Posted by [email protected] on May 20th, 2017
As a species, we have always loved tales of adventure. Brave heroes venturing into uncharted and dangerous lands is a cornerstone of our collected stories. The Greeks brought us to the Underworld and to the top of Mount Olympus. Homer took us into battle and on long voyages across the sea. Science fiction writers gave us to distant worlds and played with time. There is something innately human about the need to push forward into the unknown. To overcome adversity. To conquer not only the environment, but in doing so, one’s self.
The American west, the era of Manifest Destiny, the expansion and settling of the ragged lands beyond civilized cities back eas,t have been a wellspring of stories and characters for over a century. Between the great literary period of seaborne adventure and our journey to the stars we reveled in the exploits of outlaws, lawmen and honest citizens trying to build something from nothing on a hostile frontier.
Even today, when we can read and watch adventures in every genre imaginable, we find ourselves going back to the American west for inspiration and entertainment. Modern books, movies and video games still find new audiences that are captivated by the harsh landscape and hard men and women who tamed it.
I’ve worked on a few ambiences lately (Lonesome West and Wild West Saloon) that have tried to capture some of the audio spirit of this time but, in the back of my mind, I’ve been itching to do a SoundPad that allows for greater customization. Like all my SoundPads before, this one is a noble failure. By which I mean, there’s just no way that a few dozen sounds could ever do justice to a genre this broad. But as I created each of the sounds (I usually make almost double the number needed and whittle it down) I felt that I was getting closer to describing the idea. At least in broad outlines.
Distilling, in this case, 36 sounds to illustrate an era, is a bit like writing poetry. If a poem uses an economy of words to create a sensation or mood that is greater than the sum of it’s parts. So too, a SoundPad, or any sound design really, attempts to tap into an established audio vocabulary that excites the brain into experiencing or remembering a place or action. In True West I’ve taken the basic ideas of outside life and inside life (in this case, the saloon) and combined them so that they would make a fitting backdrop to adventure.
You could create entire scenes using just the night wind with crickets around a campfire. Or craft an episode using the slow stagecoach and theme music. Or, if you’re feeling spicy, try robbing a train or playing a hand of cards.
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