Saturday, June 04, 2011

time-lapse audio

Last fall the office space I was working in had a metal roof and above that the canopy of a very large oak tree full of acorns. The plink and plunk of dropping acorns on the metal during that autumnal season became an ambient soundtrack to our day. I started to wonder, though, was there a percussive pattern to the dropping of the acorns that we were not aware of because it happened so slowly? And if so, how could you capture a time lapse version of that sound?

R. Luke DuBois' developed the phrase "Time Lapse Phonography" to describe his systematized compression of previously created musical pieces into time-lapse tone pieces. His version of Handel's Messiah was his first well known piece that he created using this technique.

But my sound question involves not a previous piece of music, but the daily sound we hear. The internet delivered a couple of examples of such aural compressions. The first of these is 24 hours of normal living compressed to 1 minute.

The second is a more selective splicing of vocal excerpts from the first 13 years of a girl's life compressed into two minutes.

My time frame is somewhere in the middle, but I'm not certain that a microphone would be the best tool to record this oak acorn drop pattern. Instead, I began to think of the nets placed to catch the natural drop of olives in some groves.

What if such a net was placed under the oak tree and acted as a sort of midi capture device. The pressure of the acorn hitting the net would trigger an input to be recorded, almost like a seismometer reads slight ground motion. Maybe a seismometer would even be the best tool for this process. Anyhow, after after maybe a week of recording you'd have your source material that would then need processing. Other "noise" would need to be filtered out from the data, such as movement from wind on the net, the pressure from a squirrel running on it. At the end of it you could play back the sound as a drum or maybe sample the sound of an acorn dropping on a metal roof and use that as the playback "voice" for the percussive piece. Then we have a partial soundtrack to this time-lapse video of an oak tree changing over a year.

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