Friday, April 2, 2010


Lateralus by Tool is a song that truly expresses the art of sound using all aspects: artistic, theoretical and technical.

Technically speaking this song is quite different from that of popular western music. This song is known for its different time signatures as the time signatures of the chorus of the song change from 9/8 to 8/8 to 7/8; typically speaking in western music, songs do not change time signatures throughout but stick to the same one. However in other cultures the use of compound or irregular time signatures is quite common, for example Bulgarian dances use such meters extensively, including forms with 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 22, 25 and other numbers of beats per measure (Wikipedia). And it is more common to find the use of compound time signatures in progressive rock (Tools genre). As we see when we look at Pink Floyd, one of the first progressive Rock bands, who used 7/4, with the guitar solo in 4/4, in their song "Money."

A little fun fact: The earliest examples of irregular signatures are found in instrumental music by Giovanni Valentini (1582–1649), written in 5/4, 7/8, etc (Wikipedia).

Although time signatures in progressive rock usually change from verse to chorus and not so much in just the verse or the chorus. This is why Lateralus is such a defining song in the progressive rock genre. The use of these irregular time measures gives this song a unique sound. The soft plucking of guitar opens this song giving it a mellow vibe but as the drums begin to beat in the background it provides the listener with a sense of anticipation. Getting louder and louder it reminds one of war drum beats in ancient tribes. This may have been done on purpose seeing as how lead singer, Keenan said "I use the archetype stories of North American aboriginals and the themes or colors which appear over and over again in the oral stories handed down through generations. Black, white, red, and yellow play very heavily in aboriginal stories of creation” (Wikipedia).

At 1 minute 14 seconds the song breaks and the Heavy drum beats over deep bass clash nicely with the guitar giving it that progressive rock feel. It Combines an aggressive beat with Keenan’s soft yet gravely voice. This works well with the metal genre but also with the song as a whole. The overall feel that this songs sound gives is a sort of desperate yet insightful soul searching.

To come back to the Fibonacci numbers which play such a large part in this albums extreme popularity drummer Danny Carey says, "It was originally titled 9-8-7. For the time signatures. Then it turned out that 987 was the 16th number of the Fibonacci sequence. So that was cool.”

The reason why that was so cool is that this is a re-occurring concept in this album. In this song which is also the title track, the syllables of the lyrics follow the Fibonacci pattern, and the time signature of the chorus rotates between 9/8, 8/8, and 7/8 time, referring to the 17th Fibonacci number, 987. Keenan's halting vocal rhythms during the first verse of "Lateralus" correspond to Fibonacci numbers in their syllable counts as evidenced below.

1 (Black)
1 (then)
2 (white are)
3 (all I see)
5 (in my infancy)
8 (red and yellow then came to be)
5 (reaching out to me)
3 (lets me see)

Additionally, Keenan begins singing at 1:37 into the song. 1 minute 37 seconds, or 97 seconds, is approximately 1.618 of a full minute. This happens to be the golden ratio, which is closely related to the Fibonacci sequence. Moreover, the lyric "spiral out", which is sung over and over again throughout the song, refers to this desire and also to the Fibonacci spiral, which is formed by creating and arranging squares for each number in the sequence's 1,1,2,3,5,8,... pattern, and drawing a curve that connects to two corners of each square. This forms a never-ending and infinitely-expanding spiral (Wikepdia).

This shows how music and sound can be used to carry out conceptual art and can be used in connection with other important aspects of life such as math, philosophy etc. Just like sound gives a whole new meaning to images (such as in film) it does so too in other forms of art. The cover art for Lateralus done by Alex Grey who does most of the art work for tool is given a new meaning when looked at in combination with the song. At first the spirals in the background look like a regular design but after researching the song we know they are in connection with the fibonnaci numbers. Furthermore the concept is about living life open mindedly and thinking laterally instead of linearly. Therefore we can draw conclusions that the many eyes in this piece of art are for seeing things from different perspectives and points of view (ie. Being open minded). Also the arrangement of the eyes in an arc suggests not thinking linearly.

In conclusion, Tool is a great example of how intricate sound is and how sound is very much an art form on its own but can be used in combination with other art forms to create whole conceptual pieces. The playing around with math and sound is interesting. Sound is so mysterious and Tool evidently understands this and plays off of this aspect creating a piece which lit up chartrooms and music debates around the world. It is evident that Tool put a lot of thought into this song and fans of Tool have put even more thought into analyzing it coming up with interesting theories on the arrangement of the tracks and the fibonnaci numbers. Overall this progressive rock piece with its aggressive beat and compound time arrangements provides the listener with an intense rock experience that is not only good to the ears but good for the mind as well.


Saturday, March 20, 2010


Sweaty and tired I sit on the train having just returned from my soundwalk in Griffintown. Although I am slightly out of breath and sleepy the soundwalk was such a nice experience. I never even heard of Griffintown until this class but now that I have toured this town and listened to the stories of former residents, I am so intrigued.
It was strange to think about families living there with children running around the streets laughing, spreading ghost stories and getting into all sorts of mischief despite the strictness of the catholic religion and the nuns who enforced it, since the feel of the town now is so industrial. Obviously, this makes sense due to the zoning laws that changed. But it is so crazy to think how things can change so drastically.
Instead of children laughing, I heard mostly the roar and hum of engines as cars and trucks drove by and as I turned down the quieter streets like Shannon I heard nothing but the wind.
This was such a strange contrast compared to the story of the plane crash that I was now listening to. The sound effects added into the story helped me picture what it must have been like but it was still hard to imagine all the chaos and debris amongst the now deserted streets. Being on a deserted street, save the occasional speeding car, was a slight problem because I really wanted to take a picture of myself on this street but seeing as I went alone it was hard to get me in the frame with the background.
However as I waited on the corner listening to the story of the plane crash and trying to imagine what it must have been like I heard the low hum of human voices. So I ran over and asked a really nice man if he’d mind taking a picture of me which of course he did not. Being alone made taking pictures of me a small set back but I am actually glad I decided to go alone. I felt like I could really concentrate, listen and take my time.
It’s strange but as I walked around and listened to the stories I began to feel at home. Getting comfortable enough to pause the tracks and veer slightly off course exploring abandoned lots and back alleys. I heard the crunching of gravel rocks and glass under my feet, which turned into squelching as I made my way through muddy tire tracks to get better close-ups of the debris that sits where houses once were. Taking pictures in that abandoned lot I heard the hollow slapping sound of a truck being loaded (or unloaded I couldn’t see but only hear) and the sound of distant deep voices yelling something I couldn’t make out. After taking pictures of the garbage, and this really cool red fire escape which I would have climbed had it not been for a sign posted on the fence right next to it warning me this premises was under surveillance, I made my way to 1224 ___ street where the last of the stables remain.
Unfortunately, I did not hear any horse noises but I could smell the horses in the air. I did hear some dogs barking as a woman passed by walking two small dogs and the sound of stroller wheels on the concrete as a couple walked by me with their little baby. This is what it must have been like back when Griffintown was a residential area, I thought.
Standing in front of these stables was probably my most favourite spot on our tour. I love horses for one and for two it really helped me imagine how different Montreal was at the beginning of the 20th century. Standing here reminded me of stories my grandmother would tell me about the horse she had growing up as a little girl. However, she lived on Ste-Catherine and of course, now there are no stables so being here in Griffintown made it easier for me to picture what her home must have looked, sounded and smelt like.
Listening to the people on the tracks reminisce and tell stories really made this soundwalk come alive. To be honest walking around Griffintown was interesting because I had never been there before but without these tracks to listen to on the way I would not have got half as much out of the soundwalk as I actually did. The soundscape I heard was quite similar to the soundscapes I heard while doing my soundwalk for the first assignment, lots of cars, trucks, footsteps, the occasional voice and the wind so I’m really glad I had the tracks to help make this come alive and make me contemplate what the soundscape must have sounded like back then compared to now.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Soundwalk Report

Going for a sound walk in -28 degree weather proved an adventure indeed. I started on Friday recording all the sounds on my walk to work just to get a feel for it. I have to admit I am glad the Edirol’s look like mp3 players because I did feel a little strange stopping at bus stops to but not getting on or bending down to hear my footsteps better.
On Saturday, I decided to take a real sound walk around my house. I thought it would be hard to find 10 isolated sounds and 5 ambient sounds outdoors. At first it was pretty hard, I could only hear cars, my own footsteps and the wind. But as I began to move from causaul listening to reduced listening I came across a phone booth! As I recorded the various sounds of the phone booth (plastic doors, picking up the receiver and pressing the numbers) and really concentrated on my reduced listening. I realized there is actually quite a bit of different sounds I could find while staying outside. Except at this point (maybe 15 min into the walk) my fingers were frozen, my toes were numb and the long johns I had under my jeans didn’t seem to be helping so I ran home.
At home, I thought about other outdoor places that could work and lo and behold, there was a gas station across from the phone booth! Therefore, on Sunday I called up my boyfriend who has a lovely heated car and asked him to accompany me on my walk. We drove over to the gas station and this proved to have quite a rich mix of ambient sounds.
I recorded the cars driving in and out, starting their engines and turning them off, the noise the pump makes when you lift it up, the beep beep of the number pad for the pre-paid pumps, my footsteps, keys jingling, a dumpster cover flapping in the wind and the sound the air pump makes when you lift it out of its handle. This was a good place because the noises were not weather dependant and I could make them myself so I could go at any time of day really. I went in the afternoon on a Sunday so it was pretty busy and fairly noisy but I guess I could have heard more noise say during rush hour on a weekday. The major obstacle though, was people talking, which happened in a few of my recordings at the gas station, the train station and at the park.
Also it was a little funny, walking around with what people probably assume is an mp3 player and just standing next to them as they put gas in their tanks but no one said anything so it was all good.
After finishing off at the gas station I took a walk past the water right behind Annie’s pub, there was not much sound there besides the wind but it was cool to hear how loud it was by the water compared to in front of the gas station.
I hopped back in the car to warm up a little (especially after standing in that wind near the frozen lake) then we made our way over to the intersection near my house that connects to auto route 20. The most predominant noise there was obviously cars and the wind but I recorded it anyways because I liked to hear the difference between the amount of cars on the highway and the few cars that drove down Ste-Anne road near the phone booth and gas station; and there is of course the difference between trucks, cars and SUV’s. Luckily there was a few trucks that drove by so I got to record the different noises their engines made.
This again is not weather dependant (although the tires on the snow vs. tires on gravel would make different noises) but it could be time dependant. If I had gone during rush hour, I could have heard more cars drive by or maybe I could have heard a melange of engines as they sat in traffic.
Across from this intersection is a park where they had set up a skating rink so I headed over there after standing on the side of the road recording traffic. It was really hard to get sounds without people talking in the background and I didn’t feel right asking people if they could stop talking so I had to be strategic.
At this point I had a lot of ambient sounds so I decided to concentrate on getting more isolated sounds. Since most people were talking at the skating rink I made my way over to the playground part of the park. There, I got some really good isolated sounds. I got the click click of one of those rocking horse things as it wiggled back and forth (which actually made a really nice beat) I got the creaking chains of the swing as it swayed in wind. Of course there was always the crunching of snow under my feet. Then someone walked by dragging a toboggan so that was an interesting sound which by sheer luck happened to be isolated.
As I walked back to the car I passed the skating rink, the people seemed to be concentrated on their hockey game and not talking anymore so I got lucky again and recorded the sounds of skates on ice, the noise the puck makes as its being hit with stick and the noise it makes as it hit the backboards.
The Ste-Annes train runs over the intersection that connects to autoroute 20 so I decided to record that sound as well. I recorded the sound of the train coming in. Stopped it and then recorded just the squeal of the breaks as an isolated sound. I take the train everyday so it was pretty easy for me to time this properly. I also got the beeping the train makes as a warning that it’s about to leave and the squish of the air as the train drives off.
All these sounds were recorded with the built-in Edirol mic. I tried the handheld mic when I was recording in the phone booth but I found the mic handling was too loud and the quality was not good not to mention it was freaking cold so I liked having one hand in my pocket!
In terms of other technical considerations, I just made sure the mic gain was on low and the levels stayed between 12 and 24. When it came to quiet sounds like the swing or the toboggan I had to make sure the input was higher (between 75-80) and when it came to louder sounds like the train I lowered the input to the 60’s.
Overall I’m pretty happy with the quality of my recordings, I’ve never done sound before, I don’t have the best hearing and I’m really not musical so I was kind of worried about this class. Doing this sound walk, though helped me focus on sounds I wouldn’t have really heard before which is helping improve my aural sensitivity and I’ve always wanted my level of auditory achievement to improve.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sound blog 1

The hardwood floors in my apartment creak and groan under me as I walk around. This sound is important because it reminds me of all the hard work we put into our apartment when we moved in, in September. At the beginning, there was this ugly what-used to be pink carpet but was now stained gray. The landlords refused to have it clean so my roommate and I moved all the furniture pulled the carpet up in one big piece so as to easily put it back when we move out, then we sanded the floors with a belt sander and got down on our hands and knees to varnish the whole thing. So now every time I walk around and hear the creaks and groans, and the cracking of the dark hardwood under me I'm reminded of how proud I am that not only am I living on my own but I turned my house into a home.

The clicking of the tiny keys on my cell phone as I text is an important sound in my daily routine. I have to admit I am a texting addict so I hear the little cracking as the letters are pressed down by my thumbs probably close to 100 times a day. I find it a great way to stay in touch with my friends and family. Its discrete, useful to pass the time at work and saves on my minutes as I have unlimited text messages but not very many daytime minutes.

Another technology I use daily is my computer so the melodic synths of the windows start up music is important in my daily sonic experience. After I started my computer up this morning, I searched this soft sounding classical style of music on YouTube to be able to listen to it on repeat and better describe it. I realized this soothing music isn't just a "start up" sound but a sound that can be used to make an up-tempo videogame-esque song as evidenced by the related links I found on YouTube’s sidebar. This makes me think of how so many people are connected thanks to computers and the internet. This is clearly influential as something like the sound of a received email or contact signing on to msn can be combined to make whole songs that are actually pleasant to listen too.

Of course after the start-up music is over comes the tapping of the keys on the keyboard. The keyboard on my laptop is new so the keys click down easily making a pitter-patter sound as I rapidly type this sentence. The keyboard on my desktop is older and has had a few encounters with water and dust so the keys are stickier making a harder click sound that vaguely reminds me of an old time typewriter. I used to play with such a typewriter when I was young and I loved to hear the loud clacking of the keys as they stamped each letter onto the paper.

The happiest sound in my daily sonic routine is the laughter of my roommates and I. Everyone tells us all three of us have the same laugh and now that I listen carefully, I can see why. All three of us start giggling small giggles that sound like “ha ha ha” that grows louder the longer we laugh. Afterwards we let out a long soft breath that sounds like whispering or a soft wind blowing through a semi-open window. Although we do have some differences, one of my roommates laughs a lot louder and I tend to go silent if I’m laughing really hard at something.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


I can't believe it but I've finally finished and exported my movie :D!
I'm so happy with the way it turned out. I'm still scared that compared to everyone's its not that good but since this is my first time creating a project like this I have to say I'm very pleased with the result. I'm also really happy with all that I've learned regarding Final Cut Pro. I want to get a mac just so I can use Final Cut Pro to make more movies on my own time.

I also can't believe the class is over! I'm glad I took this class, even though I really don't know what kind of mark I'm going to get I feel that I've learned a lot and acquired skills that are really going to help me in the future. I'm glad I know more about Photoshop, Imovie and of course Final Cut Pro.

Looking Back I encountered many difficulties. There were of course lots of computer related ones, such as everything being deleted from the scratch drive and having to start over, trying to get a song from my Ipod onto the desktop, and learning how to do the most basic things on Final Cut and Imovie. There was also personal difficulties I encountered like Getting over being shy and filming in public and trying hard not to procrastinate because a project like this takes ALOT of time.

But by making friends in the class, going on and just diving in and doing something new I got over these difficulties and ended up not only creating a project that I'm proud of but getting a true experience too.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Almost done

So class is almost finished for the semester and so is my movie :D
I've been working really hard on it and I hope it's going to come out ok. I haven't seen anyone else's movie so I'm kind of scared mine wont be as good but because I'm not in Cin/com I'm proud of what I accomplished.
Working on the movie was hard. I encountered some difficulties like all my work getting deleted because of the new thing with the mac labs, then I had trouble figuring out Final Cut Pro and I gave up on trying to get a Youtube video into my movie. Although working with and Alex Sediva was really helpful. Alex was really nice and helped me a lot with adding effects. I really like using final cut pro now and would love to learn it really well because I think I could make so many interesting things on it.
I think this was a really interesting project and it really made me realize how much work goes into even one minute of film.
Even though I found this class one of the hardest, I enjoyed it because you definitely see your hard work pay off in the end.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Working on my movie

Ok so I haven't posted in awhile but I have been working on my stuff. I started off with Imovie because I had used it once before to make a movie in my grade 11 class. But I really needed more effects and I didn't feel I could do what I wanted to do with Imovie. So I switched to final cut pro. All of last class I was trying to figure out how to use it and I was getting really frustrated but for some reason when I came back this class things got a bit easier. I also got help from Alex and that was really great! I made a lot of progress and have alot of footage uploaded and edited. I even added an effect. I sped up a few of my clips so they look like they're being fast forwarded and I think that it looks really good and works well in the context of my movie. Now I just have to shoot the last of my footage and learn a few more effects and I think I'll really be on my way to creating an interesting project.