Turn on your noise canceling headphones or stick your fingers in your ears, do something to block the noise around you. Now take a stroll wherever you are and observe the things you look at or walk by every day. What do you hear? What don't you hear? Feel inspired as your mind starts to set-up its own music studio and explore audio tests, replacing sounds for those that were once there. It's a mind game that so few of us take the time to learn and develop, yet it's by far one of the most rewarding.
Thinking about life without sound is eye opening right? So why is audio often ignored or mildly given a head nod by the people in our industry? If it's not the latest track from Justice, noone seems to care. We need to stop thinking so one-dimensional and add another layer to our work, and another tool to our toolbox. The days of critics hashing down on audio for the web are old school ideals. Who gives a shit if random chaos comes blasting out of your speakers when you hit a website, it should be a refreshing reminder that you're alive! Open your ears (and minds), and let us lend you some inspiration from the one David Kamp, a German sound designer and composer fiercely working behind the scenes to bring life to the motion and art you love so much. And for God's sake, unmute your speakers!
FAIRspot: How did you get into sound design and composing?
David Kamp: I did my first Sound Design when I was 3 years old. A new house was being built next to us and I would sit for hours at the window doing acapella imitations of all the construction sounds. In my teenage years I dabbled with various instruments, and started recording with a 4-track cassette recorder. I then upgraded my homestudio and collaborated with different musicians, played in a band, and deejayed for a while. Since I spent most of my time with music, I decided to study "Electronic Composition" at ICEM (Instute for Computer Music and Electronic Media) at Folkwang Hochschule in Essen. As a Composition Student you do things like analyzing classical and contemporary Music, learning about Orchestration, Jazz Harmony, Music History and many other subjects.
The "Electronic" in "Electronic Composition" means on top of the regular composition courses, you are also taught the more technical aspects of music composition, like recording and sound engineering or writing custom software to solve certain compositional problems. To give you an idea: Randomly distributing 10.000 different Sounds on 128 Speakers is no easy task with commercially available Music Production Software. Being able to create custom tools in Programming languages like LISP and Csound or Max MSP makes some things a lot easier. I have always been interested in Film Sound and scored some student films a long time ago. But what really grabbed my attention were two motion graphic pieces: An older Showreel by Justin Harder and the MTV "Crow" spot, created by Psyop NYC. I thought to myself: Damn, I want to do the sound for this kind of stuff. So I contacted some Animators, did my first job for MTV and one thing led to another...
FS: What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
DK: My favorite moment is probably when I see the movie for the first time without sound. At that point everything is still possible. I love seeing it come to live by adding the Audio Elements, and at a certain point image and sound start to "lock" into each other and suddenly you know you did something right. The good thing about animation is that you can get sometimes away with weird/experimental Sound Design since most of the depicted characters/objects are abstract and surreal in nature. Generally speaking, I like how this job lets me create music and sounds in many different styles and genres. I love how every project is different from the previous one and makes me invent a new sound world for it.
FS: What instruments do you play?
DK: With different degrees of perfection I play: Piano, Guitar, Bass, Drums, Trumpet, Harmonica, Kazoo, circuit bent disney keyboards...
FS: Can you imagine yourself doing anything other than what you are doing right now?
DK: There is really no thing I would rather do rightnow.
FS: In a recent interview we asked Hilman Curtis how important music selection is when filming/editing and this is what he had to say: "Sometimes it makes the film...other times it's a mistake to use it. The whole idea of sound, capturing it during the shoot, and using music and effects is so hugely important and yet so easy to neglect at times...it's something I try very hard to get right." Your take?
DK: Well, obviously I try very hard to get this right too. Its always great to have Directors who are concerned about the Sound, since as we all know music can dramatically alter our perception of a scene and sometimes its best to have no music at all. A good example of that is the movie "No Country for old men" by the Coen brothers, which uses virtually no music. The Functions of the musical score are replaced by extremely well crafted Sound Effects which suck you into the scene and manage to create more tension than any score ever could. There is nothing as scary as hearing the murderers Footsteps on the floor behind you...
FS: Your thoughts on 4'33'' by John Cage?
DK: Love the chair squeak at 02:45. No, seriously: While I dont enjoy listening to most of John cage's music, I think his ideas about silence and music are relevant and interesting conceptionally. With 4`33 he made the audience listen consciously to the sounds around them and thus questioned the established roles of Perfomer/Audience in a concert setting. In his other pieces he made extensive use of random processes to create music, be it by putting many radios tuned to different channels on stage, or by writing random notes on a piece of paper whose musical properties (pitch, duration, volume...) are determined by rolling dice.
FS: Have you ever worked with a motion designer or animator on a piece at the same time - where neither the music, nor the visuals are created first?
DK: Recently I collaborated with many great Designers and Animators in the "Psst! pass it on" Project. One of the pieces was done with Florian Witzel, Kim Dulaney and Anh Vu, all three currently Designers at psyop.tv in New york. It was a lot of back and forth, where the music and Animation inspired each other and everything slowly grew together. In general I like to be involved early in the process to have time to try things out, but when it comes to syncing Sounds to the Picture and Recording Instruments I prefer working to a locked edit.
FS:Do you know how to create animation/motion graphics yourself?
DK: I once participated in an interactive Installation for which I created Sound and Video material. After experimenting with Cinema4D and After Effects, I got to the point where I could create abstract 3D graphics that actually looked not too bad. I also did a few Stop Motion Pieces just for fun, but once I saw what all the talented Animators and Motion Design studios out there are able to pull off, I decided to leave this field to people who know what they are doing, and focus on what I do best.
FS: What's your studio setup? What tools do you use? (software, hardware, instruments, etc...)
DK: I have my studio hardware stripped down to a bare minimum of high quality components: 2 fast Computers, 2 good Mics and 2 good Speakers. Audio Interfaces are all RME. On top of that I have a few Midi Controllers sitting on my Desk, and a multitude of sound generating devices laying around. (Guitars, Drums, Flutes, Circuit bend Keyboards, Banshee Talkbox, empty cookie boxes, Bycycle horns, etc)
Besides that its mostly software. I create and process sounds with tools like Csound, Max MSP and Ableton live, and built a huge sample library and Sound Effect Collection over the years and keep adding sounds to it. My main workstation runs Cubase 4, where all the sounds come together and get synced to picture.
FS: What are you doing to promote yourself and get new work?
DK: I try to attend some Film and Animation festivals. Every now and then I contact people who work on the kind of projects I would like to be part of and force them to check out my portfolio. So, you better check out www.davidkamp.de immediately, if you want to be shure your kids return safe from school tomorow...
FS: What's a normal day like for you? (can you walk us through your day, start to finish)
DK: I usually get up at 9, take a shower and grab some coffee. Sometimes I drive with my bicycle to the gym to excercise. Then I answer my emails and start working on my active Projects. After a lunch break I continue to work, and in the evening I mostly spent some time with my girlfriend.
FS: What do you like to do when you're not working? Do you have any hobbies?
DK: I enjoy riding my bike through the city, going to the theater, playing soccer and frisbee, going to artsy-fartsy exhibitions and watching movies in the cinema. Oh, and cooking can be fun too. My next project will be Carrotsoup with Ginger.
FS: What's the heavy rotation on your iPod?
DK: Al Jareau, Justice, Ligeti, Jose Gonzalez, Robert Normandeau, Fink, Bootsy Collins, Bill Withers, Chromeo and many others.
FS: Do you compose what you hear in your head, or does your musical piece take shape and meaning during post-production?
DK: That depends. Sometimes when I walk the street, I start singing stuff to myself and might record it later when I am back in the studio. But most often I begin with a feeling of the general direction and then start with a sound, a melodic fragment or a rhythmic motive, and build from that. So mostly its during production where things really start to take shape..
FS: Have you ever performed music live for an audience?
DK: I am not a frequent performer allthough I have performed a few times, most recently last week at the "Electroacoustica 2008" Festival for eletroacoustic music in Beijing. Before that, I had concerts at the Essen Philharmonic as well as in different clubs during my dj days.
FS: Name some of your influences... People, music, art, whatever inspires you to create!
DK: Claude Debussy, Takashi murakami, David Oreilly, Francis Dhomont, Andreas Gursky, Michel Gondry, Stefan Kreitmayer, Coen Brothers, Daft Punk.
FS: What is your favorite city street sound?
DK: The sound of pigeons making love.
FS: What has enabled you to work on mega-brands such as Adobe, Zune, MTV and VH1?
DK: I got recommended from people I worked with before, so I guess its the work I do.
FS: Tell us a secret or a trick related to the way you work.
DK: Allright here is the secret: coffee. A lot. And here another tip related to that: dont try to look at your wrist watch while holding a full cofee cup in the same hand. I tried it many times, trust me it always ends up in a big mess.
FS: What type of projects would you like to work on in the future?
DK: I would love to work on more commercials and shortfilms with talented Directors, Animators and Design Studios around the world. It might also be fun to work on interactive projects and websites which is something I havent done yet.
FS: You have 5 minutes to pack your bags. What are you taking?
DK: Laptop, Headphones, a mic and "george foremans lean mean fat-reducing grilling machine".
Like what you hear?
All works above are produced by and copyrighted by David Kamp. To view more of David's work, please visit his online portfolio at www.davidkamp.de.
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