Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Black Noise, Green Sound and Conscious Ambience

In 2008 and 2009 I discussed the use of relative silence and 'conscious ambience' as potentially potent instruments of sonic branding. Silence is referred in some circles as BLACK NOISE. 'Conscious ambience' is another term I use for a related concept I also call GREEN SOUND.

Some background: In 2006 I was commissioned in a creative consultant capacity to provide some input into the creation of a new environmentally conscious media vehicle. Since my background is sound, after the project was finished, I ended up spending a lot of time considering how the global Green Revolution might affect the way I work –simply because those ideas were so prominent in my thoughts at the time.

One of the basic tenants of the Green Revolution is the urgent request to reduce our individual carbon footprint.

But meanwhile, my recording studio, your recording studio, everyone's studio is a plastic homage to coal, oil and toxins.

No wonder musicians are crazy.

Electronic music may sound like the future to your ears, but it's still an industrial health hazard to third world scavengers foraging garbage dumps for recyclable technology.

Not to mention, that sometimes the sounds we are commissioned to make are polluted or pollutants, themselves.

Too many people want it loud, meaningless and full of crap. If only audiences didn't respond to this kind of stimulation, but they do.

"Can we add something to make it more engaging", is often a coded request for 'more, more, more'.

Comparing aural to visual to messaging, It's interesting how additive actions play out differently between music and graphic. A two dimensional graphic (or 3-D on a flat screen) might catch your eye, but can it ever be said to be intrusive unless the accompanying volume is cranked to an unreasonable level?

No, simply avert your eyes, or turn your back and it's gone.

You can't say the same thing about sound.

I've never been annoyed by something I looked at (although I've been moved by terrible scenes of poverty and tragedy).

The same can't be said of sound:

Sound IS invasive.
Sound IS intrusive.

But in fact, that is the very reason why sound is also such a formidable communication tool.

At yet the same time, the power is greatly diminished with each successive addition of a sonic element. Pump a thousand sonic logos into a room at the same time and the result is NOISE. The same can't be said about the strip mall, or a grocery store aisle. You can call the offending view noise if you want to, because of competing messaging, but it won't make you go blind. On the other hand, too much sound will make you go deaf. If there is a visual comparison to be made, Sound is like a naked lady hitching a ride on the side of the road. You just might drive into a ditch looking at that.

And now, since there are more of us, there will continue to be more messaging. But BIGGER, FASTER, LOUDER won't continue to work in this busy environment.

What is required is a kind of environmentally cognizant sonic initiative. After all you don't need to scream at the angels in order to get your prayers answered.


Collage by Terry O'Gara

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