Sunday Sound Thought #67 -What is a Mistake?

Randy Thom recently posted on his own blog his thoughts on “mistakes” which are more thoughtful and eloquent than my own. So go read his and come back for the dime store version.

This monthly theme of “Mistakes” got me thinking. Mistakes to me can be a negative outcome to an intended or an unintended action. Something called a “dictionary” says mistakes can be “an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong.”

But there are also “happy accidents” which is more fun to talk about than “sad accidents” so lets do that. As a fairly high-strung person, “rolling with it” doesn’t come very naturally. Fortunately my chosen vocation and hobbies allows for a little bit of wiggle room when creating and/or messing up.

I have been making ambient music tracks using a 4-track cassette player lately. Working in Ableton Live, throwing the output onto tape tracks, then live performing/mixing the 4-track back into Live has been an exercise in with accepting imperfection. The cassette itself is adding imperfections and altering the frequency spectrum and character of the tracks. Each track I am recording independently and not in sync, so form and harmony aren’t always lining up the same way they did in my Live session. Setting up layers and then improvising has often created something I wasnt fully intending with generally positive outcomes.

“Letting go” and accepting the imperfections and unintended outcomes has been a nice respite from the less lenient day-to-day “check thrice, submit to version control once” implementation and bug fixing of game development.


Similarly to music; field recording is full of happy accidents like “I dropped this thing and it sounded amazing” or moments like the infamous lightsaber anecdote from the legendary Ben Burtt. My recent recording of dry ice was full of assuming something would make a cool sound and didnt, then trying something was going to be dull and it was far more interesting.

There are still the “crap, I thought I hit record and didnt” mistakes that can only be learned from and not really harnessed. But hopefully they happen less than the “driving along and taking a wrong turn then discovering a radio tower with cool guide-wires or forgetting to close your window on a windy day and getting a nice whistle through the opening” type of mistakes.

So the moral of this Sunday Sound Thought is probably similar to the other articles you’d read here this month. Mistakes are healthy, mistakes can be constructive, and mistakes in the above examples can be harnessed.


As has come before; many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…Please bare with us as we traverse the abstract canals of audio musings.


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