Red Bull Soundscapes: Making Music with Extreme Sports Audio
The plane zooms past in the blink of an eye and begins to emit a high-pitched whine as it starts a dizzying climb towards the heavens. A woman holds her microphone high into the sky before breaking into a broad smile.
“That’s Martin Šonka, the pilot I met earlier, who told me to stand at this point of the track to record that exact moment,” she says. “Ooh, he’s showin’ off!”
Mali Larrington-Nelson is a producer from South London releasing songs under the name Shy One. A rising star in the UK grime music scene, she has come to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Red Bull Air Race to harvest sounds for an exclusive track.
From spectacular air races to daring downhill duels, Red Bull is synonymous with sporting adventure. But what exactly does adventure sound like? Shure teamed up with Red Bull to find out.
Three up-and-coming artists received the brand new MV88+ Video Kit, so they could craft original songs from field recordings collected at sporting events around the globe.
Red Bull Soundscapes
Besides Larrington-Nelson in Indianapolis, Anz traveled to Wales for the Red Bull Hardline mountain bike race and HAAi went to Japan to see the Red Bull Crashed Ice skating competition. What they created from those experiences is now the Soundscapes project.
“Sound at sporting events is often taken for granted. However, when you think about it, the live footage would be nothing without audio,” says Paul Crognale, Global Marketing Manager for Musician & Consumer Audio at Shure.
“Skaters weaving through a course at record speed, cheering crowds, the split-second swerves, kicks, grunts, jumps and falls – these are the moments that make an experience truly exciting.”
Of course, it’s only when you begin to actively hunt sounds at an event like an air race that you realize how prevalent they really are.
“It was almost like a buffet of sounds – I had so many things to choose from,” explains Larrington-Nelson. “The most important is probably the actual airplane.”
Back in the studio, she takes the plane’s plaintive whining and makes it something completely new – yet still familiar. Like that sound when someone repeatedly cups their hand over their mouth while humming.
“I added a whole bunch of effects,” she says. “I love it! I was like: I have to work this in more.”
From there, Larrington-Nelson builds the track around other elements recorded at the air race: “So you can hear the commentator, the plane, cockpit latch and the flap noise.”
Bikes and Breakbeats
Surrounded by the natural scenery of Wales, the Manchester-based producer Anz, whose real name is Anna-Marie Odubote, is feeling inspired. She’s here for the Red Bull Hardline, what has to be one of the most brutal downhill bike races ever.
Odubote asks competitor Kaos Seagrave for a few tips where she could capture unique sounds for her song along the course.
“There’s a place on the track called Waterfall Edge, that’ll be a good one,” he says. “And then the road gap cuz you’ll hear the tires hitting the dirt.”
As the riders rocket down a narrow and bumpy mountainside path, Odubote fits her slightly abused smartphone into the MV88+ Video Kit. Despite her “clapped” phone having a cracked screen, she is immediately impressed by the quality of the audio she records: “So crisp it’s amazing!”
Watching the riders repeatedly soar into the air across a cavernous jump in the course, the NTS Radio regular muses about the direction her song is going.
“I feel it coming together in my mind,” she says while humming a melody to herself. “Lots of the sounds I’ve picked are very ambient by nature of where we are. Which should reflect in the track. I’m really excited to get in the studio and see what we can do.”
Adrenalin on Ice
Soon after arriving in in Yokohama, Teneil Throssell knows exactly what she’s hunting for at the Red Bull Crashed Ice event being held in the Japanese city.
“I wanna get some real crunching sounds, the sounds of the boots landing heavily on the ice – I think that’s gonna be good for some kind of beat,” says the London-based Australian DJ and producer going by the moniker HAAi.
With skaters hurtling themselves down a steeply undulating track, there’s certainly plenty of crunching ice to capture. But that turns out not to be Throssell’s favorite field recording of the day.
Monitoring her recording with her smartphone display mounted flat next to the MV88+ mic, she grins after holding it close to an ice skate blade being sharpened by a sparking grinder.
“That sounded fantastic. That sounded like music I’ve been listening to lately,” she says with a chuckle.
Throssell then asks Red Bull Crashed Ice world champion skater Scott Croxall for some advice on where to find unique audio during the race.
“You’ll probably get the best sounds from the start gate. The first three steps are going to be pretty intense,” he tells her.
After the sun set and she ascends the steep stairs to the beginning of the race course, Throssell attempts to capture that initial rush of adrenalin as racers hurtle themselves down the precipitous, icy slope.
“This is going to be extraordinary,” she says. “I’ve got so many great sounds today.”
Once in the studio, her track falls quickly into place once the producer finds the right recording to lead with.
“It took me a bit to work where I wanted to go until I got this point,” explains Throssell, who is known for her eclectic musical influences. “I wanted to keep the sounds very true to what they were.”