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Steven Wayne Thomas

Cinematic Music & Sound





Nature isn’t the only place to look for interesting sounds. Physical structures, public spaces, the rooms in your home, and even the inside of a car trunk or washing machine have a particular “sound”, color, or timbre. Many are mundane or unremarkable, but others can possess a unique character or quality — a signature sound if you will. With some cool technology, we can actually record the sonic characteristics of these spaces and recreate them in the digital world.


The Palomar Observatory in Southern California is a great example of a unique space I’ve been lucky enough to record. A massive dome housing a giant 200” telescope with a whopping 13.5 seconds of reverb! When you talk or play an instrument in the space, the sound seems to swirl around and travel upwards to the top of the structure. The hard surfaces and metallic dome creates a shimmery quality. Check it out in the video below:

“Prometheus: Dark Matter” by composer Larry Groupe´. Recording inside the dome at the foot of the 200” Hale telescope. Recording by Jason LaRocca. Edit and mix by Steven Wayne Thomas.


By carefully measuring and recording the room’s impulse responses (how the room reacts to a full range of frequencies), we can capture that acoustics of the space and reproduce its signature sound. I use a convolution reverb plug-in called Altiverb, which you can see in the screenshot below:

Field Recording


For me, field recording is an audio rabbit hole – full of endless awe and wonder. The microphone directs your attention to a specific moment in time, in a specific location, at a specific time of day. Some sounds are documentary in nature and become sfx elements like backgrounds and atmospheres. Other recordings can become musical drones or the raw material for new sounds altogether. Listen long enough and you begin to hear their stories.


I love to create and design new sounds. The source material can be from my field recordings, IRs I’ve captured, or pieces of existing music I’ve written. Here are a few soundscapes (mini-stories) – scored with original music.


This prepared piano soundscape was created by attaching contact microphones to the soundboard of an old baby grand piano and recording different types of sounds: from pressing and releasing the creaky pedals at different speeds and velocities, to banging on the soundboard and plucking the strings. The recordings were further time-expanded, pitched-shifted, and sent through custom impulse responses I created for Altiverb. The soundscape reminded me of the vastness of space.



Most of the sounds in this fun, horror soundscape are from recordings I captured on Palomar Mountain, California and Bloomington, Indiana. There are field recordings of summer frogs, rainstorms, and a very special dog named Frida – riding in the car to her favorite walking spot on the peninsula of Lake Monroe.

As we get the closer to the lake, Frida becomes more agitated with excitement. She huffs and pants the entire way. The ride usually culminates with a blast of whines, growls, and grunts.

Here is unprocessed Frida:



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I collaborate with like minded artists and film-makers to create music & sound for picture through original scores, sound design, and mixing; field record to gather new material and learn about my surroundings; and share this experience through music education and instruction.