More Than Just an Agency
At Audio UX, we are constantly experimenting with music and sound design outside the context of our branding and multimedia initiatives. Our latest internal exploration is the Ruin EP. Three tracks written and produced as a manifestation of the “sound of abandoned spaces”. Made of field recordings from the abandoned Letchworth asylum, Ruin is a warping, wrenching and winding ode to the aura permeated through the space from which the music was created. For Ruin, our goal was to create a wraithlike trio of tracks that would emotionally drop you into these forgotten spaces, conjuring up all the feelings of trepidation and mystery that come along with actually being there.
The enchanting allure of ruin in art is nothing new. During the 18th century, a craze for the aesthetic of decay swept through the artistic community and has since become such an oversaturated subject in art that it’s nearly a cliché. Terms like “Ruin Porn” only further this sentiment. Few sound artists and musicians have engaged with abandoned spaces on a musically intimate level. The “Ruin” EP is the resynthesis of ruin in the form of music and sound. We are telling the story of the space; of that sweet sorrow that you feel when you’re in a space that has outlived all of its occupants. It’s the story of economic and cultural failure but also of the inevitability of decay.
Rain ambience recorded at Letchworth village. Room tone and the ambience of the spaces were captured to be layered undearneath the musical elements, tying all the pieces together.
In July of 2017, our team traveled upstate to an abandoned village that once was one of New York’s largest youth sanatoriums. We brought microphones, laptops, cameras, drumsticks, speakers and open minds in hopes of capturing the auditory essence of the spaces.
One of the first orders of business the team undertook when arriving in Letchworth was capturing impulse responses in various abandoned rooms on the site. Impulse responses are audio snapshots of a room’s reverb. These snapshots can be used to recreate the sound of the room later during the creation process with convolution reverbs. For example, we were able to take drum sounds, vocals and other instrumentation that were not recorded at Letchworth and digitally place them within the space later in the recording process using the impulse responses we captured.
The sound of stomping on the floor was used as a snare drum in both End of Line and Eyelet.
We wanted to push ourselves during the creative process to turn Letchworth into a musical space. To do this, we recorded hits, scrapes, rattles, kicks, slams and every other imaginable impact of as many surfaces and materials we could find. These included but are not limited to: an old overturned washing machine, a metal trash can, a broken drinking fountain, dozens of wooden dressers, a squeaky metal bed-frame, and tons of broken glass. This ensured that when we were creating the music, it was literally created using the sounds of the space.
Building the Story
When considering the story behind the EP, we thought deeply about what it felt like to be in the spaces we captured and how that would translate emotionally in the music. We wanted something that evoked a sense of loneliness but also one of curiosity, excitement and adventure. We wanted to capture the bittersweetness of the spaces. Each space was completely destroyed, however still seemed to hold its essence and its rich history.
When you listen to the Ruin EP - close your eyes. Take note of what images you see - where your imagination takes you. Unique physical spaces give us unique feelings and music has the power to transport the listener to new and excited locations.