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Whether under his artist moniker Hecq or as in-demand sound designer for film and tv, Ben Lukas Boysen has made a career out of transforming unusual sounds into compelling music. We visited Ben in his studio for a fascinating look at how he gathered and transformed the unconventional audio material for his latest endeavour, The Forge – a hugely versatile Pack that’s part of the exclusive sound content in the upcoming Ableton Live 9 Suite.
Sound and music are not necessarily separate things. A very nice sound could have a high musicality and a very noisy piece of music could be mostly sound. What’s interesting for me is to explore the borderlands in between these two worlds.
I write music for feature films and commercials. I’m also a producer for myself and other bands, and a live act. In each of these fields music and sound design are very, very closely connected. There are a lot of projects that allow you to just do sound design and just to work in every idea you want. But the focus should be to write a wonderful piece of music that you refine with sound design.
The reason I am recording most of the sounds myself is most of the time it is the fastest and most efficient way. I use a variety of different microphones, like contact microphones, or normal stereo microphones, to coil pickup microphones. Also underwater hydrophones. And then of course I use stereo microphones and shotgun mics to capture environments in general. Especially the hydrophones, contact, and coil pickup microphones are wonderful to create entirely new sounds. For example you could record underwater with the hydrophone. Or you can capture the inside of a laptop with certain coil pickup microphones, which pick up the voltage field of any machine. In combination with decontextualizing the source material, it’s a wonderful way to create something completely new.
Some of these sounds I recorded with a coil pickup microphone also went into the Forge pack which is now a part of Live 9 Suite. You can listen to the plain recordings that I took, or to already processed versions of these sounds. And very easily and fast process them yourself and take them to a completely different place. Let’s listen to a few sounds contained in The Forge. This melody is only triggered by the resonators, and you can adjust the notes by editing the midi clip. This percussion sound is modulated by a Max4Live effect. By altering the parameters you can shape the notes and articulations. I often feel inspired by just hearing a certain rhythmical sequence or melody in combination with a certain sound, and what I wanted to have is a couple of synthesizers, effects, textures, loops, so that it can build new things on top of these. So, The Forge is not really a construction kit in the classical sense, it’s meant to trigger ideas and to come up with something unique and something very individual.
There is no such thing as a finished track in my mind, or a finished song, or a finished sound, it is really a very, very living creature. It is self developing with little help of my humble self.