Non-musical mood sounds in Vienna's music

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dbeattie
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Non-musical mood sounds in Vienna's music

Postby dbeattie » Mon Mar 04, 2013 8:53 am

So I'm editing the sheet music for Watershed right now... which means I'm listening carefully and closely to the album recording, and at approximately 1 minute and 45 seconds into the song, right after the words "creep into your bed",... I'm hearing what sounds like the click of the latch on a door popping shut, as if a door has just fallen shut while someone is creeping into somebody's bedroom! In all the years since Vienna's "Inland Territory" album has come out, this is the first time I've noticed this particular sound in this particular recording, and I'm sure it's because I'm listening to it slowly and carefully at the moment. I suppose I could be wrong about this sound, and feel free to argue with me if you think the sound I'm pointing out has a different origin, for example, a minor flaw in the studio recording that was deemed insignificant and just used as is. But on several repeated listens, my current opinion is, that that sound was deliberate.

It made me wonder, what other non-musical interpretive sounds are recorded into Vienna's albums? I feel like with 4 studio albums by now, if she's willing to do this kind of thing in the editing of an album, it probably has happened more than once; and some of the other examples are probably much more obvious, I just can't think of them at the moment. So I figured I'd start this topic as a list of some kind. If somebody else has already addressed this question elsewhere, and I just haven't been able to find it by searching the forums, please let me know and I can just point there and/or delete this topic and add to that one. But otherwise... I'm starting a list here, and feel free to add to it. :)

For my list, I'm going to disqualify things like the creative violin performance in "1br/1ba" (imitating real-life sounds), because that's created by a musical instrument and part of the studio performance of that instrument. And I'm also disqualifying the pots and pans in Radio, because even though they are not traditionally thought of as musical instruments, they are used as such. The whooping and hollering in Grandmother Song is probably a grey area, but I'd be likely to disqualify it since it was part of the live performance of a set of musicians in a studio (or a house in that case). I'm basically looking for everyday sounds, recorded and embedded unsuspectingly in Vienna's studio albums, for effect, to accent or highlight the concepts she's trying to convey or the stories she's telling.

Of course this has no practical purpose, and I certainly don't need this information for creating sheet music. It's just fun to notice and catalog these things. :)

Watershed - 1:45 - door shutting

aaparallel
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Re: Non-musical mood sounds in Vienna's music

Postby aaparallel » Mon Mar 04, 2013 10:26 pm

Wow, the door latch sound is so subtle! Maybe it was not intentional, but I think a lot of sounds on albums produced by Alex are of non-musical-instrument origin, and about all of them deliberate. The crackling of a record player provides the rhythm for "The Last Snowfall" and evokes nostalgia and intimacy. And whatever effect was used in the choral interlude of "St. Stephen's Cross" always sounds like a helicopter to me.

Does the "sounds of SF" opening of "Mission Street" count?
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dbeattie
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Re: Non-musical mood sounds in Vienna's music

Postby dbeattie » Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:15 pm

aaparallel wrote:Wow, the door latch sound is so subtle! Maybe it was not intentional, but I think a lot of sounds on albums produced by Alex are of non-musical-instrument origin, and about all of them deliberate. The crackling of a record player provides the rhythm for "The Last Snowfall" and evokes nostalgia and intimacy. And whatever effect was used in the choral interlude of "St. Stephen's Cross" always sounds like a helicopter to me.

Does the "sounds of SF" opening of "Mission Street" count?

I'll have to listen to St. Stephen's Cross again and see whether I hear what you are hearing. :)

YES, the opening of Mission Street is a much better example than the one I pointed out. Thanks for bringing it up. I knew there would be a much more obvious example somewhere in her music, and you've pointed out one that's very obvious, that I couldn't think of last night. :)

The record player sounds in The Last Snowfall are really interesting. Kind of an in between case, where it sets the mood and it's clearly a non-musical sound, but then with some looping, it starts to set the rhythm for the song. I wonder how many more examples we can all collectively think of!

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Re: Non-musical mood sounds in Vienna's music

Postby chigaijin » Tue Mar 05, 2013 4:15 am

AAAAH holy crap CHILLS from that click. Thanks for that, dbeattie.

When I saw this I immediately thought "Radio", but now that I listen through again, it seems like all the sounds are musical (if often anti-harmonic). Even though I really felt the environment on that one. I'd still call out the whispers, though—it was only on this listen-through that I consciously noticed that they start in the second verse, not just in the bridge.

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Re: Non-musical mood sounds in Vienna's music

Postby Konrad » Thu Mar 07, 2013 1:52 am

From an older interview:
For Warm Strangers, Vienna traveled to Nashville to record again with David Henry. Financial constraints forced Vienna and her recording team to be creative. On the a cappella "Passage," they couldn't decide whether to use weird sound effects or chopped-up field recordings. In the end, they went to a tunnel underneath a Nashville bridge and let the tape run.

Do you think the sounds of a tunnel count for a mood-setter? :)

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Re: Non-musical mood sounds in Vienna's music

Postby wolding » Sat Apr 27, 2013 4:58 am

I got to talk with David Henry at a show in Atlanta during the Warm Strangers tour. He told me about recording in the tunnel. He said that if I listened closely enough I would be able to hear trucks passing by on the highway. I never could hear anything other than the insects.


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