Matteo Milani: sound designer for Genesis Project

What if it were computers who invented humans (and not the other way around?)  In director Alessio Fava’s new film Genesis Project: the real story of creation, it seems an almost plausible and decidedly amusing hypothesis.  Sound designer Matteo Milani put his Kyma sound design workstation to good use generating the ambiences.  Highly entertaining for all computer users (or is it the other way around?), Genesis Project begs the question, “But what if humans develop self-awareness?”  Be sure to check out the Human User Manual on the official Genesis Project site.

Tomorrow you’re gone

Hamilton Sterling at Helikon Sound has just completed the sound for David Jacobson’s new film, Tomorrow You’re Gone, a story of psychological vengeance and real-world redemption. The film stars Stephen Dorff, Michelle Monaghan, and Willem Dafoe.

As sound designer, supervising sound editor, and re-recording mixer, Hamilton created a sonic world that functions almost as a musical score.  Aside from guitar and drums (used by the composer), almost every scene in the film is inflected by sounds generated in Kyma (appropriately enough, since most of the film may or may not take place from a point of view inside the main character’s head).

Disney Film Features Speech to Wolf Howl by JED Sound

During the final mix for Disney’s Treasure Buddies, director Robert Vince asked sound designers Pat Haskill and Jean-Edouard Miclot to morph the voice of a puppy named Mudbud (voiced by Ty Panitz) from a human voice to the howl of a real puppy.  After a frantic and ultimately unsuccessful search of their sound libraries for a domestic puppy howl, the sound designers finally located a recording of a wolf pup that sounded close to Mudbud’s speaking voice, and they cross-faded from the actor to the wolf howl.  Unfortunately, the result still sounded like two independent layers. That’s when Jean-Edouard had the idea to load the two samples into Kyma’s Time Alignment Utility (TAU) where he could experiment with morphing using a tablet until he got the smooth transition he wanted. Re-recording mixers Gord Hillier and Samuel Lehmer mixed the sound in and, according to Jean-Edouard, “everybody in the studio loved how natural the transition from human to animal was made.” You can hear the morph in the scene starting about 36″ into the following clip:

Kyma International Sound Symposium 2012

The Kyma International Sound Symposium is  four inspiring days and nights filled with sound design, ideas, discussions, and music, and it offers a wide range of opportunities to increase your Kyma mastery: from introductory master classes, to hands-on question-and-answer sessions; from thought-provoking presentations, to inspiring concerts and after-hours discussions with new-found friends and colleagues.

This year’s symposium KISS2012 will be on banks of the mighty Mississippi River, September 13-16, organized by St. Cloud State University School of the Arts and Symbolic Sound. The KISS2012 theme, reel time || real time, puts the spotlight on reel time (sound for picture), real time (live performance), and all timescales between, including sound design for games, live cinema, live improvisation ensembles, live performances from a score, sound design for live theatre, live signal generation for speech and hearing research, interactive data sonification, interactive sound art, and more!

Samy Bardet’s sound design for “Un Monstre á Paris”

Sound designer, Samy Bardet, used Kyma to design a singing monkey, some supernaturally fast growing plants, and the voice of the ‘monster’ in Bibo Bergeron‘s new animated feature, Un Monstre á Paris.


We recently spoke with Samy to find out more about his work in sound design for film:

 What is your earliest sonic memory?  (from childhood?)

The purring of my cat Mao.

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a sound designer? (Did you start from the side of music?  From audio engineering?  In other words, how did you come to be a sound designer?)

After a short stint as a live sound engineer, I fell in love with sound for motion picture and became a sound editor.  I started out by doing a lot of cartoons for TV. That period was essential because I learned editing, creation, and sound design.

My first movie was Le général, le chien et les oiseaux… in 2003. But it was Persepolis in 2007 that was a real revelation for me and it was that experience that made me decide I wanted to be a sound designer for motion picture.

Do you remember how it was that you heard about Kyma and how or why you decided to use it in your work?

I first heard about Kyma about 10 years ago…but at that time it seemed to me a very strange and inaccessible machine.

But then I met a director named Valérie Moncorgé and worked on her film Le forcené. That was an unforgettable experience; there was no music, only a few voices and a lots of sounds.

Her favorite sound for picture was the work that Hamilton Sterling and Richard King did on “Master and Commander”. One day she came in with an article talking about the sound design on Master and Commander; in the article she had circled the name “Kyma”, and she asked me “What is this?”. In order to answer her, I decided to buy one!!!

For Un Monstre á Paris, please tell us about the evolution of the singing monkey sound, how you imagined it, how you realized it, how you performed it, etc.

I started with the voice of -M- singing like an opera singer. When I saw the animation, I first tried using the classic monkey sound but it was unsuccessful.  Those sounds were too short and not close enough in frequency.

I finally found a sample of capuchin monkey whose frequencies were closest to those of the human voice. I analyzed the human voice and the capuchin monkey in the Tau Player. Then I performed the result using my Motormix and, after several tries, once I was able to perform it in sync with the picture, the result was incredible!!!!

I understand that there is also a scene of a plant or plants growing at incredible speed.  Can you tell us more about that scene and how you designed and controlled the sound for it?

This was created with a SampleCloud (one of my favorite prototypes) and played on the Wacom tablet.  I took a short sample of leaves rustling, and with this magic tool it became a giant sunflower!

Who is the monster in Paris (and how did you design his voice)?

The voice of the monster in Paris is a mix between rock singer Matthieu Chedid ( “-M-” ), a raccoon, and my own voice … I used the Tau player again to morph these three sources in order to make him credible and sensitive.

From the point of view of the sound designer, what are the differences between working on an animated feature vs a live action feature with human actors?  Or is it virtually the same?  Do animated features give you more latitude for sound design?  Or is it the same either way?

The editing is very different. In a live action feature, you’re constrained by the way the sound was spoken during shooting, and especially by the ambience. It must match exactly.

In an animated feature, you receive only the voices, so all the atmospheres can be created by your imagination…

In the end, though, I think that sound design is not so different between live action and animated features, because even in live action features you rarely use “real” sounds (of guns, cars, etc), it’s always exaggerated to make it more spectacular. And it’s the same in animated features.

Where does Kyma fit in your arsenal of sound design tools?  Do you turn to Kyma for specific kinds of sounds or ways of working?

I’m working with a Pyramix which is the tool I find most flexible and effective for sound editing (and I think it is less well known in the US).

My Pacarana is connected via a Capybara (used as an audio interface) directly through digital inputs and outputs to the Pyramix. That way I can use Kyma as an external effect, sending a sound from the Pyramix. Or I can play Kyma Sounds and record directly in the Pyramix.

What would you identify as the strong points of Kyma or the sort of things that Kyma is best at?

Kyma is especially impressive when you want to treat a real sound and want it to stay organic and real-sounding… for example, with voices…

Were there any sounds on this film that you could not have done without Kyma?

The monster, the singing monkey and a great morph between a metallic sound and the name of “Raoul”.

Describe your ideal meal.  Who would be there, what would be on the menu, where would it be, what would the conversation be like, etc

You would be there to talk about your vision of sound…

Einstein would be there to explain to us this strange dimension called space/time and also explain why today a neutrino can go faster than light…

Someone would be there to give the beginning of answer on the origin of life…

There are too many things to talk about with so many interesting people; it’s too complicated to reduce it to one meal…

If you were to give advice to someone who is just starting out as a sound designer, what would that be?  What would you advise them to study, where should they live, what kind of work could they do to prepare themselves?

1. Listen to real life all around you; this is very inspiring….

2. Sound can be simple®

3. Break the rules.

What’s next for you? Do you have a project lined up (one that you are allowed to discuss yet?)  What new sound design challenges are in store for you in 2011-2012?

I’ve just finished the sound design for an exposition in Paris. And I’m preparing a new motion picture called The Marsupilami by Alain Chabat; this is very big sound design challenge.

Thank you Samy!  We look forward to seeing (and especially hearing) Un Monstre à Paris!

KISS2011: Exploring Sound Space

Can sound define a space? In sound, is there a Point-of-View or culturally-influenced focus of attention? Sound designers, musicians, audio engineers, composers, acousticians and others interested in “sound space” are invited to discuss these and other questions during the third annual Kyma International Sound Symposium (KISS2011), scheduled for 15-18 September 2011 in Porto, Portugal. Inspired by Portugal’s proud history of navigators who set out to explore beyond the known and visible horizon, the theme of this year’s symposium is “Explorando o espaço do som” (“Exploring Sound Space”) and will celebrate the sound designers, composers, and researchers who are exploring beyond the familiar horizons in sound and music.


Set in the nautically-inspired Casa Da Musica, architect Rem Koolhaas’ dramatic new music venue in Porto, the symposium promises four intensive days of workshops, keynotes, technical talks, films and live performances.

To cite just a few highlights:

  • A mathematician and co-editor of a new book on the Sonic Spaces of Music (Spazi sonori della musica) will discuss the public space defining and defined by the sounds of the Trevi Fountain in Rome;
  • Kyma practitioners will have opportunities to attend master classes, participate in interactive workshops and consulting sessions, and most importantly, to make connections with and to learn from fellow Kyma practitioners;
  • The author of a new text for teaching and learning Kyma (published in both English and Chinese) will describe his search for the SumOfSines disco club;
  • Plus there will be an abundance of technical talks on a wide range of topics including how to use the spectrum of a sound as a sequencer; techniques for data sonification; using sound to help people confront pain; how to create a dynamic sonic ecology; using context-free-grammars to simultaneously generate dance movements and trajectories through abstract timbre space; techniques for spectral modification & morphing; and more.

Evening performances are to include a screening of the very first science fiction film accompanied by a live-improvised electronic sound track generated by Kyma reconstructions of Luigi Russolo’s intonorumori instruments; a portion of an audio documentary on Holocaust survivor Ksenija Drobac; and a live-generated audio/video film about Galileo that uses Kyma to control VJ software via Open Sound Control (OSC). Other live musical performances will create sound spaces controlled by (among other things) dancers, RFID cards held by the audience, iPads, Wacom tablets, video position trackers, Continuum fingerboards, SoftStep pedal-boards, OSC, acoustic instruments, the acoustics of the room itself, and even a sensor-enhanced Teddy Bear!

For more details on the program, please see the preliminary program and join the mailing list to be kept up to date on future enhancements and additions.


Registration is open to all. You can register at any time, but there is a discount for those who register prior to 1 August: you can participate in all 4 days (with lunch included) for €120 (€40 for students). Casa da Musica has strictly enforced occupancy limits, so please register as soon as possible in order to reserve your spot:

Online discussion

You are cordially invited to join in the pre-symposium discussion on the theme of Exploring Sound Space:


Known as A Cidade Invicta (the unvanquished city), in honor of its citizens’ successful resistance of Napoleon’s attempted invasion, Porto’s history can be traced back at least as far as Roman times, with evidence of even earlier habitation by the Celts, Proto-Celts and even Phoenicians.

The ukulele has its origins in Portugal; Portuguese immigrants brought the cavaquinho, braguinha and the rajão, small guitar-like instruments with them to Hawaii where they were re-invented as the ukulele. Portuguese luthiers Cordoba Guitars and Antonio Pinto Carvalho (in Braga about an hour north of Porto) continue the tradition today. In Porto, you can audition a Portuguese 12-string guitar or a cavaquinho at Toni Das Violas, a music shop in the historic center.

Porto is also the official source of Port wine, a special red wine in which the fermentation process is interrupted by the addition of distilled grape spirits known as aguardente (roughly translated as fire water with teeth), leaving a higher sugar and a higher alcohol content. The resulting fortified wine is then aged in wood barrels prior to bottling.

Visiting Conímbriga, a well-preserved ancient Roman city and attached museum about an hour south of Porto, is practically like traveling to ancient Rome in the Tardis.

There are several historic cathedrals and monasteries in Porto which is also home to a vibrant Marranos community, the so-called crypto- or Sephardic Jews who continued to practice their religion even in the face of the forced-conversions during the Inquisition (

Something about Porto seems to inspire artists who work with space. Not only is it the home of Casa da Musica, it’s also the birthplace of two Pritzker-prize-winning architects: Álvaro Siza who designed the central square in Porto, the Faculty of Architecture campus, and the contemporary art museum; and Eduardo Souto Moura whose award-winning work includes Estádio Municipal de Braga, the Burgo Tower in Porto and the Paula Rego Museum in Cascais among others.


What: The Kyma International Sound Symposium (KISS 2011), an annual conclave of current and potential Kyma practitioners who come together to learn, to share, to meet, to discuss, and to enjoy a lively exchange of ideas, sounds, and music! This year’s theme is “Exploring Sound Space”

Presenters: Experts from the fields of music, sound art, sound design, mathematics, philosophy & audio engineering who use Kyma in their work.

Participants: Sound designers, musicians, audio engineers, composers, acousticians and others interested in “sound space” and the Kyma sound design language

When: 15-18 September 2011

Where: Porto, Portugal

Venue: Casa da Musica / Avenida da Boavista, 604-610 / 4149-071 Porto / Portugal

Cost: € 120, students € 40

Organizers: Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto & Symbolic Sound Corporation with support from Casa da Musica & UT Austin|Portugal International Collaboratory for Emerging Technologies

Deadline: 1 August 2011 for early registration discount; registration open through 15 September 2011

More info:

Time Dilation

Edmund Eagan has posted his new video work,  Time Dilation as an example on the Haken Audio site. Time Dilation is a glimpse of what life will look like in the future, when Internet-connected heads-up displays explain and analyze everything we see.  The video work includes a single take capture of a live performance of Eagan using the Continuum to control Sounds organized on a Kyma Timeline.  Other Kyma elements include:

• The time structuring of Kyma Sound elements

• The overall time of the piece, which is variable due to the extensive use of the Kyma WaitUntil sound. (Eagan writes that he found this “a very useful tool for interactive improvisation, and a nice way to create localized time dilations.”

• The selection and editing of Continuum Internal Sounds via Midi commands sent back to the Continuum from the Kyma timeline.

• The processing and mixing of a blend of Kyma Sounds and Continuum Internal Sounds.

In addition to the Continuum as a control device, Eagan also used the Pen page of the Kyma Control app running on an iPad.

Time Dilation is a free download, available in a large and a small version (Eagan strongly recommends the larger version):

The Acceptance @ Maine International Film Festival

Yogesh Khubchandani‘s beautiful and mysterious directorial debut, The Acceptance, is scheduled to be screened as part of the Maine International Film Festival, July 15-24 2011, a festival billed as ten days of the best of American independent and international cinema!

The Acceptance will be shown on Saturday, July 16 2011 at 8:30 pm.  And again on Wednesday, July 20 at 3 pm.

During the festival, audiences will have opportunities to meet and talk with the people behind the movies — directors, producers, writers, musicians — as well as have a chance to experience several panel discussions and informal Q&A sessions.

Director Khubchandani also did the sound design for the film, using the sounds of birds, wind and water in stark constrast to the rattling drones of machines in order underscore his themes. Like the images, the sound slips easily back and forth between the logic of “realism” and the logic of dreams.  Khubchandani credits Kyma for playing a role in the transformation of one of the pivotal sound events of the film: a massive tree falling in the forest.

Burtt & Wood talk about Super 8

Sound designer, Ben Burtt. Photo by Gregory Schwartz (

There’s a fascinating piece by Mel Lambert on the Editor’s Guild web site, giving details of every aspect of the sound—from dialog to Foley, to mixing, to creative sound design— for JJ Abrams new science fiction film, Super 8.

In it, master sound designer, Ben Burtt details how he used his own voice to control a bank of sounds in Kyma, performing it like a musical instrument to create the voice of the alien.  Burtt says that he wanted to create a character who, although alien, had an expressive soul, purpose, and rationality.  Once Industrial Light & Magic, which handled visual special effects, heard Burtt’s vocalizations, they were so inspired that they added a tongue to the creature’s mouth! One of the few times that they created picture to sound, instead of the other way around.

Full of insider tips and tricks ranging from how Burtt sustained the tension in a long train crash scene to how Matthew Wood compensated for young actors’ voices changing over the course of the shoot, the piece is essential reading for anyone who’s serious about sound design!

(Thanks to Matteo Milani for spotting this article and sharing it with us!)

Supervising Sound Editor, Matthew Wood (

The Acceptance

Kyma played such a strong role in the sound design for Yogesh Kubchandani’s directorial debut, The Acceptance, he gave it an ending credit. Can you solve the mysteries in this compelling, poetic film?

Following the initial screening of The Acceptance in New York City, director Yogesh Khubchandani, was barraged by questions when he took the stage. He politely declined to speak about the film, suggesting only that if people still had questions, they should watch the film again, adding “there are no symbols in the film; I just had one impression that could not be expressed in words, and so the film came out.” Can you solve its mysteries? (Order your own DVD copy of the film at

Certain unforeseen events can almost literally befall us, unexpectedly and violently tearing into the web of our interconnections and relationships. In Yogesh Khubchandani’s new film, The Acceptance, one such event has disrupted the existence of Elli (compellingly played by Alicia Lobo) to its very core. Khubchandani’s poetic, spell-binding film uses images and sounds to create an urgent sense of mystery as he traces her inner journey from near despair to a calm acceptance. Khubchandani masterfully recreates a seamless interleaving of the inner imagination and outer events that constitute Elli’s flow of experience. Intense emotion is experienced as sudden silence and a sense of time slowing almost to stop as the character focuses full attention on the anger or fear or frustration and the rest of the world disappears for that stretched-out moment of time. Several threads weave themselves throughout the film: the restorative power of nature, thanking God for what we do NOT have, vegetarianism as identity, the relationships between mothers and daughters (the male characters rarely appear on screen).

Khubchandani also did the sound design for the film, using the sounds of birds, wind and water contrasted with the rattling drones of machines to underscore his themes. Like the images, the sound slips easily back and forth between realism and the logic of dreams. Kyma played such a large role in this transformation, it even gets a credit at the end of the film!