.37 Warm Sounds

Thanks for the kind messages and donations after last week’s letter. If you’re interested in finding out more about the theory and craft of sequential art I recommend reading work by Nick Sousanis and Neil Cohn.

Hugo, who is a Third Something reader, also does some really interesting experiments with comic storytelling on his website; I’ll keep writing about it here as well!


From pictures to sounds.

I spend a lot of my work day with headphones plugged in - a condition of the co-working-space-worker I suspect. Some parts of my job - writing scripts, storyboarding and animating - are deep focus tasks and music really helps block out distractions.

I started collecting long ambient drone music about seven years ago and now have a playlist that’s two days long.

What I think it is, is to find music that is long and arrhythmic - there is no single beat to follow so you can only let the sounds wash over you.

Here’s a weird playlist I’ve been building this year. It’s called Talking Songs and well, it’s just that: songs where words aren’t sung, but said. So instead of lyrics you have short stories, poems, speeches, archive audio - all put to music.

I find the combination highly potent. In the right arrangement, the words are electrified by the music behind them.

For example, my friend Ben recommended this song called I Trawl The Megahertz by Prefab Sprout - the words are made of snippets musician Paddy McAloon heard late night on shortwave radio:

"Odd words from documentaries would cross-pollinate with melancholy confidences aired on late night phone-ins; phrases that originated in different time zones on different frequencies would team up to make new and oddly affecting sentences. And I would change details to protect the innocent (or guilty), to streamline the story that I could hear emerging, and to make it all more...musical, I suppose."

The result is an epic poem that starts very intimately but then seems to travel across time and space, before returning back: “Your daddy loves you very much, he just doesn’t want to live with us any more.”

Warning: there are some weird, if not disturbing, songs on that playlist and some are not suitable for playing in the car with kids. But like a good podcast, they conjure up images and emotions as you listen.

I discovered six years ago that I am mildly sensitive to ASMR. Like many people, I like closing my eyes listening to a Bob Ross episode (still the best - it’s the combination of the high pitch sounds of the brush moving across the canvas juxtaposed with the baritone of his voice.)

This old Englishman ruminating on philosophy in an echoey church seems to do it for me too as do these recordings of artisans at work once the volume has been turned up. (Yes, there’s a YouTube channel where the owner re-uploads other peoples’ documentaries after boosting the audio levels, something I suppose I ought to be unhappy about as an internet creator).

Finally, how about a guy walking around the Japanese countryside?

Writer Craig Mod lives in Japan and loves hiking - his newsletters are really great if you’re into walking. In April he undertook an epic hike along an old trail in Japan. Each morning he would record 15 minutes of binaural audio wherever he happened to be at 9:45am.

The result, SW945, is - well, I guess it’s a podcast of sorts, a podcast made up entirely of ambient sounds of Craig’s surroundings. Sometimes he’s by a railway, sometimes in a cafe or a shrine and sometimes surrounded only by birds and trees.

I find it strangely transporting, which I think is due to the fact the audio is different in each ear (if you listen on headphones) so it sounds as if it would if you were Craig, bathed in Japanese woodland.

So yeah, I listen to some weird shit.


I’m in New York this week for meetings and development of new films, plus the Emmy Awards at the end of the month.

This is maybe my fourth visit to the city but it still feels a little alien to me. Maybe because I only really come here for work and usually alone? Because I’m usually jet lagged? I might be more of a homebody than I want to admit.

Until next Sunday,

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