Posted by: soundlounge | May 27, 2011

Handy idea from AT&T. Check out the rest here – AT&T Hands

Posted by: soundlounge | May 27, 2011

AT&T

Handy idea from AT&T. Check the rest out here – AT&T Hands

Posted by: soundlounge | December 7, 2009

Where’s That Sound Coming From?


And your word for the day is…’diegetic’. Diegetic and non-diegetic are cinematic terms relating to the use of sound in a film. Diegetic refers to sound whose source is visible on the screen, or whose source is implied to be present by the action of the film. Where as non-diegetic is sound whose source is neither visible on the screen nor has been implied to be present in the action. A film’s music soundtrack is nearly always non-diegetic, creating a sense of mood and accentuating key moments in a film’s plot. In this clip from Mel Brooks‘ film High Anexity, he cleverly plays with this convention – moving the music from non-diegetic to diegetic – enjoy. – Brian Kelly, Creative Director, soundlounge.

Posted by: soundlounge | September 16, 2009

We’ve Moved!

Dear loyal soundlounge readers,

We’ve moved our blog to the site soundlounge.co.uk/blog. See you there!

If you’ve enjoyed reading our articles thus far, we’ll happily invite you to subscribe to the new blog site.

soundlounge

Posted by: soundlounge | August 11, 2009

Overtones: The Secret Spices of Musical Sauce

musical_spiceIn sonic branding, much thought and effort goes into finding the perfect sounds to fit a brand’s style. Part of this process involves breaking these sounds into their essential ingredients and critiquing them: “That trumpet is a shade too mellow. Can we find one with more punch?” or “We need to decide if we want a brighter voice or a darker voice.”

Every musical detail counts in the advertising world. Think of the Intel Inside sound, one of the most memorable audio logos of all time – only three seconds long. Creator Walter Werzowa needed a keen ear to carefully design each sound. In the first note alone, he used over 20 different instruments and sounds!

intel-logo

Did you hear the anvil, tambourine, and electric spark? If you’re like most listeners, probably not (we’ll get to the reason for this later). But Werzowa hand-picked each of these sounds for a reason. He knew their unique sound “flavours” and was able to mix them perfectly into a memorable audio logo.

We can all tell when an instrument sounds right or wrong in a certain context. This is the “I’ll know it when I hear it” approach, which drives many sound branding decisions. But when it comes down to a few seconds of sound design, it’s important to understand why an instrument sounds mellow, punchy, bright, or dark.

With a little science and an open ear, we’ll explore some of the basic “spices” of sound undiscovered by the average listener – overtones.

Can you sing more than one note at the same time?

Tuvan musician Kongar-ol Ondar employs an age-old Tuvan tradition of overtone singing to sing two, three, or four notes at the same time in this clip from the Late Show with David Letterman:

“How did he do that?!” you might be thinking. Let’s take a closer look at overtones  – read on

Charlie McCarron
Sound Consultant
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Posted by: soundlounge | August 6, 2009

Birds and Brands

birdsong_sound_brandingFrom Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic architecture to the sticky burrs that inspired Velcro, nature has often played a role in creative design, so what can the natural world teach us about brand recognition through the creative use of sound? Let’s take a look at one of nature’s best musicians who has a knack for sonic branding – the bird…

A male bird’s song may sound like a simple melody to the casual human listener. But to a female bird, this song acts as a revealing personal profile. Just a few notes will disclose a wealth of information concerning his mental health, testosterone levels, diseases carried, etc. Unlike a guitar-strumming human singer who easily melts the hearts of his groupies, a male bird undergoes intense scrutiny when singing to a potential mate. If a bird’s song misses the mark, it’s a reflection on his character, and the female will fly off to try her luck with another singer. On the other hand, if his performance meets her expectations for a suitable partner, he has won her heart and her trust.

Like a bird’s personally revealing song, quite a bit is divulged about a company through the music and sounds they chose to represent their brand. This means a brand’s sound choices may be a liability or an asset when trying to win the hearts of consumers. If a brand’s sound is not consistent across all marketing campaigns, or inconsistent with the company’s image, the consumer will likely question the brand’s credibility and “fly away” to the next product. On the other hand, with the right music supervision (a service provided by dedicated sound consultants), a consistent and well-crafted sound can strengthen any brand.

In addition to a consistent sound, both birds and brands need a distinctive sound to set them apart from their respective competitors. Read on…

Charlie McCarron
Sound Consultant
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Posted by: soundlounge | July 29, 2009

How The Shape Of Our Ears Affects What We Hear

pinna

The wrinkles and folds of our ears aren’t just bizarre and useless vestiges like human tailbones, webbed feet, wisdom teeth, or appendixes. In fact, complex outer ears like ours are an evolutionary breakthrough. You won’t find protruding ears on less-developed creatures like fish and lizards. Human ears, on the other hand, are complex sound-catchers. The odd bulges and crevices of the pinna (the visible part of the ear) are designed to amplify sounds relevant to humans, especially the sounds of speech. As Robert Jourdain explains in Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy, “Our pinnae are too small to reflect the long waves that constitute low-frequency sound; they boost only high-frequency components…those most important for speech.” Thanks to the logic of Mother Nature, the sounds we produce when speaking are the same sounds we can hear the best.

Along with our enhanced perception of speech, our perception of music is also influenced by our ears’ slight bias towards higher-frequency sounds. To our ears, a high-pitched piccolo may seem to cut through the orchestra more easily than a low-pitched tuba. Because of their high-frequency-boosting shape, our pinnae make music sound slightly “sweeter,” according to Jourdain. This is true of recorded music as well as live music.

One common misconception of recorded music is that microphones are used exactly like our ears to capture sound. However, unlike our ears, most recording microphones are designed to capture a broad range of frequencies equally well. This allows the music to be played back on speakers with all its natural sounds intact. Our ears then filter the sounds just as we would at a live concert.

in-ear headphonesBut what happens when we completely skip our pinnae and stick earbuds or in-ear headphones straight into our ear canals? Naturally, the sound changes. Our pinnae no longer amplify the same high frequencies they would when listening to the music through speakers or on-ear headphones. So in theory, music piped straight through to our ear canal will sound a bit duller than music that gets reflected through our pinnae.

In reality, though, no pair of headphones or set of speakers recreates live music perfectly, with all frequencies intact. So the average music listener does not consciously perceive this slight frequency difference due to these pinnae reflections. Only the most obsessed audiophile would claim that a lack of pinnae reflections makes music less enjoyable.

Radiohead's Thom Yorke and a dummy head for binaural recording

Radiohead's Thom Yorke and a dummy head for binaural recording

On the other hand, some imaginative audio engineers have begun using the unique shape of our ears to reinvent the recording process and create incredibly realistic listening experiences. Instead of using traditional microphones, they place two small microphones inside the “ear canals” of an artificial human head. They can then place this “dummy head” anywhere inside a concert hall, even in the middle of an orchestra. The resulting recording will be the sum total of all the sounds from the orchestra bouncing through the dummy’s pair of “ears” and into the microphones. Because of the stereo effect and the natural ear reflections recorded by these dummy head microphones, the listener will feel transported to the concert hall, hearing the orchestra in 360 degrees around his or her head. Expect this eerily-realistic effect (known as binaural dummy head recording) to be used in more and more recordings.

Listen with in-ear headphones to this binaural audio sample from the Wikimedia Commons:

The dummy head recording method was used in this Revolt music video:

Charlie McCarron
Sound Consultant
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jingle-all-the-way450

It was designed to remind advertisers of the continuing influence and effectiveness of television but in fact served to highlight the remarkable power of sound branding. Thinkbox, the television marketing body for major UK commercial broadcasters, recently unveiled its very first TV advert featuring a man on a psychiatrist’s couch who is prompted to go to a “happy place” in his mind. Far from imagining a sandy beach or flower-filled meadow the patient blurts out a series of famous jingles from the last 30 years. Among the slogans are Just One Cornetto, immortally sung to Italy’s O Sole Mio, the beautifully harmonised Mild Green … Fairy Liquid and of course, the unforgettable WOAH!! Bodyform.

The Thinkbox ad has received mixed reviews, with a post on one forum claiming it “shows our minds are full of the most worthless garbage serving no function or purpose other than to drive us absolutely insane”. But for many, it provides a nostalgic, 60-second trip down memory lane. As Thinkbox says, it’s the sort of commercial that starts conversations about TV ads – which ones we like best and why we remember them above other types of advertising. So why are these slogans so memorable, so effortlessly able, decades on, to allows us not only to recall a particular time in our lives but an individual product? One reason is the humble jingle.

Jingles began on the radio in the 1920s and played a major part in product advertising for the next six decades – reaching their peak around the economic boom of the 1950s. The jingle was an advertising phenomenon with everyone from kids in the playground to mums doing the washing up humming along to the likes of A finger of fudge is just enough to give your kids a treat and You take the Shake’n Vac and put the freshness back. But what is it about these jingles, these momentary melodies that can stick in our heads not just for hours but years? Why do these often ‘cheesy’ sound slogans have an impact that goes far beyond any visuals?

The issue of mnemonics is a big one which has, over the years, been heavily explored by psychologists, bloggers, scientists and advertisers alike. James Kellaris at the University of Cincinnati had devoted much of his research to “catchy” music and the phenomenon of ‘earworms’ – commercial jingles or tunes that get stuck in one’s head. He believes songs that are simple, repetitive and contain some incongruity – an unexpected twist – are most likely to become stuck in a listener’s mind. He initially theorised certain properties of music make some songs “catchy” or “sticky”.  But research shows that although many jingles seem to share some common traits such as simplicity, repetitiveness, inconsistency with listeners’ expectations, for some people, almost any song can become an ‘earworm’. So the phenomenon is perhaps a mixture between the interaction of musical properties and individual traits, rather than the result of musical properties alone.

Whatever the science behind the impact of these jingles one thing we do know is that despite their tried and tested effectiveness, they have fallen out of fashion. Adverts of this kind have been replaced with chic, mini-movie style commercials aimed at impacting on the reader in a wholly different way. But will the next generation really be able to remember the products associated with these new ads – so often visually stunning but lacking in memorable sound? As put by internet marketers the Eisenberg brothers in their book Call to Action, “sound is invasive, intrusive and irresistible”. We are able to memorise hundreds of songs because they come into the brain through sound. What we hear tends to be remembered much more easily than what we see because of the impression it makes on our mind and how hard it is to ignore.

So what of the future of the jingle? Interestingly, a number of big name brands have recently decided to revert to times past, pulling us back to those early, cosy days of TV advertising. In January 2009, after an absence of 28 years, the Beanz meanz Heinz jingle made a comeback following research showing the slogan is one of the most memorable ever written. Just this month, the Red Car and the Blue Car Had a Race Milky Way advert from the 1980s returned to our screens adapted only very slightly for a 21st century audience.

Could jingles really be making a comeback? Watch this space …

The following UK jingles were voted the catchiest of all time, in a survey carried out by McCann Erickson:
1. Wall’s Cornetto ‘Just One Cornetto’
2. Shake’n’Vac ‘Do the Shake and Vac’
3. R Whites ‘Secret Lemonade Drinker’
4. Kia Ora ‘I’ll Be Your Dog’
5. Mars ‘A Mars a Day Helps You Work, Rest and Play’
6. Kwik-Fit ‘Can’t Get Quicker Than a Kwik-Fit Fitter’
7. Club Biscuits ‘If You Like a Lot of Chocolate on Your Biscuit Join Our Club.”

8. Coca-Cola – ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”
9. Cadbury’s Flake – ‘Crumbliest Flakiest Chocolate’
10. Um Bongo ‘They Drink it in the Congo
Love them or hate them, there’s always one you can’t get out of your head. Does one stand out for you?
Let us know!

Posted by: soundlounge | June 12, 2009

soundlounge Jukebox

soundlounge jukebox is our outlet for sharing the cream of the music industry with all. Updated every few weeks, it offers a chance for people who don’t have much time, to sample good quality music, whether new releases or hidden gems from the archives. We receive music from all the majors, indies, publishers and sometimes the artists themselves and will bring to your desk (and attention) some of the most interesting and diverse music out there.

To listen click here.

fever-ray-cover

Seven – Fever Ray
The debut solo album from Fever Ray, an alias of Karin Dreijer Andersson of the Swedish electronic duo The Knife, along with her brother Olof Dreijer. Anderson revealed to one journalist that Fever Ray has its roots in sleep deprivation. That makes sense when you hear the album, which strips away the dance beats that grounded The Knife’s ‘Silent Shout’ album, leaving behind ominous clouds of electronics and a penchant for synthetically manipulating her vocals. This is an astonishingly stark and brooding record, built on the barest of electronic bones and brought to life through Andersson’s almost primal vocals. It’s not exactly plain sailing, and what may be bewitchingly hypnotic to some will sound a tad repetitive to others.
cameraobscura_badphoto

French Navy – Camera Obscura
Hailing from Glasgow, Camera Obscura formed in 1996 but it was five years before they released their first album, Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi in 2001. Since then they have released three further albums, the most recently being this year’s My Maudlin Career. They have always fought inevitable comparisons to other Glaswegian indie outfits such as Belle And Sebastian claiming they do not want to be part of a scene. Certainly their Phil Spector, wall of sound-esque production style sets them apart from most bands around at them moment. The playful strings and reverb heavy vocals hark back to a golden age of pop, long may it continue.
Quad-Throw-Salchow

Speed – Quad Throw Salchow
I won’t even try to understand the name of this band, but ‘Speed’ is an album that oozes post-punk from every orifice. Reduced, electronic, mechanical, full of reverb, and with dark and venomous vocals courtesy of artist/producer O de Lanzac. The album builds layer upon repetitive layer to create a sense of disturbance and movement not unlike a cross-fertilization between Joy Division and The Fall’s early work. De Lanzac’s vocals burst over the mechanical backing like a raspy Patty Smith drugged and singing gibberish in the bath, which completely contrasts the mechanical beats. Both dark, diabolical and delerious at the same time.
skint

It’s Only Been A Week – Skint & Demoralised
A duo consisting of Matt Abbott, an open-mic poet from Wakefield, and the mysterious Mini Dog, a so-far-anonymous Sheffield producer and musician. They ‘met’ on the internet after Dog (or should that be Mini?) came across Abbott while searching for a vocalist to put words to his music. It’s a match made in musical heaven: the duo’s debut album, Love And Other Catastrophes, is a fantastic slab of northern-soul-meets-indie-street poetry. They recorded it in New York with the great Dap-Kings. The Dap-Kings are most known in the UK for their work on Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black album and Mark Ronson’s Version. There’s not a bad track on this album and it was difficult choosing one for you listening pleasure – enjoy.
Van She Mixtape

Kelly – Van She
I know you’ve probably had enough of 80’s influenced synth pop by now but this is a cracking track from Australian band Van She. They met at a rock band audition calling for musicians with influences including Sepultra, Entombed, Black Skull and Phil Collins. Ironically they were originally billed as the next fresh thing despite their reliance on 80’s influences, since then though their sound has become more textured and this is a great catchy tune for the summer.
wildbirds-peacedrums-the-snake

Liar Lion – Wild Birds & Peacedrums

Wildbirds & Peacedrums are a contemporary experimental two-piece hailing from Sweden and consisting of husband and wife duo, singer Mariam Wallentin and drummer Andreas Werliin. Their instruments consist of her powerful vocals and his unorthodox percussion/drumming, resulting in a powerful, innovative sound. The resulting effect sits somewhere between folk, blues and jazz and their sound ranges from a gentle warble a tribal chant. This track goes some way to illustrate how they have evolved from their first album, which was relatively basic and stripped back. Here they incorporate more percussive elements and even a few electronic textures creating what feels like a much more complete sound.

Enjoy! – Brian & Sam

Posted by: soundlounge | May 15, 2009

Sound Branding in the Soundtrack of Life

street_quartet

We all know that brands love music but if they are to use sound to emotionally engage with consumers then understanding exactly how it affects them has to be at the very heart of sound branding. While great luminaries like Dr Daniel Levitin – Professor of Psychology and Behavioural Neuroscience and author of the groundbreaking ‘Your Brain on Music’ – have been considering this on an intellectual level for many years, agencies still appear to be dragging their heels when it comes to putting a science to the art of sound branding. But last week, Levitin’s scientific paper Life Soundtrack (commissioned by Philips Consumer Electronics in 2007) re-emerged in the somewhat unlikely format of an article in Men’s Health Magazine. According to the report, music affects the human brain in a huge variety of ways, allowing us to utilise certain types or genres of music to help complete different tasks. This is supported by consumer analysis carried out by Entertainment Media Research (EMR) which found that an impressive 82 per cent of us use music to boost our spirits. It also revealed that 75 per cent of people use music when they are engaged in a physical activity from housework to the gym and even sex!

But it’s not just physical activities which can be enhanced or made easier by the presence of certain sound. “Music has been shown to have specific effects on the body’s physiology, including heart rate, respiration, sweating, and mental activity,” explains Levitin. As anyone with a roommate at university will have no doubt discovered, some students find it easier to work in silence while others struggle to stay interested in the task at hand without some background noise. The report shows, however, that it would be too simple for us to just look to genre or tempo to find the appropriate music for study. Indeed, when studying text or anything else that requires verbal cognition “it is better to have instrumental music so as not to saturate the limited capacity of the attention system for verbal material”. Something like Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells is therefore much more likely to get you through those finals than tunes packed with distracting lyrical content. Guess that rap CD is out then!

And in these financially tumultuous times, many of us find it difficult to relax in the evenings and dozing off to sleep can seem a mammoth task in itself. But people still use music to help them to drift off. For the majority, songs with a slower tempo and lighter beat are “contemplative, relaxing and hypnotic”, such as that well-known sleep inducer Brahms’ Lullaby. However, much of a song’s ability to relax you is not related to bmp but to its “feel” factor. Fleetwood Mac’s song Hypnotized, is found to be indeed hypnotic by many listeners despite its fast tempo of 108 bpm. “In general, relaxing and sleep-inducing music avoids rapid changes in timbre, pitch, loudness or rhythm,” says Levitin. “Music with a large dynamic range (a Beethoven or Mahler symphony) is going to pull the listener out of their reverie during the intense parts, as opposed to music with less of a dynamic range.” Suggested tracks for banishing those sleepless nights include Bach: Oboe Concertos, Triple Concerto, Flute Concerto, Bill Evans’ The Village Vanguard Sessions, Chopin Nocturnes or Peter, Paul & Mary’s Greatest Hits. What tracks send you off every time? [**link to Facebook**]? And for all you lovers out there … what of romance? As many a young couple have discovered there is no simple formula here. However, it would appear that those that share musical tastes “usually find it easy to discover the optimal music for their romantic time together”.

Despite being originally unveiled more than two years ago, the publication of Levitin’s findings in a popular, glossy magazine this month proves that the issue of our response to music is becoming even more mainstream. It would seem that we don’t just want to simply listen, we are becoming ever more curious to understand why. From a brand perspective this now opens yet another dimension to the list of required insights for sound branding. Increasingly, understanding why and how sound is moderating arousal levels and concentration through its impact on the brain’s chemistry is becoming part of the equation. Because sound evokes such a visceral reaction beyond the control of the conscious mind, realising which songs will keep consumers shopping for longer, what tracks will stop viewers switching channels in an ad break and most importantly what sound connects a brand in a more genuine way to their consumers is fast moving from an interesting option to a must do.

At soundlounge we believe that it’s time for brands to start to apply the rigours of science to the art of music.

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