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Beyond the Page: Brian Binning

This week we are delighted to feature Brian Binning, composer of Novel Effect’s soundscape for Giraffes Can’t Dance. Get to know this audio artist and his unique creative process below.

How does a soundscape add to the experience of a picture book? Will you please provide examples?

A well constructed soundscape adds another dimension to a conventional picture book and creates a more immersive experience of the story. Children naturally have vivid imaginations and I think that the music and sounds add to their sense of wonderment and fantasy. 

In Giraffe’s Can’t Dance, when Gerald bravely walks towards the dance floor he is sneered and laughed at by a great variety of jungle creatures that surround him. This is a great example of how sound can bring this moment to life because we have the opportunity to give all those animals a voice. 

Will you take us through the process of creating a soundscape?

For Giraffes Can’t Dance, I started by laying down the obvious sound effects: Gerald munching shoots, lions roaring, the chirp of a cricket, etc. This process is pretty straightforward and it gives me a chance to absorb the story and start thinking about music. Often times during this stage, a musical idea will occur to me suddenly and I’ll quickly get a sketch down while it’s in my head. Music plays such a major role in this book so I spent quite a bit of my time making sure the music supported the story.

At some point after I have assembled first drafts of songs, sound effects and ambiences, I begin placing those sounds within our technical environment and start reading through the book with the Novel Effect app. I’m making sure that sounds trigger when they’re supposed to, sounds fade in and fade out smoothly, looping sounds loop properly and volume levels are balanced throughout. A lot of “tweaking” goes on at this stage to insure that the final experience flows smoothly.

Once I’m satisfied with how it’s sounding, I submit it for feedback and then make revisions until everyone is satisfied. 

If you could have a dinner party with two other composers, living or dead, who would you invite? And why?

I would definitely be inviting Mark Mothersbaugh to the party. After his prominence in the band Devo he went on to form a lifelong career writing music for television, film and video games. His musical abilities are vast and varied and I bet he’d be good company around the dinner table. 

I’d also have to include John Cage. Eclectic and unconventional, his compositions have always intrigued me and at times, confused and baffled me. 

Brian Binning

At an early age, Brian Binning’s life-long interest in music and sound began after becoming captivated by a friend’s synthesizer. Despite pleas from his junior high music teacher, he hung up his saxophone and took up the piano instead. His skills were honed through playing in the church and in various bands, and his first break came at age 18 when a family-friend-turned-filmmaker hired him to score a feature length film. Brian’s passion for audio led him to The Evergreen State College in Washington State where he studied sound design and audio engineering.

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