Any Porsche aficionado knows the sound of a 911 starting up or driving past. Such is the distinctiveness of the engine note that the sound will often prompt a knowing smile, if not a turned head.
Watching the Carrera Cup Asia races at the 2010 Singapore Grand Prix, it occurred to DJ Gene Shill that the sound produced by 911 GT3 Cup cars really is music to the ears.
“Craig Baird was racing Carrera Cup Asia and from where I was sitting, the sound of the cars was reverberating off the walls and the water," says Shill.
"That’s when I started to capture the sounds on my phone and put them into the digital audio workstation to cut into samples.”
“Shill soon discovered that, when modified and converted to a different frequency, the engine note took on a musical quality. Laid out as a track it offered an incredible way to hear the great echo of the car’s engine.”
Like an audio alchemist, Shill started amalgamating sampled sounds and ambient textures, such as recordings from the pit lane and crowd.
“The most important thing before you can start composing a tune is to build each texture. It’s really important to synthesise the sounds that will then replicate the noises we recognise, before you begin to build the track.
“Then you’ve got to think about the harmony and context as well. You have the sample and the context, and then you put the two together to build the textures, so it’s still recognisable – although at first it may not sound like one, it is in fact a Porsche. That is a big thing.”
Shill has released music with some of the biggest recording labels in the world. He has toured with and written tracks for some of the biggest names in the business including Kanye West, Simply Red, Katy Perry and Cirque Du Soleil as well as several Australian pop stars.
“Composing a track is such a unique experience. As with every singer, every race track or driver could have their own unique song, because of the way they drive and the sounds that the car produces as a result of a track layout or driver behaviour.
“When I told a couple of friends what I was mixing up after the Grand Prix in Singapore they thought I was crazy. But when we talk about dynamics in music, there are also dynamics in the car like chassis dynamics, track dynamics, how you approach things. You can almost use the accelerator as a crescendo or diminuendo that gets louder or softer, and of course it also changes pitch.
“Every singer in the world has their own sound, so do cars, especially Porsche.” Gene Shill
“The synergies seem so apparent to the point where I think that in the future — and this is probably a little bit “out there” — if you figure out that perfect lap and record it, then it would be possible for a driver to use the audio as a tool to replicate the lap as opposed to just feeling it.
“If a driver nailed the lap and listened to the resulting audio on repeat, then I believe this kind of repetition may be a new way of thinking about how we can use sound as a musical tool. It may contribute to reshaping our approach by using more audio-based resources to achieve successful and consistent results. I think it’s an interesting concept.
“For me there is no other car, no other manufacturer that creates a sound like a Porsche. I’ve tried and sampled others, but they don’t compare.”
Click below to listen to a few examples of Gene's work.