June 2017 i

The June heat means sound is travelling faster than it has all year (warm air increases speed of sound) which unfortunately allows for all the late night drunken Dublin sing song to reach my apartment window even quicker. Not that I'm a curmudgeon!

Anne Maree Barry's new work Otium Cum Dignitate (Leisure with Dignity) which I sound designed is currently on show in The Lab on Foley Street until August 20th. It's a fascinating exploration of gender and class division through the lens of early 20th century Dublin, specifically the notorious Monto area above Talbot Street.

Currently in the works is a radio adaptation of Orla Murphy's award winning theatre drama Remember to Breath

Set during a young Irish woman's attempts to learn to swim in a post-earthquake Christchurch, New Zealand, it explores themes of loss, disconnection, and identity as she strives to reconcile her old home life with her new home land. Sound design and mixing are almost complete and it will be broadcasting on Newstalk FM in the near future.

Cannes and IFTAs

Great news from Cannes that Yorgos LanthimosThe Killing of a Sacred Deer has been chosen for the Official Selection this year. Sound Design is being handled by Lanthimos' previous The Lobster collaborator, Johnnie Burn, who is also known for the superb soundscape of Under The Skin. I cut the foley for Sacred Deer and it is another fascinating film in the inimitable and logically lateral world of Lanthimos. Looking forward to hearing about the audience reaction.

Tomato Red Film Poster Sound Design

A great result at the IFTAs for Tomato Red which won in the Best Sound category. The film is wonderfully written and shot, and the soundscape designed by Steve Fanagan, Niall Brady and Ken Galvin is nuanced and immersive. It was a great to get do some work on such good sounding film, and it is worth seeking it and Juanita Wilson's other films to see some great filmmaking. 

Reaktor Play Day

Months could be lost just playing with the packaged instruments that are in NI Reaktor, let alone getting under the hood and building your own instruments.

My personal favourite so far is Metaphysical Function which has 12 noise/tone generators, a sample playback module, and a brilliant effects chain to run everything through for sound mangling. Automation can then be recorded to most controls to turn it into an undulating, pulsing monstrosity!

Beeswax for Contact Mics

Contact mics perhaps take the greatest amount of patience of any audio transducer to work with. From identifying what to attach them to, to simply finding a method of attachment, they can frustrate a new user easily.

I own a pair of JRF C-Series mics, and have tried attachment methods from blutack, to a clamp, to electrical tape. The Tonebenders podcast featured a great analysis by Michał Fojcik of several techniques of contact mic attachment, one of the best (to my ears) being beeswax.

From Michał's blog post, it appears he used raw beeswax, and a beeswax putty available to children as a Play Doh alternative. I figured that raw beeswax would be pretty unworkable if you were trying to work outside, as it would take a lot of body heat to make it malleable enough. Some additional research brought up this video:

Further research brought up a mention of Ann Kroeber, also previously featured in Tonebenders, and her use of a FRAP contact mic. An old colleague of her's mentioned mixing the natural moisturiser, lanolin, often used in crafts and health products to keep the beeswax sticky. So, with my beeswax order having arrived, I set about making my own contact mic beeswax putty. 


  • 1 cup of beeswax pellets
  • 2 tsps olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp lanolin


I followed the method from the video above, except for adding some lanolin while adding the oil. 

Also, I gently heated the oil and lanolin together into a mixture before adding, so the mixture wouldn't cool the melted wax around it.

I found the wax took a lot longer to melt than I thought, though I was using a large pyrex measuring jug in the pan, instead of a small cup like in the video tutorial.

The end result worked really well. It was sticky but malleable, and quickly warmed up in my hands for use. I would add an extra tsp of oil, as it did firm up to fairly hard wax again. The only other downside is that the wax will stick on the surfaces you attach it to, so beware. It will also leave wax on your mic surfaces.

I only had time for a quick test. I stuck the mics to the bottom of a porcelain type sink. This smooth glass like surface is usually troublesome for tape, but the wax had no problem attaching and staying there. Sonically, it does sound as though it captured a more even spread of frequencies than other methods I've used. The following excerpt has the raw recording, and an additional processed version to hear how well it could handle varispeeding.