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Composer Ned Bouhalassa's Blog

Soundscapes For A Hospital

June 16, 2008

In collaboration with the amazing wind and guitar player, Bryan Highbloom, I’ve started working on a pilot project for Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital Jazz Festival, now in its 9th year. The idea is to have available a collection of soundscapes featuring sounds from nature mixed in with music, that the staff can turn on in order to calm the atmosphere in their unit, to give themselves and their patients a ‘music break’, or to just add a little ambience to what can be a pretty poor sound environment. The music will play in mono (!!) on the built-in PA system, at about 20dB below the typical ambient noise level. 2 or 3 units will test out the music for about 10 days or so, and if the feedback is successful, we will try to make it permanent.

I am using mostly outdoor field recordings I’ve made over the years, along with some found in Logic Pro and the library, combined with original musical cues that feature wind instruments, acoustic guitar, sung voice, and a large variety of sampled and synthesized sounds. My goal is to create music that is present and yet in the background; that calms without being boring; that is pleasant but not muzak-y. It’s a challenge, but I’m learning much. The biggest issue I’m facing is that we (Bryan and I) want the natural ambiences to be as loud or louder than the music. That means that the former will potentially occupy a large part of the frequency spectrum, leaving far less room for the music than I’m typically used to.

The project will run from approximately June 25 to July 8 or so. I will follow up on the blog to let you know how the soundscapes were received.

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