Ithaca Audio Talk

Art & Culture

It’s time to check out one of the performers taking to the stage at this year's Illustrated 2015. Meet composers and AV mash-up collective Ithaca Audio. The last twelve months have seen them win 4 National Music & Sound awards, secure a commission with NESTA to produce an interactive AV installation, exhibit at the NYC Museum of Moving Image and work with some worlds largest brands including Mercedes, Volkswagen and UEFA. That aside, it was their recent Christmas AV mashup Walking In Your Mind, which really got us interested. A well-choreographed piece of story telling delivered in a refreshingly alternative format. Hungry for more, we spoke to the guys at Ithaca to find out what makes them tick…

You and your team are a hugely capable bunch providing a variety of services ranging from visual remixing & interactive to original composition & sound effects. Which of these skill-sets have you built your company’s reputation on and how did you start out?

We started off as an audio composition company but really tried to specialise in interesting, innovative music with much more of a sound design tilt to it. I’ve always had a big interest in sampling and remix culture and when we started to integrate this into the company our reputation started to grow and we developed this area more and more.

Some of your most iconic work revolves around your amazing visual mashups. Sampling so much film score do you find yourself spending as much time watching movies as you do in the studio composing? What’s the most impressive score you’ve heard recently?

We’re constantly on the look out for material prime for remixing. There are so many avenues ripe for exploring and with remix culture now so abundant we look at film, tv, radio, photography even live events and think about how we could remake that or flip it on it’s head into something different. We all have a natural interest in film and one of the most interesting scores I heard recently was by Antonio Sanchez for Birdman (despite being disqualified from Oscar nomination).

Your audio visual remix Walking In Your Mind involves sampling music from various blockbuster movies & TV ads including Inception, Kill Bill and perhaps most famously the gorilla from the Cadbury’s Ad – the on-screen narrative of each remix is almost always well-timed and relevant, how do you ensure this is the case? Have you ever had a problem arise whereby you love the soundtrack but struggle to make the visuals sync?

It’s amazing how well the on screen narrative naturally works most of the time. Iconic films, TV and ads often have such well-suited music that in a fascinating way, if the music combines well together so the visuals tend to as well. That said we spend a huge amount of time on arrangement and working out how they will fit together visually. A lot of the video material requires us to very slightly re-cut to ensure we sync into that particular moment in the mix, its really influenced us as video editors as well as musicians and producers. Much of our commercial work now comes from video editing in the style we have built up and has been so heavily influenced by the traditions of audio sampling. So if we ever have a soundtrack that doesn’t work visually we spend some time thinking about how we can change the visuals in a compelling way (which still fits with the original style of the film) to slot in.

When you decide to build a AV mashup like Rolling The Beats or Don’t Hold Back, Push Things Forward where do you start? There is such a variety of material spanning many decades, how do you remember to which bits to sync where – do you keep a samples diary?

It usually starts with hearing two pieces of music and making a connection. With Don’t Hold Back, I happened to listen to The Theme from Shaft on the same day that I had watched Star Wars and made the connection between the guitar rhythm in Shaft and the string rhythm in The Imperial March. Then it’s a case of testing out lots of ideas and slowly building on them in a way that creates an interesting journey. We have a large database of little ideas along with catalogued music and film for whenever we want to start a new project

Last year saw you win a whole host of awards, has this changed your company’s outlook? Are you looking to focus on more commercial opportunities as you seek to go one better for 2015?

I don’t think it’s changed the company’s outlook. We started off as a commercial focused business and have found over the years that indulging in the areas we love and giving ourselves time to do non commercial work, i.e. following creative interests has not only been great fun but it also seems to really benefit the company too. So I’m keen to keep the company focused on just indulging in areas that we think are interesting and innovative.

Whats next in the pipeline?

We’re launching two new strands of the business: Ithaca Visuals and Ithaca Experiments, focusing on our video editing capabilities along with our interests in hacking, remixing and misusing new and old technologies for interesting creative results.

See Ithaca Audio at Illustrated 2015 – limited tickets available here.