Rome, day 10. Drinking Fountain Orchestra.




Rome, day 10. Rome is full of public drinking fountains, and many of them have a hidden sonic secret – there is a tiny hint of a stable tone coming from the small drinking hole on the tap. You have to get very close to hear it. Together with the soft swosh of the running water and the bubbly gurgling, it makes for a beautiful, personal sound for each fountain.


I have been recording every fountain I come across – not all of the provide a clear tone, but every one has a different personality. Here is the original sound of one:

I open the sound in Izotope RX, where you can see that this one has two prominent tones, the stronger horizontal yellow areas. (Click image for large version.)


By selecting these parts of the sound, and their partials, and then inverting the selection, I can remove everything that is NOT a tone. Then the fountain sounds like this, the clean frequencies:

I take this cleaned sound into Melodyne Editor, and Melodyne can tell me where these sounds are spread in a musical scale context.


Looking at this graphical representation of the sound, it looks like this fountain is clustering it’s tone around D5 and F#6.

With built in tools in Melodyne it’s quick and easy to gather all the fragments of the sound into specific pitches, so I kind of “auto-tune” each polyphonic tonal slice into the most average musical frequency of the sound, in this case D5 and F#6, here zoomed into the D5 area.


Then it sounds like this, two clean musical pitches.

I separate and export these two clean pitches as independent audiofiles, and then I can map them to a Kontakt sampler group, and play them musically. I also mix back in a hipass filtered version of the original sound, to add back the lost high frequency content.



Here is the two dominant pitches played back with the sampler, and then continuing playing different pitches.

With some simple envelopes to soften the attack and release, I can play the finished instrument like a regular pad. This fountain has a nice sound, maybe a bit sweet, but it gets sinister when playing on the very low keys, it’s reaaaaally glitchy spooky towards the end.

And this is just one fountain. It starts to get really interesting when layering multiple fountains. An orchestra of drinking fountains, which I expect will appear in the final work in a couple of weeks.


Comments are closed.