Projects

The best way to get to know a sound designer is to listen to their work - headphones recommended! 

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Conceptual Sound Design

METROPOLIS - Film Sound Design

          A scene from Fritz Lang's 1927 silent film, METROPOLIS was provided for a film sound project. I added backgrounds, hard FX, and spotted / recorded / edited Foley. I then added music which I edited to fit the action and mood. Music adapted from Amériques by Edgard Varèse, performed by the The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Conducted by Riccardo Chailly. Edited and mixed in Pro Tools. 


          The film clip plays two times: first with the full mix, then with no music. Note that the "Effects & Foley Only" pass has not been remixed, hence some elements may stick out of the mix without the music present.

Alligator Skin Chanel - Radio Play

          Alligator Skin Chanel Parts 1 & 2  were created for a class on sound-based storytelling. Drawing inspiration from radio dramas of the 1940s and modern podcast story-telling, we created a story told only through sound.

 

Note that Part 2 uses voice actors, so while the characters are the same as Part 1, the voices are different.  

Credits:

          Written, Produced, and Sound Designed by: Liz Baker, Scott MacDonald, Javier Galarza-Garcia

          Part 2 Voice Actors: Anthony Saldana, Cheyenne Springette, Khailah Johnson, Joseph Hefner

Alligator Skin Chanel - Part 1
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Alligator Skin Chanel - Part 2
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Emerald View Park - Field Recording

          The goal of this project was to choose a unique location and transport a listener to this location with sound, considering elements of duration, intensity, distance, frequency, and perspective, while expressing the following qualities: emotion, texture, rhythm, variation, repetition. While this was a field recording, the intent was to compose the recorded material into an experience for the listener. 

          I visited Emerald View Park, which overlooks the Monongahela River and downtown Pittsburgh. The location is a unique separation from the suburban environment, while overlooking the busy city, highways, and stadiums below. The day was hot, and the wind on the hill reminded me of the beach.

 

          Once recording, I realized I was picking up radio interference on my shotgun microphone. Intrigued, I moved about, seeing how the signal changed. It became an interesting sonic parallel to the visual noise of the city below - far across both rivers, in Heinz Stadium, a game was afoot and I could see the images flashing across the jumbo-tron screen from all the way up on this hill. The radio noise seemed to parallel the small moving images in the distance. Among the other occurrences I happened to record, there was something especially poetic about a train horn blaring in the distance, and a mother calling after her wide-eyed child (who seemed quite curious about the large furry thing I was holding). I suggest you try listening with your eyes closed. 

Emerald View Park - Scott MacDonald
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Targeted Demolition: Make Way for the All-American Highway - Musique Concrète

          This project was an exploration of the concepts and methods of musique concrète and creating contemporary work in this style. Working from the topics of the Technological Influence on Communication & Isolation, and Industrial Growth and Development, I was inspired by the history of the United States interstate highway system and the socio-economic effects of its construction on urban African-American communities.

 

          Some history: thanks to lobbying from American auto-companies and President Eisenhower's signing of the 1956 Federal Highway Act, American cities were connected by a network of highways. While this allowed for better connection between cities, the highways were often constructed at the expense of poor communities that were displaced to make way for the roads. These highways connected wealthier white Americans to the city, created the suburban commute, and accelerated white flight and segregation. Connecting our cities lead to greater racial isolation, and increased noise and air pollution. 

Targeted Demolition - Scott MacDonald
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Hound Dog Album Cover

          The 1940s-50s was also a notable period for the role of race in American pop music: white and black communities were marketed, and listened to segregated genres of music. In 1945, Billboard began charting African-American music separately as "Race Records" (the chart was renamed to "Rhythm and Blues Records" in 1949). In 1953, Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton's song "Hound Dog" charted as the #1 R&B record for 7 weeks, but most people today know the song as sung by Elvis Presley (released three years later). I found it interesting to consider what an urban African-American community might have been listening to on the radio before the construction of the highways, and how this sound would soon be drowned-out by that of the traffic. 

          To create this piece I started with the "Hound Dog" recording and various car sound effects. I used a granular synthesis plug-in (Granite by New Sonic Arts) to experiment with creating sounds from these materials that more-closely resembled each other, fabricating a transition into a sort of nightmare dream-state of traffic noise. 

          Interested in learning more about transit in the United States? Check out this video by Vox which provided a lot of the inspiration for this piece, and this video, which gives further explanation on the prevalence of cars in American transit. 

Alice In Wonderland Syndrome

          This project aimed to recreate the reported symptoms and experiences of those living with a condition known as Alice In Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS). Also known as Todd's syndrome or dysmetropsia, AIWS is a disorienting neuropsychological condition that affects perception.

AIWS - Scott MacDonald
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I decided to recreate a theoretical morning routine for someone experiencing AIWS.

While the syndrome is experienced differently by each person, there are some general common factors that many people report: 

  • Some people report it relates to when they are feeling tired

  • Feeling very large or very tiny - body expanding or getting smaller

  • Lilliputian Hallucinations - objects appearing too large or small, expanding and shrinking

  • Objects seen from wrong perspective or as wrong shape

  • Distances appear incorrect

  • Hearing voices loud/close or faint/far

  • Sense of time slowed, sense velocity affected: things feel too fast or disorienting, which can be immobilizing to the person experiencing 

  • Sound distortion - “every movement making a clattering sound” 

  • A hallmark sign of AIWS setting in: onset "splitting" headache / migraine 

  • Experiencers can distinguish the hallucination from reality, but can still become terrified or confused 

Learn more on Wikipedia

Louisiana Street - An Artificial Binaural Soundwalk

          An artificial soundwalk created created in a Pro Tools multitrack session using plug-in automation, using recorded sounds and the Sennheiser AMBEO plug-in. Wear headphones to hear the binaural image. 

 

Music Composition

Music for Video Game Concept

          This project was created for an Interactive and Non-Linear Sound Design class. The assignment was to create a concept for a video game, develop some sound effects in Wwise, and create music for some different types of gameplay. All music was built in Ableton Live using the Live and Kontakt instrument libraries. Music was then re-built in Wwise for a proof-of-concept. It was important to create music that was modular and that could interact with gameplay.

          The game concept I developed was a cross between Grand-Theft-Auto and Planet of the Apes. It is a first-person-shooter where the player is one of many orangutans defending their home from deforestation. The game takes place in a slightly altered reality: deforestation is an ongoing problem, but in this universe the orangutans are fighting back. The logging companies therefore take more aggressive tactics, leading to a war in the rainforests. The playable characters are orangutans with various weapons, ranging from a stick, to various man-made weapons, to hijacking the logging equipment. The art style is semi-realistic 3D landscapes like GTA, but instead of a computer-graphics feel, it has a more art-studio painted and textural design, giving it an earthier look that is more connected to nature. The CGI used in Planet of the Apes is more realistic than this game, but the characters could look and move similarly to those in the film. 

          My goal for this game concept was to create a storyline inspired by environmental protection. While thinking of ideas I was reminded of a video I had seen of an orangutan bravely trying to fend off some logging equipment. The video is emotional and demonstrates the human-like qualities of orangutans. 

          The music draws inspiration from The Blue Man Group. I created music for the following varied gameplay concepts: Exploration Loop (early-level), a Transition and Action Sequence, and Action music loops for a later level. 

Jekyll & Hyde Underscore

          Jeffrey Hatcher's 2008 stage adaption of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a fast-paced, chilling new take on a classic story. The story focuses on a theme of duality, and the contrast between good and evil in human nature. This project consisted of writing underscore music for a scene and working with musicians to finalize and record the music.

          I knew I would be writing for violin and cello, and after doing some listening research I found a good way to experiment with this duality and sliding between mental states: varying playing technique. I was particularly intrigued by the Balanescu Quartet’s cover of The Model, which uses different playing techniques and bow pressure to create a dissonant and strained sound in the melody. This idea could be used to create an A/B duality of tone – playing the same melody and varying the technique. Along with this idea I wanted to use rhythm, a strength in my writing, to convey the pacing of the scene and growing complexity of the dramatic action.

           I chose to underscore one of the later scenes in the play, where we see for the first time Jekyll and Hyde onstage simultaneously, addressing one another. This to me was an important “oh sh—-“ moment for the audience, realizing the extent to which Dr. Jeykll’s condition has progressed. The music then fills the short transition from Scene 8 to 9.

Pages from Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
Click to open script PDF
Sheet Music - Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde Scene 8-9
Click to open score PDF
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde - Scott MacDonald
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The Ride Before The Storm

          This was a proof-of-concept percussion ensemble piece that I wrote based on the experience of getting caught in the rain while out for a bike ride. The audio track is a combination of virtual instruments from Sibelius, rebuilt instruments in Pro Tools and Kontakt using imported MIDI, and recordings done with hand percussion and, of course, a bicycle. This was a fun piece that allowed me to combine two things I enjoy: percussion and bikes! 

The Ride Before The Storm
Click to open score PDF
The Ride Before The Storm - Scott MacDonald
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The Motherf@#&%r with the Hat

          This project consisted of creating transition music between two scenes in The Motherf@#&%r with the Hat  by Stephen Adly Guirgis. Scene 6 features a drunken fight between main characters Jackie and Veronica, which ends with Veronica taking a swing at Jackie with stickball bat, knocking him out. The music then delivers us at the top of Scene 7, the next morning, when Jackie is beginning to recover from the fight. The music was created with Ableton Live and Kontakt. 

M-Fer w/ the Hat - Scott MacDonald
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Pages from M-Fer w/ The Hat
Click to open script PDF

Scott MacDonald Sound Design

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