Monday, July 21, 2008

Silence Please, for the Soundtracks of Our Lives

Sometimes we require silence in order to hear ourselves think –such as in a library.

And sometimes we need to squelch sound in order that someone else's story or message can get through, as in a movie theater, or during the exchange of important verbalized communication.

We're in such a rush to score the whole world that it's easy to forget that arranging opportunities for SIMPLE QUIET or shaping RELATIVE SILENCE may actually prove the most intelligible means for creating a platform to communicate with audiences, customers and users.

One reason for that is that more and more of us are bring our own sonic branding with us, principally in the way of customized playlists.

One way to look at a playlist is the same way a radio executive does programming: Audio content aimed at a target demographic or lifestyle position. So, why shouldn't your personally created playlists say something about your own individual micro brand?

Well, they do.

Of course, if you're wearing headphones or ear buds of some sort, you're not actually broadcasting your brand. On the other hand, you might be the only one listening, but it's as if the whole world is suddenly branded with your music!

On the surface, a given experience might appear to be the same for everyone, but is it really if every participant provides their own custom soundtrack? For instance, such as at a Silent Rave?

Does the film, THE WIZARD OF OZ, provide the same experience to those who watch it in its original form, as it does for those who replace Harold Arlen's score for Pink Floyd's classic rock recording, DARK SIDE OF THE MOON (Dark Side of Oz)?

Among other things, personal soundtracks package the environment around us –and influence the emotion within us– so that we each experience (more than ever) separate realities constructed of our own respectively individual designs.

One can therefore assume that if some hypothetical space will perhaps more often than not be used by people bringing personal media players, then maybe the best audio branding for that environment is silence –unadulterated room tone– or acoustically treated specifically in order to diminish natural sound.

Sonic Branding companies invested in selling audible recorded solutions may bristle at the idea that absence of sound is ever a better choice than a creatively voiced sound option. I would counter that unlike music and sound design houses, or music supervisors for that matter, that Sonic Branding consultants needn't specifically sell sound services, but rather present themselves as providers of branded communication solutions, of which quiet space –or the illusion thereof– via Sound Masking or Active Noise Control or otherwise controlling a natural or prescribed Ambient Noise Level, is as valid an advisement as any (if that is indeed the result of one's analysis of a given project).

ILLUSION THEREOF: What do I mean by that anyway?

Silence is rarely absolute, and the pursuit of it might not be a valid goal except for a studio vocal booth, but allowing a public room or environment to murmur with natural activity, or designing an experience so that one or more natural sound sources are accentuated over others can also be a useful option depending on one's entertainment, experience or communication strategy.

Is the sound of a library actually silence? Or is it the sound of movement through the stacks? Pages turned? The shuffle of footsteps in a reverberant space?

* * *

Click any link below to read all the articles in the six-part July 2008 UNBRANDED series detailing the relationship between Effective Sonic Branding and Black Noise (Silence):


That is the Question.

Part 1: Non Branding For The Best Branders
Part 2: Sonic Branding or Silent Branding?
Part 3: Websites and Sonic Branding
Part 4: The Sonification of Everything
Part 5: Silence Please, for the Soundtracks of Our Lives
Part 6: Black Noise Branding

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