EXPANSIVE NOTHINGNESS - A BINAURAL MUSIC PRODUCTION

Produced in binaural audio with dearVR MUSIC and recorded throughout the weird year of 2020, the textural and experimental guitar ambient album Expansive Nothingness by music producer Michel Mazza (aka. OdNU) channels his feelings on the events that took place during the COVID 19 pandemic. He discovered that even the most intense, chaotic and surreal realities can become harmonious when we don’t let fear control us and allow ourselves to observe from a perspective of expansive nothingness.

Michel used the electric guitar as the main sound source for his album. It's always very processed and sometimes almost unrecognizable, pushing its sound to the breaking point. Loopy leitmotifs come and go, creating a space that for a time seems unable to contain itself. In the following, he gives an insight into the production and shares his creative process within the world of binaural audio.

TAKE A LISTEN

THE EXPANSIVE NOTHINGNESS

In Haruki Murakami's novel kafka on the shore one of the main characters Nakata talks about the expansive nothingness right before he dies. I couldn't stop thinking about that, as it felt as the best way to explain the place I go to when recording my music.

There is always a technical concept as well as a philosophical or emotional concept for my albums. The technical concept is defined by the system, the instruments that I choose or the hardware that I use. In this case, all tracks are based on recordings of the electric guitar which has always been my main instrument, because I wanted to go back to the simplicity of making an album based on mostly guitar sounds - an idea of going back to my basics.

In addition I've been interested in multichannel and 3D music for a while now. I grew up in Buenos Aires and as a young adult I would go to the Centro Cultural Recoleta Museum where this amazing multi speaker setup was installed. Every Wednesday night you could listen to different electroacoustic composers, which just blew my mind back then! So it all came together when I decided to take a binaural approach for this album.

AN INTUITIVE PRODUCTION WORKFLOW

In my work I often use fractured melodies, multiple layers and loops which can be spread on different pan locations during mixing. So, in a way I have always tried to emulate a 3D experience and the path to binaural production was somehow already mapped out.

I consider my music as experimental not necessarily because it sounds experimental, but mostly because the process itself is based on experimenting with new ideas, gear or instrumental techniques for example. I usually create a system template that guides the direction of the work. I need to have everything set up in a way that I don't need to think or deal with technical stuff anymore, because when I'm working on music, I need to forget it all and enter this expansive nothingness space in which I feel free to improvise.  

For the binaural spatialization process I've tried a few options, but at the end, dearVR MUSIC with its intuitive handling and high audio quality was the one for me. My music tends to be a little busy sometimes and texture and sound design are therefore very important for me. When I started using dearVR MUSIC, I noticed that suddenly I had a lot more space to place each sound. This translated to a lot more clarity in the mix.

THE BINAURAL MIXING PROCESS

By placing the different sources in the virtual binaural world, I thought of sounds as having weight. In that way, I basically followed basic physics and gravity laws. Low frequencies like bass and kicks were usually centered and placed at the bottom - either static or with minimal movements - sounds with higher frequencies were placed higher in the 3D space. By creating the different position automations, I usually used LFOs or simply the mouse pad to record the automation manually. The important thing for me since my music has so many tiny melodies that complement each other was to create a well balanced sound space where there is never sound on only one side or the other.

Once I have the palette of sound, I switch to the binaural placement of the sources by creating some kind of conversation between the elements. The secret at this point lies in reorganizing the sounds in this new spatial space without altering the existing balance. In my case this can be a little tricky since a tiny change in the volume can throw off the complex relationship between different sounds. The different features of Dear Reality's plugins give me the possibility and, more importantly, the immediate access to the different acoustic parameters to control the balance in all its facets.

SPATIAL AUDIO MASTERING

When it comes to spatial audio music production, the mastering process starts at the mixing stage. At this stage, there is no need to press the signals together at the end to unify them, because it is precisely the space in between the sounds that spatial audio provides. This is especially helpful for my creative process, as I can design the sound spheres down to the last detail absolutely intuitively.

A NEW SPACE TO MUSIC

I love binaural audio, not only because of the striking 3D effects, but also because it opens a new space to my music. Sometimes, my tracks can be a little bit busy and very textured and in the stereo field I usually had the feeling, there wasn't enough room for my ideas. The immersive audio world opens up a whole new dimension of space to place the sounds! It feels like I moved to a bigger room inside my mind, which allows a lot more clarity to each sound and instrument. I think there are a lot of possibilities to use binaural audio in a way that works not only on headphones, but also speakers. For me, it triggers my creativity so much that I already have the next album in mind. I'm looking for opportunities to translate this spatial audio world into other formats such as video games, interactive art or classic films. I believe that all my projects from now on will have some degree of binaural audio in them.

Michel Mazza
OdNu is the musical alias of Michel Mazza. Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and currently residing in Hudson, NY. Michel’s compositions are a constant experiment and interplay of instruments, different techniques, electronics, and his moods and feelings. Michel’s music has been featured in films, animations, and television. Besides working as a composer, Michel also writes and directs short films and music videos, works as a freelance film/tv video editor, mixer, and sound designer, and runs his own post-production house called Post Present Future.

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