The Living Thames is a 60-minute documentary that I completed the sound design and mix for. I don’t mix very often, and the less you do it, the longer it tends to take when you do. Nevertheless, I had a really enjoyable time working on this film, which was thanks to some lovely material (and fascinating stories), and the constant encouragement and energy of Dorothy Leiper, the director.
There is a caveat to this piece of (excellent) advice, however. When you carry your recorder everywhere you are 10 times more likely to lose or misplace said recorder, and this can become quite an expensive extravagance.
As a sound designer, I spend a lot of time with these tools, so it makes sense to spend a lot of time finding (also nurturing and sometimes creating, or at least hacking) the right ones. It makes sense, too, to spend a lot of time thinking about them, for without them I cannot work, or cannot work as well.
Also, is (film) sound so subjective that finding commonalities among the many different textures that exist is, while not impossible, trickier, more murky, or even politically sensitive, than when talking subjectively about, say, colour, framing, composition, and shot length?
The concept of useful, complex noise, such as described in Thom’s post, the idea of having slightly randomised noise within your film soundtrack is an anathema to the school of thought that says as film sound designers we should be more concerned with taking elements away, decluttering the sound space, than adding to it with loosely defined (for want of a better term) noise.
However, story room, which Thom describes as a situation where, 'the sounds were basically non sequiturs. There was nothing in the story they could resonate with and/or the scene wasn’t structured visually and dynamically in a way that gave sound design a role,' is a different set of circumstances to try and unpack.
Then, out of knowledge and feeling spring other things; skill, craft, and all the emotions. We learn how to set ourselves against our emotions, and to deal with the emotions, sometimes letting them overwhelm us, but for the most part enjoying this battle.
The other part of the equation would be depth, because that is often what is wanted as an outcome; emotional, expository, sensory depth. To my mind, depth comes from understanding: understanding what’s important and then selecting, discriminating, with one’s choices, based on that understanding.
However, in whatever way we may choose to define it, I think of silence as simultaneously an absence and a presence. The absence of noticeable, penetrating and/or distracting sounds ('active' sounds, I will call them) creates a void into which an individualised sound space (conscious and unconscious) makes its presence felt.
It’s probably terribly difficult to do. Perhaps, even, impossible. But if it is desired that the listener listen without preconception then shouldn’t, at least to some degree, the composer, the songwriter - the maker - create without preconception, too?