How do you make a television documentary about something you can’t see? Well, you need a little magic. In this case “Sonic Magic,” which is the title of our latest production airing tonight at 8pm on CBC’s “The Nature of Things with David Suzuki.”
It’s not just a rant about noise, it’s a visual feast of sonic wonders – such as the fact that sound can be used to destroy cancer cells, to restore lost memory, and to make a blind man to see. Wait till you see Daniel Kish who’s been blind since early childhood ride a bicycle through an obstacle course. He makes clicking sounds much like a bat does to create visual images that allow him to navigate freely through the world. He actually sees with sound – what he calls Flash Sonar – and it truly is impressive.
But there’s more. There’s a new scientific instrument called a cymascope that translates sound waves into 3D geometric patterns – a different pattern for every note on the scale – some of which resemble early forms of life. Is this a stunning coincidence or a new way to study and think about biology? See for yourself.
Sound designer Ewan Deane rolls back the clock by recreating the rich soundscape of Vancouver city streets in 1906 – a time when noise levels were tolerable and when the bells of Holy Rosary Cathedral could be heard for 40 blocks. Now these bells are all but lost in the din of urban traffic.
Music composer and saxophone artist Dan Seguin plays melodic riffs on a concert stage to help illustrate how acoustic engineers make a performance hall sound great.
As you can probably tell, I found this a really enjoyable and fascinating film to make. Many thanks to our production team – producers Terry McKeown and Bette Thompson; cinematographer Jeff Morales and sound recordist Jeff Henschel; editor Allan Pinvidic and the crew at Finale Editworks; Ian Kirby, Dan Sioui, Vanessa Marshall and the team of animators and CGI wizards at The Sequence Group; archivists Elspeth Domville and Colin Preston, Composer Dan Seguin and Sound Designer Ewan Deane – for making it all come together so nicely.
Hope you all enjoy a bit of “Sonic Magic.” Apologies to those of you outside of Canada who don’t have access to the CBC.
Sonic Magic - The Science of Sound