Joshua Albright has spent the last four years at TCNJ exploring sound and audio design and its implementation in media. Entering TCNJ in 2016, Josh pursued a BA in Interactive Multimedia. Though commuting from out of state, Josh was able to quickly integrate himself into the community. Josh found work working in the IMM building’s recording studio as well as in the concert halls around campus, providing him many of the skills he would put to use on his project, "Binary."
"Binary" is the first step in a larger project focusing on how music elicits tone, even within a vacuum. The end goal is an interactive audio experience with the intention of showing just how valuable audio is when creating theme and tone. Using Unity as a foundation, "Binary" serves as a small cutaway of what will become a much larger project. As it stands currently, “Binary” is a showcase of a select few pieces of music composed by myself in a virtual space, but as the project grows and develops, we’ll see increasing interactiveness in the overall project as well as higher quality in audio production, in addition to overall improvements.
The greatest challenge encountered in this project actually came from the COVID-19 pandemic itself. Due to the quarantine and the closing of the college, I was left without most of the resources I was depending on for this project. Without access to other students for the recording of the music, access to the campus’ recording studio, or many other things, I was left without much of what I needed to create much of what I had originally planned on. This pushed me to adapt to my situation. Using only what I owned, I was forced to adapt to the new circumstances I found myself in. This meant coming up with some inventive (if somewhat funny) solutions. For example, I lined my little upright piano with felt in order to mimic a mute and crafted makeshift sound blankets with weighted blankets. It’s really been a lesson in adaptation and improvisation this semester.
A Revised Process
This project has been constantly shifting as both my situation and that of the world around me changed. What was originally a grand idea, has been toned down to something far more manageable, yet still gets the idea across. I had started out with a couple of songs composed for string quartet that I intended to record in the campus studio, but with the onset of the coronavirus, that was no longer possible. Realizing that I would be the one to play them as well as record them, I then set out to recompose these songs for solo piano, as that was my instrument of choice. I also spent much of the time at home scripting a working seamless portal system that transports the player between two locations without any loading or stuttering. All of this of course was done with the tools I had available. Unity was used for the interactive components and Ableton was used for the recording.
I decided to create this project due to my love of music, especially in media such as movies, television, podcasts, video games, or any time a story is being told. Music used well in these situations moves me to an incredible degree, and I hoped to be able to share that in its simplest form to others. I wanted to flaunt my composing skills and the skills I learned working in the college’s recording studio, not to mention my knowledge of scripting languages, namely C#.
Needless to say, I would love to be able to work somewhere that tells stories. If I can work with others to create audio that enhances the power of these narratives, I couldn’t be happier. Maybe it would even give me the opportunity to work on writing one of my own. After this, I would love to come back to Binary, but in a completely new light. Circumstances handicapped my work, but with proper preparation and access to the tools I need, I can create something far more impressive and truly representative of my abilities.
While this project is not likely to make any impressive waves in the world beyond TCNJ, the idea behind it holds merit. With the proper time, experience, and effort, I hope to create something that draws people’s attention to the value and impact of audio in creating tone. Already, we’ve seen other mediums accomplish this in landmark ways. Mike Bithell displayed the ability to tell a narrative without complex visuals in Thomas Was Alone. I aspire to do the same with music.
Potential for Collaboration
Though I was unable to collaborate with others, I absolutely plan to. Recording using proper equipment and with real musicians would enable me to create music far more professional sounding and with much higher quality than recording in my living room. Should I still be able to find these resources and use these connections after COVID-19 has been overcome, I would be able to create something far more impressive and much more compelling.