“Dial-an-environment” is a government run service that offers users to dial different phone numbers to hear various environments. Because this is a world where pollution and war has forced the entire human race indoors, people are unable to hear these sounds in person and the government are unable to record these environments. Therefore, all of the experiences for “Dial-an-Environment” have to be synthesised.
In this scene, we hear somebody call “Dial-an-Environment” to be distracted from the smog and pestilence that affects future Britain. The first ambience they dial is one of a barren, windswept plain in the Highlands of Scotland. While listening, we hear the wind rustle the bristly heather and the howling caused by the bleak, rocky cliff-faces. It is raining and there is a storm brewing, as we hear the occasional bark and growl of thunder. While this is calming and relaxing, our protagonist seeks something a little warmer. They dial another number (premium rate) for another barren plain, albeit in New Mexico. We hear the cicadas in the dry grass nearby and the sand being picked up and thrown about by the wind. Our main character is eventually irritated by the sound of cicadas, with the little insects triggering distant, uncomfortable memories of being bitten by an irradiated grasshopper.
They want to move on and start dialling, but since the traumatic cicadas distract them, it is tragically the wrong number. What they hear, instead of the ambience of a relaxing seashore, is a warzone with unrelenting, deafening explosions. Even over a a phone the devastating blasts and growl of the fireballs rattle the brain of our protagonist. After the initial shock of hearing this, they quickly dial the number that they meant to in the first place. Sadly, for our character, this number is busy and they end up settling for the Highland wastes that they found in the first place. After trying to relax, they are too shocked by the insects and explosions to make use of this helpline. After considering dialling another number, they change their mind and hang up at the last minute, before the next ambience has a chance to begin, which is where we leave them.
“Dial-an-Environment” is made up of several key parts to create the scene: wind, rain, phone tones, cicadas, explosions and thunder. The whole scene is self- contained and can play out entirely, just by triggering the initial bang. This is done through a series of delays, counters and routing. Most of the patches are inspired from Farnellʼs Designing Sound. While they are very similar to some of the patches in the book, they were built from the ground up personally, following the instructions rather than copying out the pictures. This meant that I was able to troubleshoot any problems that arose and to find out the intricacies and theory behind each patch properly and edit them accordingly to fit what I was trying to create. These patches mostly use filtered and band-passed noise in various ways to create different effects and this technique can create various sounds, which I wanted to explore the full breadth of.