James Brown

James Brown: Composer and sound designer

8 October 2018
Master of Design Science (Audio & Acoustics), 2007
To celebrate 100 years of innovation at the School of Architecture, Design and Planning, we profiled sound designer and alumnus James Brown.

Watch the video: James Brown

James Brown is a composer and a sound designer, creating scores, soundtracks and audio effects for theatre, film, VR and video games.

After completing his undergraduate studies in Visual Arts at Sydney College of the Arts, James had become interested in using sound to create immersive installations and performances.

I think… I became really interested in the physiological effects that sound could have and how you could manipulate that. I found that by studying certain frequencies you could manipulate people’s levels of anxiety, or make them feel more calm, more content.
James Brown

He decided to undertake the Master of Design Science (Audio & Acoustics) at the school of Architecture, Design and Planning. Having always been interested in science, this course allowed him bring together scientific analysis and creativity.

A course highlight

"About ten years ago now I helped to build the anechoic room, still in use at the school today. It’s essentially a room, with padded walls and floor where the sound is completely removed, or as much as possible. It’s for doing lots of different kinds of testing."

What did you do after uni?

"I started out working in contemporary dance and then branched out into doing more film work. I’ve now worked on mini-series like Top of the Lake, and video games like Fallout 4. I’ve worked on productions for screen with the ABC, on live shows for companies like The Australian Ballet, ERTH, and Urban Theatre Projects, and for visual artists including Zanny Begg and William Yang.

Whenever I can I really like to be able to perform the work live because it means that I can react to the performers, in the space, and it gives them the freedom to be able to push things further than they would normally be able to."

Sound designer life

"I’m always on the lookout for good sounds, so I carry a sound recorder with me everywhere I go and I’m constantly recording things, that I’ll often then use in a show. Especially when I go overseas I do a lot of recordings because they’re often harder to find. Like, if I’m in Australia and I’m working on a show or whatever it is I can often just go out and get that. But if I’m in Japan in the bamboo forest, I’m not going to likely be able to ever get that sound again."

Future predictions

"Over the next hundred years I think sound design is really moving towards more of an experiential, immersive experience of sound. There’s a lot more advancement in the field of spatial recording. We’re now using microphones that can record in 360 degrees and these are going to be used a lot more as VR becomes more popular.

VR is becoming so much more accessible for people to consume, but also to create. It’s shaping the industry and it’s shaping the way people experience sound."

See more of James’s work.


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