A different type of sound design job

I was very privileged the day when I was approached by Benjamin Loomes, creator and owner of the amazing Syrinscape app, and was asked to create sound for him. I had known of Syrinscape for a little while, as a board gamer I used the app whenever I played games. I loved it so much that as a board game critic, I wrote an article and posted a video comparing the different ways to inject ambience into a gaming event. Obviously there was some contact soon after thanking me for my kind words and some time later I interviewed Ben at the 2016 Essen Spiel in Germany and got to know him a little better. 

It wasn’t until 2019 that an email came through out of the blue, asking if I would like to create soundscapes and music for this role-playing app. Ben had seen some of the work on board game soundtracks I had done at that time, as well as the music I was adding to my video reviews. He was looking for help making new noises for the role-playing realm. I jumped at the chance, as I had at that time stepped down from my job I loved due to health problems and I needed a new source of income. I was so lucky and grateful for this opportunity. Being at the right place at the right time.  

Not being a role player, I was thrown into another world.  Previously I had created music and sound effects for board games that I had played and therefore understood the feeling of what a player would expect in a soundtrack. But now, is having to create story-driven content in a world that I had never played in. Which is kind of a lie. In my youth I did have some work colleagues that did some Dungeons and Dragons. I did join them for a few sessions but then got killed off. Not by some giant monster. But by one of the other heroes, who was an annoying thief that would steal everything from you every night. A fight broke out and my lawful character bit the dust.

The good news is that it didn't take me long to adapt to some new ideas and rules. I was given an adventure book which had everything you needed to build new imaginary sounds. When I say imaginary, I mean realistic. I started off in the world of Dungeons and Dragons, reading about the histories of the lands that the story would traverse. Little details about cultures and classes helped influence what kind of instrument would be used or how big a sound should sound. But more importantly, the story would paint a film in the back of my eyelids. I would create an imaginary storyboard and then start to build the different moods that will help a Dungeon Master enhance their game. 

Syrinscape is exactly that. It creates a sonified cinema like experience. The app holds many elements. An element could be the wind, an animal, a waterfall or music. Each element can hold many samples or sounds if you'd like to call on that, that are triggered either randomly or played one after the other. These elements are programmed to play when a mood button is pressed. And the way to think of a mood is to think of a scene. Scene one could be someone walking in a raining forest with wolves howling in the distance. Scene two could be someone sitting in a wooden cabin warming themselves by the fire. My job is to find or create the sounds and music to be placed into these elements and then programme the moods to trigger the appropriate elements to create the scenes. So when you listen back, you think that you are watching a film with your eyes closed or listening to some radio play.

It can be quite daunting sometimes when you have to create a creature that is attacking in a story. How big are they? What is their background? How are they attacking? How many teeth do they have? … But luckily there is a lot of law in these books. And the Syrinscape team that I work with (not locally) is on hand to answer any questions that I have. And wonderfully, l have free rein to be as imaginative as I'd like. And I like being imaginative. Since starting this job, my skills in sound design, narration and classical film like music have augmented. At the beginning I did not feel that I could do this job. As I prefer her creating synthesiser music in a Jean Michel Jarre style. But I have arrived at a comfortable level of competency. Although I cannot sit on my laurels and bask in the sun, as there is always a new challenge up ahead. It's not all D&D, there have also been some Starfinder projects, some Call of Cthulhu too. More recently I had the opportunity to reimagine a soundtrack from a composer that I love. This was for the role-playing version of Escape from New York. A dream project.

My days working with the Syrinscape team continue you to this day. And as the technology progresses, things become more and more interesting. Not just for me, but for all those gamers out there who want to feel that they've lived a different life  and created their own story for the cinema. I am excited to help them elevate their experience at the table.

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