the red balloon

by singlefrequency

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    Close up of an eye. Blue. You know it’s your eye, and you can tell you’re smiling. You feel calm. At peace.

    Camera zooms out and you realize that you’re laying on a blanket in a field of knee-high prairie grass. The sun is warm. You’re wearing a yellow and white sundress. He’s laying on the blanket next to you. Neither of you speak, but you can feel laughter welling up in your chest. He reaches out, strokes your cheek. You feel happy.

    You can’t see anything, but you feel something moving, floating just above the top of grass. You sit up, turning your head to find the movement. He sits up too, takes your hand and you are back in the moment. He’s speaking, and you can’t hear the words but it doesn’t matter. You know they’re good words. He’s smiling.

    You catch movement again, and color this time. Red. You shift your gaze to the right and see a red balloon, hovering behind his left shoulder. This time he turns and looks too. When he turns back his face is different. The smile is gone and he is pale. He squeezes your hand and you can feel the warmth begin to bleed out from the world. He speaks again but you can tell his words are sad this time.

    The balloon floats closer. He reaches out to catch it by the string that dangles from it, letting go of your hands. He reaches between you, picks up the large sewing needle laying on the blanket. He begins to raise the hand holding the needle; you think he’s reaching for the balloon. Instead he lifts the needle to his temple and presses it there. You reach toward him to pull the needle away, but it’s already too late – the blood is dripping from his temple and the balloon, now white, is already beginning to float away from his hand.

    You wake with the sound of a gunshot ringing in your ears.
    ... more

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"The Red Balloon" is essentially an exercise. I decided I wouldn’t use any sample libraries or anything that wasn’t my own. At core, it’s using a couple of different passes using guitars and outboard gear and then using recordings of a whistling tea kettle.

Initially, I used my guitar routed through a looper pedal. It’s a simple three chord progression and then reversed. It’s routed through two distortion pedals and then through a dual-delay module. It’s all running through a small amp that I have mic’d with an sm57 and going into Nuendo. I basically let it run and record for several cycles. After cleaning it up a bit in Nuendo, I grabbed the guitar again and did the little melodic passages using essentially the same setup (although I changed settings on the delay), although I didn’t use the looper. I recorded that stuff live.


released March 8, 2012
Music & Mix: Zachary Quarles

Artwork by Andrew Trabbold:

Story Concept: Rachel Lilley



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singlefrequency Seattle, Washington

singlefrequency is a musical experiment by sound designer Zachary Quarles.

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