Back in the 60s, a voiceover artist named Ken Nordine recorded a series of short beat poems about colors, backed by free-form jazz. The poems began as advertisements for the Fuller Paint Company, but when radio listeners began to call in requesting to hear them played again, Nordine decided to record an album of them. Once I started listening this weekend, I couldn’t stop — they’re just so delightfully odd.
More: Here’s the link to listen to the full album on Spotify
Electrical networks emit such a constant, locally recognizable hum that their sound can be used to help solve crimes.
A forensic database of electrical sounds is thus being developed by UK police, according to the BBC. “For the last seven years, at the Metropolitan Police forensic lab in south London,” we read, “audio specialists have been continuously recording the sound of mains electricity. It is an all pervasive hum that we normally cannot hear. But boost it a little, and a metallic and not very pleasant buzz fills the air.”
The small sounds consumer products make—whether a snap, click, rustle or pop—can be memorable and deeply satisfying, often suggesting luxury, freshness, effectiveness or security.
Companies, in their endless drive to motivate customers to buy, are paying more attention to these product noises and going to great lengths to manipulate them. Sound is emerging as a new branding frontier.
Measuring the cultural importance and metaphysical weirdness of that change is part of the project of “Music, Sound, and Technology in America,” an anthology of fascinating artifacts whose prosaic title belies its insights into the early years of the recorded-sound era.
Ranging from 1878 to 1945, the book’s primary-source offerings—essays by inventors, memos for industry tycoons, reports from the pages of Talking Machine Journal and so forth—survey the evolution of the phonograph, the radio and sound-assisted cinema, tracing the way a few fantastical ideas became ubiquitous elements of mass culture. What emerges is a rollicking sense of early listeners’ wonder, puzzlement, confusion and glee.
In his 84 years Tony Schwartz produced over 30,000 recordings, thousands of groundbreaking political ads, media theory books and Broadway sound design, invented the portable recorder, delivered hundreds of lectures and had full careers as an ad executive and a pioneering folklorist. And he did it all without leaving his zip code. In a piece that originally aired in 2008, the Kitchen Sisters, look back at his life spent listening.
Does the start-up sound of a computer have an emotional meaning to its user? Why are ringtones more popular than ringback tones? Is the commercial jingle a relic in our supposedly media-savvy age? How does a retail space decide upon its playlist? Do bars and restaurants really sell more drinks when the music is played louder? Why do some stores hide their speakers, while others make them prominent features of the interior design? Should websites have scores, or background music, the way that movies and TV shows do? Should ebooks? Should movies and TV shows, for that matter? Why are voice actors famous in some countries and largely anonymous in others? What have online MP3 retailers learned from brick’n’mortar stores — what have they unlearned, and what have they forgotten? How do darknet filesharing services promote themselves in secret? What does the relative prominence of social-network functionality say about Apple, Bandcamp, eMusic, Rhapsody, SoundCloud, and other online services? When and why did musicians stop being perceived as sell-outs when they licensed their songs to TV commercials?
What, to put it simply, does a brand sound like?
These are some of the questions we’ll explore in a course I’ll be teaching this autumn at the Academy of Art in San Francisco (academyart.edu).
Wish I could attend ….
Recounts experiments with sound and food; includes short audio clips.
If you’re like the participants in the study, the second soundtrack—the one with higher pitches—made the toffee taste sweeter than the first “bitter” soundtrack. But the treats were exactly the same. It was the sound that tasted different.
Do we prime ourselves for sweetness when we hear the ice cream man’s familiar high tinkling jingles because of the legacy of soda fountains and the cross-sensory marketing genius (perhaps inadvertent) on the part of a crier who first wielded a set of bells? Or is it because of a deeper symbolism associated the pitch of our voices? Either way, the association helps explain why ice cream trucks still stick to their sprightly high-pitched tunes. These atmospheric sounds really do play a role, creating an expectation that appears to sweeten the treats themselves.
Artist John Keston has created a touchscreen installation that allows you to manipulate the visuals and sound of a man doing voice-training exercises.
Netherlands-based researchers from the University of Technology of Eindhoven have developed a smart system that can help cyclists, and possibly drivers, navigate by means of music. According to Matthijs Zwinderman, they devised the GPS app entitled, ‘Oh Music, Where Art Thou?’ as an alternative to conventional GPS, in which the driver or cyclist has to constantly look at a screen to find his way around.
With the music-guided method, the cyclist can keep his eyes on the road, and still be on the right track. The GPS app works best with headphones, and if the smart phone is strapped to or near the cyclist’s head. Music is played alternately from one ear to another, with volume and tempo changing depending on the cyclist’s proximity towards his destination. Zwinderman also projects that this app can make waves in the GPS industry, if head phones will eventually be enabled with their own compasses.
Not sure I understand but … seems like maybe cool I guess?