-built film score to manipulate melody for its own purposes, even though the Rachmaninoff is used effectively to reflect the general mood and emotional arc of the story.  I felt this alone might make it easier to pick out the role of the non-musical, designed soundtrack.

Could this ‘leitmotif gap’ have been filled by the equally iconic train sounds that we all associate as closely with the film as the use of the piano concerto?

(I would have to add, I’m sure this has been examined before, so I will also go on a quest for relevant writing on the subject.  All suggestions gratefully received!  However, it was an interesting exercise for me to do.)

I watched the film again and documented each time we hear the high-pitched, frantic whistle of the express train.  Every time we hear it, seems to represent a moment of psychological danger and/or disarray in Laura’s mind.

Here are the key moments where I spotted it (times are approximate):

  • Just as the music of the opening credits climaxes (at about 1’45); the music is lost in the sound and this moment segues into the opening dialogue.  It seems to serve as an introduction to this particular sound and the music tells us subconsciously, perhaps, to associate it with high feeling.
  • 6’05 – we are told the ‘express’ is going through and the alarming noise obliterates the inconsequential dialogue about chocolate purchasing among secondary characters.  This is the first time we walk through this moment – the second time, at 1’23’30, we know Laura comes close to committing suicide by throwing herself under the train here.
  • 12’11 – Fred makes a joke about the children and Laura starts to cry.  Interestingly, this time we hear it outside of the place within the story where the sound originates – the station.  Although it is possible we are meant to assume that it could be overheard from the nearby railway, this use seems really deliberately non-diegetic to me.  Laura senses the danger of losing control of herself and inadvertently doing irreparable damage to her marriage and home.  This use of it at this early stage in the narrative cements it in my head as being something we are to associate with ‘danger’ – especially in Laura’s mind.
  • 17’53 – we see Alec in the background and it is the first time within the storyline we see him (because I’m not counting the first account of the final scene that we see at the beginning).  Alec looks up and notices Laura just as the whistle sounds faintly.  It is easy to miss but looks very carefully placed when you are paying attention!
  • 18’12 – Laura gets the grit in her eye, thus providing the vehicle for their meeting – fate providing the next step towards infidelity.
  • 59’48 – we hear it quietly as (it turns out, moments later) Alec is making the decision to return to Stephen’s flat with the expectation that she will follow.
  • 1’00’07 – Alec announces his intention baldly – Laura refuses to follow, but we know her tortured ambivalence.  This time, the whistle is long, loud and alarming; the danger of infidelity is now so great.
  • 1’03’39 – after apparently escaping temptation, she changes her mind at the last minute and gets off the train again to go back to the flat.
  • 1’23’30 – we hear the ‘suicide’ whistle for the second time and this time we are fully aware of its meaning.  It is the climax and I believe the longest and loudest instance of the whistle.  The camerawork backs it up this time around.  We do not hear any more train noises after this last, final, greatest danger to her and her family.

So – in conclusion! – I do feel I can justifiably describe this as leitmotif of noise.

As to where this takes my work?

I’m really interested in how different people experience the world differently and how this can be portrayed through visual media with the help of sound.

The ‘dream’ is to use visual + aural media to counteract the polarisation of views and tribalism I’m seeing more and more on social media and to help people identify more strongly with people who seem different to them.

Autism is an obvious way into this, as there are sometimes dramatic differences in an autistic’s perceptions to that of a neurotypical brain, partly due to sensory processing differences.  Autism is also close to me as there are several important people in my personal life who are on the autistic spectrum.  However, I should like to refine these ideas to look at more subtle differences too, in due course.

Earlier this year, as an exercise for myself in storytelling with music and sound, I wrote a soundtrack to accompany a series of stills.  The pictures were rudely snatched from a manga book about raising an autistic child, called ‘With the Light,’ by Keiko Tobe and I combined very traditional orchestral writing for the neurotypical protagonist with sound design for the autistic child protagonist’s point of view.

I was attempting to use music to retell the story along with my own response to it, so the music is in the foreground, and the sound has both diegetic and non-diegetic functions.

Here it is:

For this project, I had some really informative and interesting conversations with adults on the autistic spectrum about what sensory overload feels like, in order to represent little Hikaru’s meltdown – but I’ll discuss that more next time.)

For now, here are the things I did in this soundtrack that could at least partially be described as leitmotif of noise, if further developed in a longer piece.

Hikaru’s Stones

The sound of little Hikaru playing with the sound of stones on a drain in the final segment of the piece is significant.

The book is mostly told from Sachiko’s point of view, but there are odd moments in the illustrations where we observe Hikaru observing.  Many autistic people will tell you that as children – and in some cases into adulthood – they are well used to perceiving a lot more than people around them understand that they do.

I didn’t want Hikaru’s own loneliness and his observations of his mother’s unhappiness to go without note; I didn’t want him just to be a vehicle for Sachiko’s story.

The stones interrupt the music that represents Sachiko’s crisis periodically to help us remember that Hikaru is there – and listening, and, through the corner of his eye, watching.

The stones are the sound of a mother and child impeded in communication with one another, and they persist into the fade-out as the relationship continues not quite to function.

The stones work in conjunction with Hikaru’s own actual leitmotif, which is a diminished fifth resolving inwardly to a major third repeatedly.

(This is something I stole from a real-life little boy with autism, who had discovered and play this figure over and over again at a piano.  It had interested me greatly at the time, having studied diatonic function, as it appeared from this that the dominant-tonic relationship might be something intrinsically meaningful to this child’s ear at least.)

The musical motif is used throughout the piece including as an intrusion in the more sound-based middle section – and represents Hikaru himself.

The knock of the mother-in-law

Perhaps rather ‘cheesily’ I appropriated the unfeeling mother-in-law’s imperious knock on the car window and turned the rhythm of the knock into a rhythmic motif of sorts, signifying the character.  So what began as diegetic sound indicated an unwelcome intrusion, a harsh judgment, incomprehension of the difficult journey, then continued to indicate that meaning throughout.


Future uses?

What is relevant about this?  Why does it matter that I’ve happened upon this device?

Well, if I do go with my initial plan and research and help portray in sound what affects cognitive and sensory world view, as a long-term device this would seem quite useful.

So often formative experiences determine how we respond in later life.  I wonder if this device might be useful to signify this?  A character behaving unreasonably could retain the sympathy of the audience if a sound associated with a formative experience recurs to remind them of the context for that behaviour.

In the example above, the books do continue to chart the progress of Sachiko and her family and (as is usually the case) life gets easier as the parents learn how to support the child’s development, and as the child gets older.

However, there are many difficult times along the way.  What if the sound of the stones returned whenever Sachiko feels as though she and Hikaru are failing to relate to one another, when he feels lonely or misunderstood, or when they are both feeling bruised by an episode of sensory distress?

What if they returned when it seems her behaviour is overly defensive or touchy and she as a character becomes harder to like, helping the audience to recall the sadness of the early days and how it changed her?

I will look for examples of film or animation where this is used and will think about how I might like to use it in due course.


In my next post, I should like to refer again to With the Light, but looking more at the concept of ‘point of audition’ and how it might be exploited to examine different experiences of the world (due to neurology, perhaps, or other differences) some more, and how I can build on this with more subtlety.