There have been so many films and theatre pieces that use music and sound effects to assist in the telling of the story that it might be assumed that music itself is naturally suited to narrative. However, this is by no means always the case. Once sounds are separated from their sources or visual cues, and the mode of listening changes, the nature of the narrative also changes. In classical composition, thematic material itself might function as a 'character' in a 'drama'. But in a music where the sounds themselves already contain a certain dramaturgy, such as a recorded sound effect, this becomes complex. Somewhere between Foley work and abstract composition lays the reality of sonic narratives.

The Project

Devise a short story (or borrow one from somewhere) that lends itself to sonic illustration. Using only sounds attempt to convey the story.


A common mistake when making musical narratives is to use sound-effects (often from a sample bank) in a sequence, which fails to capture either the timing, or make a convincing acoustic simulation, of the imaginary model. Here is a cliché as an example: a man is walking through a park and is shot. What is heard might be: footsteps on gravel; bird song; gunshot. These are all standard sound effects on sound modules. Each will have certain duration and have been recorded under different conditions. Sequencing them together will not necessarily tell the story in the way that is intended. This pitfall gets even larger when dealing with more abstract music, where no sound effects are used. A narrative structure can work, but it needs careful handling if the listener is to 'get' the idea.