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A conversation on Sound Design with Florian Tippe and Noah Pred Text: Mischa Mathys / oversatt til norsk av Marius Vibe

The music in sound and the sound in music: A conversation on Sound Design with Florian Tippe and Noah Pred.

What is sound design? In the most pragmatic terms it is designing a sound and its associations with film and animation are strongest. From the functional sound of a door closing to the more abstract practise of capturing the suspense in sound, it’s been in use in film as long as the medium has existed, but today its practical applications extend far beyond that artform. From music to web design, it can be heard in the sound of a single note in your favourite pop song or it can be the sound your computer makes when it needs to voice its process over an incorrect input.

Sound Design is universal today and in a new course at Høgskolen i Innlandet, certified Ableton instructors take their students through the extensive realm of this field. Noah Pred and Florian Tippe are two of the three instructors behind this course, channeling their extensive practical and educational experiences through four modules, using Ableton Live in a practical manner.

Tippe is a sound designer whose work is largely based in film and animation, but whose name can often be found in the credits for large scale theatre productions and art installations. Noah Pred is a producer and artist who has been releasing records under his own name for the last two decades. Beyond his own music, he’s amassed an impressive résumé as a sound designer with work that includes synthesiser presets and sample packs for some of the world’s leading music brands.

While they share a common interest in the general definition of sound design, their objectives and applications with regard to that practise is individual, each interpreting the art of sound design in their own way for their own endeavours. We brought them together ahead of this next course to talk about their unique approaches to sound design and how they distil it down to their students through this course.

Noah Pred Crop

Artist and producer Noah Pred

Florian Tippe Crop

Sound designer Florian Tippe

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How would you define sound design, beyond the obvious aspect of designing a sound?

Noah: For those unfamiliar with the term “sound design,” the end goal (of this course) as a practise is being able to have the power to make the sounds you’re hearing in your head. So rather than knowing what sound you want in an abstract way, now you’re empowered by the language and terminology required to reproduce those sounds, rather than approaching it in a haphazard way.

Florian: Sound design is a way of listening to something that makes waves. For me it’s macro and micro. For example one guitar note can be part of a musical piece and I can listen to it as music, and then it has pitch, length, a rhythm and tempo. But I can listen to the same thing, the one guitar note as sound designer, and then it becomes a whole universe.

You would consider that one guitar note a piece of music in itself?

Florian: Exactly. That one guitar note could be part of a musical piece, but that one guitar note, could become a whole piece itself.

How does that relate to film and animation where you are creating sounds for background noise or something simple like a door slamming?

Florian: For me, it’s very similar. Quite often in the process of film-making, you have to decide as the director; “do I use music in this scene or do I not.” There’s a lot of emotion and musical things inside of sound design. Basically I’m interested in the music in sound and the sound in music.

Considering all these applications for this practise, from rock n roll songs to foley for films. What is the universal approach to these different aspects within the course?

Noah: A big part of what I’m teaching is providing the technical framework in terms of synthesis to understand; if you are trying to generate a certain type of mood, what sort of oscillators you might begin with and what sort of filters you might put those oscillators through and what modulations you might assign to generate that type of mood so you’re not just stabbing in the dark.

Florian: One of the main problems when working as a sound designer is that you have a lot of files and you have a lot of tracks. The approach is to become creative and work with the EQ and the compression to make those sounds, which usually come from sound libraries more realistic in the film.

Why is Ableton Live the chosen platform for this particular course?

Florian: Ableton Live is not the mainstream software for doing sound for film, but it has developed a lot recently. You’ve got these two views, which makes it quite easy to collect a lot of sounds and see how they fit into the film. The other advantage is the really easy-to-use warp functions in Ableton Live, which makes it really easy to adjust the timing, the length and the pitch of the sound to the film.

Noah: It encourages a level of experimentation that multitrack linear DAWs simply cannot. In addition to that there are some great tools for learning synthesis, and some excellent powerful generative midi-tools that can also be really helpful for soundtrack work.

And synthesisers use a universal language that you are able to apply to any synthesiser platform.

Noah: Absolutely and all the terminology that I share about synthesis in Ableton Live is one hundred percent applicable to any other synthesiser one will ever encounter.

How do you find the balance between the fundamentals of the practise and encouraging individual creativity through the course?

Noah: I think if there were no creativity encouraged it would be a very boring class. The best way to learn is doing something, so I want to make sure concepts are explored and played with in a practical way. In doing those practical exercises, the students are encouraged to exercise their creativity, towards whatever end goal or project they are working on.

Florian: Since my course is the last module of the whole course, I don’t have to start from scratch like Noah. It is mainly about creating a workflow and being creative, especially in the second project.

For example we’ll deal with a simple way to create “whooshes” and you can easily do that in Ableton Live with some pink noise and an easy EQ that is very easy to tweak and record live with a macro control.

I didn’t realise there was such a demand for “whooshes” in this field.

Florian: O, whooshes are all over the place.

What is the unique approach to this particular course from other institutions?

Florian: It’s quite close to what I do day to day, and what you really need when you work as a sound designer. A lot of courses give you an overview, but very rarely go as deep as this course.

Noah: I like to think that I bring a unique and valuable perspective to it. I have been an Ableton certified trainer since the first batch and the first one in Canada, so I’ve been doing this for quite some time and I think I’ve developed some unique and interesting approaches.

Can you channel some of your personal experiences in working with sound design through the course?

Noah: Of course my wealth of personal experience feeds into the course, and everything is delivered in a practical way, and a results orientated way. I’ve worked in higher education institutions as well so I’ve developed some educational practises too.

From your experience, what is the landscape like for these students after they finish?

Florian: Sound design is so ubiquitous, and it has so many fields that you can work with. And the good thing is it’s harder to use libraries in the same way you’ll use libraries in music, so normally you’ll need a sound designer for every job there is.

I imagine that it’s a very competitive field. Do you feel that having this official education will give you an advantage over the person that is self-taught perhaps?

Florian: It’s all about learning by doing. When I started doing sound design there weren’t as many courses as there are now. Most of the things I’ve learnt, I learnt by doing, and that’s the most important thing.

Noah: Absolutely. Even if some of the students in this class are already pretty far along in terms of having taught themselves some cool stuff already, they will benefit from terminology and more detailed inner workings of these tools, and will be able to not only understand their own work better, but will be able to communicate their work better for others.

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Noah Pred, Aja Ireland and Florian Tippe are instructors in the 100% online course in sound design with Ableton Live. This course is fully funded by subsidy schemes made available to the public due to the pandemic.

Course supervisor: James Welburn

Published Oct 29, 2020

Noah Pred Crop

Artist and producer Noah Pred

Florian Tippe Crop

Sound designer Florian Tippe

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