Andrea Cera, Composer, Sound Designer

Today’s interview was with Andrea Cera, which was a very fortunate situation as he is staying only for a short time in Paris. What’s particularly interesting about Andrea is, that he is at home in pop music, as well as in experimental music and stage performance sound design, and in commercial sound design. And, not to forget, a “musical gearhead” and sound programming crack.

One takeaway from this encounter was Andreas preference for tried-and-trusted production setups, even if they might be technically outdated. For instance, he still runs an old G3 with Audiosculpt from the nineties, just because he knows that system inside out and knows exactly what and how to get out of it. The same is true of course for certain vintage synths and other soundmaking gear. Interestingly, also for Andrea, the sound generation tools do not really afford specific functions or aesthetics, except for replicating an iconic aesthetic that usually is associated with the pioneering years of a given synthesis method. E,g, if you want to sound like a granular synth effect from the 90s then you better take a granular synth for that. But is you want to achieve certain abstract sonic phenomena, such as the impression of something dissolving, you could achieve it with all possible sound generation methods.

So that would be one reductionist idea less in this world!

Andrea also told me a lot about his work process in the design of sounds for dance performances, which gave an interesting insight into how manyfold relationships between various agents (including the sound itself!) can be built, in particular when avoiding too causalistic approaches and giving each agent enough space to move.

We also discussed his approach of designing computer sound systems with “Artificial Stupidity”, an approach to which I could immediately relate. Starting from there we came to the conclusion, that we might be better off designing sounds (and other expressive “channels” of computerized artifacts) which allow for imperfection and some healthy dose of unpredictability, instead of pretending the perfect and impeccable by desinging stable, pure, clean, tonal sounds for hight-tech stuff. Because simply no machine is perfect, and neither are humans, and it is just so much easier to forgive an (unfatal) error to a likeable, slightly clumsy “creature”. Ben Burtt and his “used future” Star Wars robots have shown us the way “a long time ago”.

Also, when discussing the interaction with industry on the design of sounds for electic car engines, we identified the challenge of combining the values of branding and marketing with those of (interaction)design. Unfortunately a new method alone will not help to improve this dialog, as there are many external factors coming into play. Well, maybe if we just keep kicking the ball, we might eventually score.

Last but not least, I got a lot of very encouraging feedback to my heuristic categories and while Andrea does not have the time for a hands on session, we’ll stay in touch to discuss and develop this further.

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