Tuesday, 23 July 2013

This isle is full of noises.

Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked,
I cried to dream again.

I've been building a toolkit of free online apps for making media. The Planet Birdsong project I'm working on (unsurprisingly) needs to handle sound files. Searching for tools and functionality that support sound, I'm struck by how much less well-served sound in comparison to video. Free video hosts abound, online video editors fairly common - Youtube has its own simple editor and Vimeo has a new one in the pipeline - video can be embedded most places. Not so for sound. I can only find one, albeit excellent, online editing app - Twisted Wave. It integrates with Google Drive and Soundcloud but it's in beta at present and will undoubtedly cost some when launched. 

All over the place you'll find links to the Aviary suite of programmes which offered an excellent collection of creativity apps, including the Myna sound editor and Roc (geddit) which enabled you to mix loops into original, copyright free music. But that was closed down last September. 

I'm rather fond of the applet Record Mp3 which will produce an mp3 recording you can download or link to, at the click of a couple of buttons but the sound can't be edited and it has no embeddable audio player. And speaking of embedding. Google appear to think audio is below their consideration. Blogger has no ability to simply insert audio, nor does Google Sites, Drive needs an external app added to play sound files (I like this one), you can't add sound to their slideshows, nor yet, disappointingly, is the recently launched Google Maps Engine Lite able to add sounds to maps. 

Audacity still reigns supreme for free offline sound editing. Maybe that's the problem - for a piece of completely free software it is so excellent it puts off competition. Though, that said, I've recently been playing with Music Editor Free which is good, has a slicker user interface than Audacity but only exports files in wave format which are often just too large to use easily online. 

The big beast in the world of online audio hosts is SoundCloud. You'll doubtless recognise their embeddable widgets like the one below. I've downloaded and played with half a dozen Android sound recording/editing apps on my phone and none of them are quite up to snuff, but SoundCloud's new-ish, free, phone app is impressive. It allows for simple trimming of clips and then uploads straight from your phone. Should you have no internet connection the files are saved and  upload when you enter a wifi zone. The disadvantage is that, should you wish to edit your file further, you will need to download, open in Audacity and re-upload. This where Twisted Wave app comes in: you simply add the URL for the SoundCloud file and it will open ready for editing. Do your edit and send it back as a new file to Soundcloud. The lovely piece was normalised and cropped using Twisted Wave.

In a friend's garden, earnestly trying out recording procedures for workshops, I was tiptoeing closer  to record the call of a Green Woodpecker when this sound started up in a neighbouring garden. Irritation turned to delight when I noticed the workman with the saw had a bright green mohican and was cutting lumps out of a piece of wood...metamorphosis?