Foley for the next monster flick?
Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at 11:02PM

Mean Chihuahau Puppy - make sure your volume is DOWN for this one!



I've been learning the ins and outs of Camel Audio's marvelous new softsynth Alchemy - a sort of Swiss Army Knife for audio.  I'm especially interested in the Spectral Editor, where you can draw the spectra of a sound and hear the results.  Like Iannis Xenakis and Kenneth Gaburo, I believe that the hand can make gestures that are probably more complex than any mathematical function. When I've been teaching people about Spectral (or Graphic) synthesis, one of my standard jokes is "well, you can import just about any picture and get some kind of sound.  Why not a picture of a chihuahua, for instance?"  And I proceed to go on the net, find a picture of a chihuahua and load it in, and the result is usually undifferentiated noise.  Which allows me to then show people how to get more differentiated sounds with Graphic Synthesis.  However, I was testing out Alchemy's Spectral editor, and it said you could import pictures in .png format, so I decided that yes, I would import a picture of a rather disturbed looking chihuahua obtained off the web, and see what happened.  I did so, and erased all the material around the chihuahua so that one would hear just the sound that resulted from the chihuahua and not the background.  Here's what it looked like:


I then heard what this sounded like.  Naturally, for resynthesis, I chose to use Noise instead of sine waves.  And, of course, I decided, quite arbitrarily, to put the whole thing into a microtonal scale - 29 notes per octave - why not? - AND on top of that, thought I might time stretch the whole thing to about 17% of the speed of the original.  And of course, I didn't put the sound through any filters or effects.  That would be just too wimpy for words! (joke)

If you click on the sound above, you'll hear a 1:15 second sound clip.  The first 30 seconds is the chihuahua sound at "original pitch" (whatever that concept might mean for this!).  The next 45 seconds, I improvise a bit, layering pitches in several octaves to make a pretty appalling noiseband. 

When looking at sparrows, I frequently observe pretty aggressive behaviour.  What some of us hear as a cute, or at least innocuous "cheep" is probably, in sparrow terms, a really macho declaration of "I'm the biggest meanest sparrow they ever was!  Watch out for me, beak for brains!"  I think, listening to this sound, that perhaps I've penetrated to the true essence of chihuahua macho.

Article originally appeared on WARREN BURT (
See website for complete article licensing information.