The hills are alive with the sound of ADSR

Before I begin, I should probably explain my title because if you are anything like myself, you are probably quite confused. ADSR stands for attack, decay, sustain and release. It’s used in reference to some synthesisers and the amplitude envelope. Essentially it is how an instrument varies in sound over time. But I’m getting ahead of myself, I honestly believed it made an interesting title!

I do have a small musical background, like many other children I was coaxed into learning an instrument at a young age. The clarinet was my instrument of choice and I joined my friends in the school band for four years before giving it up as I moved into high school. I know the basics of sound and music on a classical level. However music, and sound itself, is so much more than that.

In our MEDA101 tutorial we spent almost an hour covering all these different terms that applied to sound and sound production. Some were familiar and others a foreign concept. It’s a little crazy to think about how much goes into both the sounds we hear and the sounds we listen to (if you are confused about this distinction, read my previous post). Music has the ability to manipulate our emotions and sound has the ability to change our perception of the environment around us. It is a powerful concept and to have the ability to control it, therefore allows us to control much more.

Recording, music and sound manipulation has varied greatly over time and has lead to many different avenues including entertainment as well as digital art, more common in today’s society. Instead of using at as just a tool to replicate a sound already heard, humans have taken it to another level and have experimented upon it and changed the way we view it, to see it as more of an art form.


Bernard Parmegiani’s composition “Entre Temps” was the piece I studied in a close sound analysis. It’s 22 minutes long but even just listening to five minutes of it allows you to immerse yourself in the emotion and feelings that the composer creates through sound manipulation. The throbbing sound that starts from the onset and continues all the way through the piece begins this eery feeling of foreboding. It fades in and out, as does the ticking that also begins. You hear a page flipping, the murmuring of voices and then suddenly bird calls and what appears to be splashing. And then we go back to our mindless throbbing and ticking. It’s a waiting game, the entire composition. The ticking, the pausing, the page flipping, it is as if the listener themselves is waiting, anticipating something that is going to happen. It is intense and creates this suspenseful mood as you wait for something to actually happen. But nothing ever does, you continue to return to the constant throbbing sound, almost alien in nature, and that never-ending ticking that seems to slow down and speed up sporadically. It is a very alien and disjointed piece but it is a prime example of how sound, noise and music can tell a story and make the audience experience something, an emotion or otherwise.

That there is the crucible of everything, how you can tell a story only through the medium of sound and it is this that is integral to media art as well. Using technology as an art form in order to tell a story, or to push across a concept.


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