A sound purpose

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

Q. Peanut butter: creamy or chunky?
A. Chunky. Creamy does virtually nothing for me audibly.
— From an interview of Robert Euvino

In a clearing on a hill to the east side of Yankeetown Pond early last Saturday afternoon, about half past one, four parallel white lines from two planes crossing the blue sky together moved very slowly from one side of the horizon to the other. About half way across the trajectory, the sound of jet engines could be heard, proving once again that light travels faster than sound. The sound grew louder, soon reached its peak, and then began to diminish. Everyone who walks in the woods around here has had this experience at one time or another. Few natural settings are free these days from reminders of human-produced sound.

Silence in this setting did not return. This particular hillside, tucked into a secluded part of Wittenberg, was infested with a multitude of microphones spread throughout the clearing and surrounding woods. One mic, which looked like a dry mop, was being carried from spot to spot by an earnest young man, John Chiarolanzio. He moved quickly at times, but always stepped delicately and with an obvious self-awareness to avoid marring the potential gold he was panning for. Meanwhile, Matt Snedecor tended to the discretely placed stationary microphones with equal care.

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Instructions for the afternoon included the following: “Cast will create sounds for large battle scenes, and participants must be prepared to shout, scream, grunt, and generally act ferocious. Other related sounds will also be recorded.”

Following instructions, the 30 or so people gathered in the small meadow on the hillside gave robust yells. “This is the Woodstock crowd that gets things done,” encouraged one sound man.

They continued their yelling in unison, each reading the same small writing on the back of a large index card. “Scum,” they shouted. “Scum. Scum.”

“Fortuna,” they yelled next. “Fortuna. Fortuna.”

Then they yelled “No.” “No. No. No.”

They were instructed not to yell in unison. The “Nos” stretched out over time. Different voices were distinguishable. Some people waited for a quiet space in time to yell their “No.” Others experimented with different vocal registers.

“No Me Lawd” was next on the list. After that were “Impossible,” “Nay!” and “Huh?” The last seemed particularly to encourage variations in tone and delivery.

The cluster of people was told to turn outward from the group and yell in different directions. Creating sounds in different directions, they were told, provided “reflections from whatever.”

There were 96 words or phrases of dialogue on the list. That’s a lot of yelling.

The purpose of the sound effects recording session was to create audio effects to be used both in an epic Hollywood motion picture currently under production and in a sequel to a successful video-game franchise. Sound designers Robert Euvino and Coll Anderson, who combined forces to create audio effects to be used for both, took turns directing the dedicated and passionate group gathered for this sole purpose.

Euvino, described as a sound guru, owns and operates a post-production recording facility (Night Owl Productions in Kingston), where he spends most of his time composing music and designing sound effects for a variety of applications. He described later how the use of a multiplicity of microphones would allow him to amplify the sound so that the small crowd could be transformed into a real horde. With the power of sound manipulation, it appears, each Woodstocker has the power of at least a dozen ordinary mortals.

There was family feeling to the event, with small clusters of people of all ages and sizes trickling in to participate. The communal primal scream seemed an appropriate activity for an early spring afternoon.

It may seem peculiar that a town like Woodstock, which has a long history of specialized arts performance, also prides itself on the deeply felt quality of its community life. The two are not diametrically opposite after all. At best, with a little amplification they can feed each other.

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