My father once told me about a sales technique where the salesman identifies your preferred sense and uses it to sell the product to you. For example, if you are a more tactile person they’ll say “How great does that FEEL? How does that FEEL to you?” If you are a more visual person “How great does that LOOK?” If you are more auditory “How does that SOUND to you?”
I’ve never really sat down and thought about it until know but I think I associate feelings with color. (Not tactile feeling but emotional). I’m a visual person.
This made things more difficult for me this week when I was working on telling a story with sound. For this week’s assignment we were tasked with translating the sci-fi short story Bloodchild, by Octavia E. Butler, into a sound piece. Bloodchild, is a very strange and captivating story that works with bug-like aliens on a foreign planet and their symbiotic/parasitic relationship with the human race. It is also a coming of age story where the main character grows from boy to man over the course of one night. He loses his naiveté and makes difficult choices for himself and his family.
I worked on the sound piece with Stephanie Koltun and we decided from the get-go we wanted to make our piece represent the emotional journey of Gan, the main character. The whole story seemed metallic and otherwordly to us so we went about using our new found knowledge of recording sounds that we believed work well.
The first thing that struck me was the level of mindfulness that was immediately induced on focusing on sounds and trying to isolate them. It made me realize how much noise we always have around us, and how well our brains drown it out. The second thing was how different a sound can be when manipulated. We turned a dropped pipe into a melodic instrument. One of the most strange sounds I added was lighting a stove. When I slowed it down 300% it became so ominous and cracked, I used it almost as a metronome to move from one segment of our piece to the other.
When Stephanie and I met after we’d collected all of our sounds we were at a loss on how to put them together to represent the emotional journey of this short story. I found a very unexpected simple solution. If we broke down the story in segments and gave each segment a color to represent the emotion, it immediately became easier to translate the written story into audio. I had to deconstruct it further into clean cut a visual narrative in order to be able to then transfer it to audio.
We made the first part of the story where they are drugged by the egg a purple. It was an ambient, smoky purple at first foggy and comforting but with some underlying tension. The next segment of the buildup was red. It was bright and discordant and sharp. Bloody and offensive and disconcerting. The following segment where the dialogue goes on between Gan and his brother and then Gan and his T’lic was blue. It starts of muddied before achieving clarity towards the end. It was an extension but a contrast to the red. The final segment was green to embody acceptance. It’s a dark and moody green in which Gan makes hard decisions and becomes an adult.
I learned a lot about my creative process in creating this piece in collaboration with Stephanie and personally for me, the biggest take away is how I filter emotions with colors.