Empathetic sound response

I just listened to an episode of the Every Little Thing podcast about foley artists, a subject I’ve been fascinated with for literally decades. I already knew basically how it all works, given my enthusiasm for the subject, but with foley there is truly infinite variety in exactly how the sounds get created. Each foley artist has their particular methods. So to me it is always fascinating to hear interviews with them because there is always something new.

In this case, though, there was a little more than just new and bizarre ways to make the sounds for your favorite TV show (though there is some of that too). Sound editor Joanna Fang uses the term “empathetic sound response” to describe the goal of the foley artist, and it framed the work in a way in which surprisingly to me I hadn’t quite connected with before. A common refrain of those who become aware of the way sounds are “faked” is that it’s not realistic, and perhaps it should be. I sensed that was wrong, but never really had quite a good response for it still. Joanna explains it beautifully in saying essentially that the goal of a foley artist is to make you feel closer to the sound. In the case of a punch, it is not intended to sound like what you would hear witnessing a fight, it is instead meant to be as if you are being punched, a much more visceral and affecting thing.

Every Little Thing is not the most in-depth or moving podcast, but it fills a definite niche and does it well. It tends to be short, 20-25 minutes, and it fits into the category of “snacks of info” to me, which often times is exactly what I have the time and energy for on, say, a short walk around the neighborhood. And Flora (host) is rather endearing, if you ask me. So give it a listen!