TEDxUCLA 2016: Push. Pull. Stretch.

Finding music in different spaces


About Mikael

Born in suburban New Jersey to Scandinavian immigrant parents, Mikael Jorgensen developed a fascination with music and its production while accompanying his father Joe, an accomplished New York recording engineer, to recording studios in NYC at age 7. From this technology-rich childhood, Mikael went on to gain formal education ranging from fine arts and video to electronics and computer science, a combination that now forms the core of his creative endeavors as a master of modern-digital and retro-analog production.


Let’s investigate the relationship between you, the audience, and me, the performer. And in doing so, we’ll share in the transformative power of making music together. 

I have a pair of microphones set up that are pointed towards you, the audience, and not toward me, the performer. And I’m going—the reason I’m doing this is that I want to record you making a series of sounds, and we’re gonna build a library of samples together consisting only of sounds that you make. 

Now these microphones are connected to my laptop which is running software that allows me to record, edit, playback, and sequence audio. 

And once we have a recording, I’m going to assign each of those sounds to a button on this grid controller here, which incidentally doesn’t make any noise on its own, it needs to be connected to the computer, it’s more or less a very fancy mouse. 

And then with this grid controller and the software, I’m going to create a new piece of music using only the sounds that we generate here today. 

And so this is how it’s gonna work. I’m going to make a sound. Then you are going to make that sound. And then on the count of three, I’m going to have you make that sound. However, the two is going to be silent to keep the recording free of my voice. And then when I point to you, that is your cue to make the sound. 

So let’s try one. What is the sound—I’m not even gonna ask you, I’m just gonna tell you—let’s make the sound of discreetly trying to get somebody’s attention. “Psst.” Great. Yeah. That’s easy. 

So let’s just try a practice run. So I’m going to count: one, two, “Psst.” And I did that wrong because I said “two” and I said I was gonna be quiet, but that’s on me. All right? 

Let’s try that one more time and I’ll do it right this time. So make the sound, “Psst.” Okay. One, [two], “Psst.” 

Piece of cake, right? This is gonna be easy and awesome. 

Let me just get my software ready to go here. And nothing more exciting than watching somebody use a computer. 

Okay so, let’s do our discreet getting someone’s attention. And one, [two], “Psst.” Great. Let’s just double-check that that sounds right. Yes, it does. 

Now, let’s pretend we’re at the gas station and we’ve inflated our tires a little bit too much, so we have to press the stem on the valve and let out some air, right? “Pssh.” Yeah, it’s easy right? This is not hard first thing in the morning. 

So let’s make the sound of letting some air out of our tire. So one, [two], “Pssh.” Fantastic. 

Now let’s make the sound of us hitting a ping pong ball with a paddle. Right, so, [tongue clap]. You have no idea how awesome that sounds up here, by the way. 

So all right, so let’s do that. It was kind of cool that it wasn’t all at once, but let’s try to get it happening at the same time, okay? So one, [two], [tongue clap]. Great. Fantastic. 

And let’s, let’s make the sound of like sudden realization. [snap] “I got it!” Right? Snapping your fingers. [snap] 

So let’s, let’s do that. One, two… oh—ah haha! No no no no no no no. Let’s do that again. One, [two], [snap]. Great. 

Now I’ve heard this referred to as a sarcastic clap, right? [slow clap] So let’s just do a single sarcastic clap. So on the count of three. One, [two], [slow clap]. Amazing. 

Now let’s do the sound of giving somebody a pretend electric shock, right? “Bzzt.” And we’ll just, we’ll just do one, of course. So let’s do that together. One, [two], “Bzzt.” So good. 

All right, now what is the sound you make when you suddenly win an argument in far less time than you thought it was gonna take? “Oh!”

So let’s, let’s win an argument really quickly together, right? Okay so, one, [two], “Oh!” Hey! You’re not doing it right. Let’s try that again. One, [two], “Oh!” Great. 

Let’s make the sound you would make when you see a photo of fuzzy adorable kittens. “Aww!” I didn’t even have to lead you, you totally knew that. 

Okay, so on the count of three, fuzzy, adorable kittens. One, [two], “Aww!” Beautiful. 

Now let’s, we need a kinda like a, a drum sound. So if everybody could just beat their chest and go “Mmm.” Oh yeah, that’s great. 

So let’s do this “Mmm” sound. I’m sorry I don’t have a story for this, but I just need this sound to make this all work so, that’s my idea worth sharing. 

So let’s do it together. One, two, “Mmm.” (i fucked up) All right. Let’s do that one more time, sorry. One, [two], “Mmm.” Yeah, great. 

And let’s do the sound of a blatant dismissal. “Pfft.” Whatever, right? 

So let’s be blatantly dismissive together. So on the count of three. One, [two], “Pfft.” Awesome. 

And only two more to go. Stay with me. You’re doing fantastic. I want everybody to sing the word “ooh.” Not bad. That’s great. 

Let’s do that together. And if you can kind of sing it a little bit longer than that, so I’ll just, I’ll give you a cue. Hand’s up means keep going and then palms, and now just, that means stop. That means stop. 

So I’ll give you the cue and then keep going and then I’ll cue you to stop. Right? And so here we go. One, [two], “Ooh.” You guys are good. 

All right. And then finally, let’s all give ourselves a round of applause. (applause)

Okay. All right, so now we have built a library of sounds and I am going to assign each of those sounds to a pad on this grid controller here. 

And very quickly, I will start that process and stop all this, select this, and again, nothing quite so riveting as watching somebody else use a computer. But this is what we have to deal with. 

So here is our chest thump, which sounds like this. That rules. Good. 

And our patently overtly dismissive sounds like that. Great. 

And getting the attention of somebody discreetly is our sound that is… great. That sounds so good. 

And the letting air out of our tire is this one, and that sounds like this. Wonderful. 

The ping pong ball, being struck by a ping pong ball racket. Come on now, let’s do this. There we go. This sounds so good, All right, let’s get rid of that “great,” even though it was great. Wonderful. 

And then we have our realization, sudden realization, which was our finger snap. Awesome. 

And our single sarcastic clap. Whoa. That’s really loud. 

What was that? A bonus sound. That, we’ll just leave it like that.

Let’s hear, let’s see whether our sound giving a toddler probably a pretend electric shock. Great. 

And let’s just trim that. Good—oh whoa, turn that looping off. All right. 

And now let’s win an argument in much less time than we thought it was going to take. 

And… oh no no no no, we’ve gonna turn that looping off, and we’re just gonna bring that volume down just slightly. 

And last thing we have is our, the sound of, anybody remember? Kittens, that’s right. Oh, good grief. And that’s here. And oh, goodness, this is that moment of like “Oh, I’m on stage naked in front of my school.” There we go. Wonderful. 

Okay, so we have our sounds. Great. You guys did so good.

Now I’m going to take our “ooh” sound and assign that to a different kind of virtual device here called the, it’s a sampler, ultimately. And I’m allowed, it enables me instead of just assigning one sound to one button, I can assign it to chromatic notes on the keyboard. This does not look like a keyboard, but trust me, that’s how it works. 

And let’s see. There we go. All right. So there is our “ooh.” And then I can change the pitch. And then I, what I might do is I might just do a little bit of sound sculpting and take the release. 

Okay, so now we have our sounds in place. And now it is time to start making some music. So let’s grab our samples and… Wait, what? Oh, I see. There’s that feeling of again. 

Okay, so let’s use that “psst” sound as what would be maybe a high-hat sound in a recording, in a song you might recognize. So let’s start that. Okay, great. 

I’ll add a subdivided beat here. Okay, that sounds pretty cool. 

Let’s just add some of our ping pong balls. 

Now let’s put our chest bump, story-free bass drum in there, right?

Let’s change that a little bit. All right, that’s starting to sound like something. 

So let’s add our dismissive “pfft” in there, so. 

And our letting out the car tire air… okay.

And our “bzzt,” little. 

Thank you.