How to record the sounds of whisky and don’t get drunk (maybe)

Yann Seznec at the Jura Distillery

A sound-based music video to tell the story of the whisky making process in the west coast of Scotland.

In March 2014 sound artist Yann Seznec was invited by Jura Distillery on the beautiful Isle of Jura to move his microphones to any possibile direction, to record and collect the sounds both of the island and activities performed during the whisky making process.

Being integrated in an extendend multi-sensory whisky adventure built by Jelly & Gin, the final work of Yann turned to an interesting & fun sound-based video created with motion graphic designer Erik Ravaglia.

We made a small Q&A session with Yann to know more about this drunk project of sound design.

sounDesign: Hi Yann, could you tell us more about the project?

Yann Seznec: Basically, it was a project that came together with an organisation here in Edinburgh called Jelly & Gin. They do really interesting creative eating experiences, and some of their recent work has involved whisky. They managed to convince the Jura distillery to let us come in and record lots of video and audio for one of their pop-up events. So I got to spend a full day in the distillery and around the island with a microphone and a camera recording all of the things that go into making a whisky. It was a huge amount of fun, I wish we could have stayed longer.

As a side note – Jura is a small island off the west coast of Scotland. To get there you need to either fly or take a boat to Islay (another island famous for whisky), and from there take the ferry to Jura. It’s a beautiful place with one road, one small town, and thousands of wild deer.

Anyway, even before getting there I had been thinking about making a music video out of the sounds, so I recorded with that in mind. It took me a few weeks to put together after the recording, and the video was used in the Jelly & Gin Create:Eat:Whisky pop-up restaurant alongside different ambient recordings and a few other sound design touches using the source recordings from the island.

SD: Which were the technologies and devices you used to record sounds and then create the video?

YS: In terms of tech, I used a Roland R26 for recording, using the built-in mics alongside a Sennheiser ME66/K6. I also used several of my homemade contact microphones along with a hydrophone I built (you can see me throwing it into the river in the video).

To make the video, I started by putting together all of the sounds in Ableton Live. I set myself a few parameters to make it easier for myself in the long run – I didn’t change the pitch or timing of any sound, I tried not to use too many very short sounds, and I limited myself to non-invasive audio processing (compressors, some EQs, etc – nothing that would make the sound unrecognizable).

Once I was happy with the music, I went back and synced the video clips to the music in Final Cut Pro, using my Ableton session as a guide to tell me what clip was what. Then I passed it along to Erik Ravaglia for final edits and color fixes.

SD: Where could we listen and read for more?

YS: Some of the sounds, along with the music track, are on my SoundCloud account. I’ve made the recordings downloadable as a playlist and some thoughts abou the project could be read in my blog.

SD: I cannot resist to make this question: was the whisky good?

YS: The whisky was delicious! I’m a big fan of whisky after living in Scotland for seven years. After spending the day recording we stayed the night in a house next to the distillery, where there were endless bottles of all the varieties they produce on site. The next morning was tough! 🙂

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Gianpaolo D'Amico

Editor-in-chief at sounDesign
Gianpaolo D'Amico is an independent creative technologist for digital media. He is the founder of sounDesign and a music obsessed since he was 0 years old.


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