sound design

ayaz kamani - point pelee

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Point Pelee was produced by Ayaz Kamani. It was edited by Jess Shane.


Ayaz says:

A friend and I went to record birds at Point Pelee in Ontario. One morning, amidst our 5 am grogginess, all the birds exploded to life simultaneously, like someone was conducting them. Like they were all conducting each other. It was beautiful, symphonic.

Naturally, we tried to record it the next morning, and even more naturally than our urge to try to record it the next day, it didn't happen. So that was hilarious. We come with all this equipment, and the most amazing sonic experience, we missed. It felt like a prank - like the birds were doing a very good prank.

I decided to try to capture that moment post-mortem. I began the painstaking and enjoyably obsessive task of resurrection. And it was very difficult. I used recordings from Point Pelee as a blanket or a bandaid to help nurture the memory from its palliative state, because it's was degrading and morphing from its original state. Those Point Pelee recordings were like touchstones, and the closest thing that I had to documentation of that experience, but the vast majority of the sounds used in the piece were sound effects from a library.

I've been cutting a lot of background sound effects lately for visual media. In this field, you're manufacturing what's natural. I've said to myself often, 'oh this isn't natural.' Yet when all the birds came together in such a rare musical way, I thought about how although this movement is part of nature, it’s considered unnatural, or feels unnatural, if it’s not in service the story being told by the visual images, or of the dialogue. Background sound always must be isolated, controlled so that nothing competes with the story.

What I create through sound design is a false representation of nature, but a constant reminder that it exists, because you're like ‘oh shit this room, no one's going to believe this room if there is no air and room tone.’ So you have to put all this stuff in to sell the room. You're always walking a fine line.

While making this piece, I thought a lot about where my urge to recreate this moment at Point Pelee really came from. What evolutionary need does it serve?


Inspiring Ayaz in sound and beyond:

The sound of the hotel room door in the movie Barton Fink, but more than that, people at work and listening to the city while walking. I'm not sure, maybe everything, and everybody, so I guess nothing specific except for trees.


Ayaz Kamani is an artist and sound designer, primarily for film, based in Toronto.

“I was born in Winnipeg, but only lived there for six months as a child before moving to Vancouver, so I can't truly call my self a Winnipegger. But sometimes when I feel insecure about my Canadianity due to certain questions, I clearly state that I was born in Winnipeg. Not sure where I'm going to die though, ideally on a spit of sand while a lazy tide tickles my feet, and a sand flea drinks sweat from my belly button. Currently, work-wise, I edit sound, conform dialogue, type out ADR scripts and complete a litany of post production tasks for television and movies.”

kaija siirala - a conversation


A Conversation was produced by Kaija Siirala, from conversations wth Birgir Enni, Maarit Siirala, and Nik Sokol.

Thanks to Jordy Walker and Micah Smith for the night of recording the helicopter playground in Whitehorse.


Kaija says: 

This project was born out of a conversation I had while visiting the Faroe Islands a few years ago. I interviewed a sea captain named Birgir Enni about how he navigates the incessant fog that shrouds the islands. The conversation grew to be about Birgir’s life - about living next to the ocean, and inside of it - a retired diver he spent 30 years building the tunnels and bridges that connect the Faroe Islands.

While we spoke, as with most conversations, my mind went in tangential directions, spurred by the themes and topics he spoke about. Upon returning home, I followed some of these tangents which lead me to Nik Sokol, a geologist and tunnel engineer who has worked on many tunnel projects all over the world, including the 7th line extension in Manhattan, and whose interest is with seeing the earth “from the inside out”; and Maarit Siirala, my aunt, who lives in the Yukon territory where they experience the extremes of light and dark in the cycle of a year.

As I reflected on these conversations, I noticed that all three of these people’s understanding of the world around them was shaped directly by listening and communicating with their unique surroundings.  This piece for Constellations focuses particularly on the relationships to light and dark in their environments. This understanding is not just one based in numbers and science, but at times uses a form of communication beyond the language of our world. 

Inspirations from the world of radio and sound and beyond:

I recently heard Phil Smith’s work for the first time and was pretty blown away by the way he ties seemingly disparate associations together (and the stellar sound design). I’ve also been loving the show Still Processing a lot lately - I really think they’ve hit their stride in terms of deep dive cultural analysis.  Outside of the radio/sound world, I’ve been filled up lately by stepping away from the computer screen, taking things one day at a time and embracing transition through hanging out with kiddos & hellos/goodbyes with family and old friends. 


Constellations says:

Kaija's immersive piece is chock-full of sensual field recordings, including to our delight "some recordings of me playing piano downstairs in my old house through a hydrophone in the bathtub". Listening to this piece feels like we're following the fisherman's current into a suspension between light and shadow, propelled by bold transitions and a sensitivity to the musicality of voice. 


Kaija Siirala works in documentary media as a picture editor, sound designer and educator.  Most recently, she edited a short piece, We Became Fragments, which was published as a New York Times’ Op-Doc.  Kaija has worked as a sound editor on films that have screened at the National Gallery of Canada, True/False Film Festival and AFI fest.  In 2015, she travelled to the Faroe Islands as part of the fluid states: performance of unknowing conference. She has been teaching as adjunct faculty at Hunter College and Pratt Institute the past three years and was a member-in-residence of the Meerkat Media Collective from 2016-2018. In May 2018, she completed her MFA in Integrated Media Arts at Hunter College (CUNY) and is now newly based in Hamilton, ON.

michelle macklem - ode to my last 10 years of dating


Michelle Macklem

Ode to my Last 10 Years of Dating was written and composed by Michelle Macklem.

Michelle writes: 


OTML10YOD is an audio short story that charts the familiar sequences of romantic relationships. It stems from a personal experience, but embraces common feelings of closeness, connection, difficulty, love and loss. Let your mind wonder and project how you will.

On what inspires her to make audio:

Music, conversations that pull my heart in, the wind rushing past my ears as I ride my bike and, let's face it, I've been pretty hooked since I first listened to Radiolab back in the day.

These days I'm into Short Cuts, going back through the Soundproof catalogueFrozen Garbage segments, Sarah Boothroyd (forever and ever), Wiretap archivesScene on Radio's amazing Seeing White series and the fine pieces the Constellations community has been sending in!

Inspiration outside of audio: 

Reading. Particularly lyrical essays. Lately I've been into Claudia Rankin, Durga Chew-Bose and Anne Carson.

Listening. Listening to what people say and how they say it. Trying to sit with discomfort more. Not interrupting to offer advice. Just being present with people without story in mind.

Pop Music. I know! I listed music above AND it's audio BUT you can find a lot of gems in contemporary pop music... a lot of great production techniques that are quite obvious and relatively easy to borrow. Take this Lorde song, for example, there's a weird ambient windy synthy sound about 2/3s of the way through. Totally extraneous, totally great.


Constellations says:

Ode to my Last 10 Years of Dating explores a romantic loop suspended somewhere between the past and the future. Michelle's piece takes the listener through intricate moments of uncertainty, vulnerability, and projection. Plus some delightful musical composition. - Jess


Michelle Macklem is a radio producer and sound designer based in Toronto. Her documentary and fiction radio work has aired on CBC, BBC and ABC. Michelle uses vivid sound design to explore the atmospheric and ambient nature of audio. She holds an MA in Media Studies and Communications. When she’s not mixing it up in the studio, she can be found out and about recording forests, fields and waterfalls. Recently, she’s been a producer with CBC Original Podcasts including Sleepover with Sook-Yin Lee and The Fridge Light. Michelle is also the co-founder of Constellations. Follow her on Twitter: @michmacklem