Why mice and what’s behind their listening, sound and music
3 Deaf Mice started with the idea of the nursery rhyme 3 Blind Mice adapted as the three deaf musical mice, but having to deal with the difficulties of hearing loss from listening to loud music too long, and I thought that would make a cool sound game. It sets up the challenge for the player to improve their own hearing so they can help the mice create the song. And once that happens, it opens the door for a whole bunch of fun audio challenges and creativity. We’ve already got six more songs written around the lives of these three mice, all to do with sound and music creation, while also dealing with the rodents’ real world issues of finding food and avoiding getting caught as prey. Like mice, we humans can relate to these basic survival needs, and it certainly will add motivation to the game play. Lots of drama!
Origin of the game idea
3 Deaf Mice audio game is my current passion and exploration into new territory. I love the idea of having fun with sound. After teaching for many years material based on my book “Sound Design”, I’m reconfiguring a lot of my classroom exercises and expanding them into total immersion with this perceptual and musical challenge. The player is going to get a whole curriculum of sound design in a playful interactive environment with story and characters, that offers the pleasure of hearing in an expansive new way, and eventually including contests and sharing with the community.
The game centers around the rock band 3 Deaf Mice, who blasted their ears with too much loud music and now need help from the player to find, transform and mix their next hit song. There are 10 verses to the song, each discovered in one of the game levels, and 10 audio tracks, 3 vocals, 3 instrumentals and 4 sound effects. With each successful level accomplished, one more verse and one more track is unlocked. When all 10 tracks and 10 verses are unlocked, then the player can remix the whole song by moving around the blocks of music. More details of game play are on the Kickstarter page.
This is my first contribution to Audiocookbook, and I want to thank John for creating such a cool place to share. I have wide ranging interests in audio that link to tech, brain, music, therapy, education and most everything that vibrates… it’s alive! (Or we can make it so with a bit of sound design.) So I plan to write some musings on these professional and creative explorations, with the hope that they will kick start a few inspirations in our community.
A lot of what I’ve written in my book “Sound Design” came from researching the best practices of the industry, scientific basis of hearing and music theory. However, the more interesting approaches I found through personal observation and experimentation. One of those discoveries I call Sound Spheres, which I’ll introduce in this blog. (I wrote an in depth article which is posted on my website www.sounddesignforpros.com that you can read if you would like to get more details.)
If we consider the human experience of our environment from its most intimate to most external, a model of six concentric spheres can serve to describe the various levels of sonic information available.
- I think – Internal audio thoughts: memories, daydreaming, dreams, mental rehearsal or notes to oneself, internal music.
- I am – Sounds created by ones own body: heartbeat, breathing, mouth sounds (chew, cough, hiccup, sneeze, etc.), scratching, digestive sounds.
- I touch – Contact with the outside world that sets up sonic vibrations: footsteps, manipulating tools, utensils, food, contact sports, typing.
- I see – Events, objects and actions in our field of vision that create sounds (equivalent to “on screen”): people talking visibly, television, cars passing by, boiling teapot.
- I know – Sounds that have a reference to our environment or experience, but no visible source: people talking outside our vision, crickets, radio music, wind.
- I don’t know – Unrecognizable sounds, out of sight. No examples of sources can be made, but the acoustic parameters (loud-soft, high-low pitch, short-long, etc.) and emotional qualities (soothing, scary, oddly familiar, weird, etc.) can be described.
Translating this model of perceptual reality to audiovisual media, sound can serve to intentionally manipulate the audience/listener in their physical and psychological orientation. Several examples are:
- Moving from the inner to outer sound spheres will direct the attention of the audience from more personal contact with the character toward more awareness of the surrounding environment.
- Contracting or expanding the number of spheres simultaneously present will limit or expand the attention demanded upon the audience. Limiting can help focus or create tedium. Expanding can help stimulate or create overwhelm.
- Transitioning a single sound from one sphere to another can drive the drama. Very fertile ground for storytelling can be plowed with sound design creating tension, anticipation, release and surprise. Some possible movements between spheres: I don’t know -> I see; I think -> I know; I touch -> I don’t know
TRY THIS: Sit for 3 minutes and write down every sound you hear, associating it with a specific sound sphere. What informs you of your environment, what draws your attention, what creates a feeling or emotion? Are there any sounds in the “I don’t know” sphere, and if so, what kind of reaction does this cause – curiosity, laughter, fear? Note in particular what sound shift from one sphere to another. Where do you experience transitions, tension, build, climax and resolution? How can this be used in a filmic scene to move story?
Coming up: New audio game in development www.3DeafMice.com. Check out these rockin’ rodents!