We live in world bathed in sound but because it’s effects can be subtle, the impact of sound can sometimes go unnoticed. Sound is full of emotion, most obviously in the voices of the people we meet or the music we listen to, but there is also emotional content in pretty much every other sound you hear. Sound for events can harness this power.
The largest, and probably most subtle, application of sound using this unnoticed emotional content is in film through sound design (all the sounds in film that aren’t music). Music in a film affects film viewing massively (try turning a TV down and adding your own music) but people are still not really aware of the depth film sound designers go to carry the story of a film. There are an endless array of tricks sound designers use but here are a couple: they can (subtly or not so subtly) add ferocious animal sounds to human shouts to make them seem more violent; gradually raise the pitch and/or speed of sounds through a scene to increase tension. The viewer may not even realise this is going on but they will definitely feel more tense. This theory can also be used in live situations such as sound for events…
I recently came back from a great holiday driving around Europe. I visited Belgium and Germany and unfortunately enough for my girlfriend, my geeky thoughts on sound don’t switch off when not at work…I noticed some great examples of manipulating sound: we visited Ypres, Belgium, the location of some of the most horrific battles of World War One. Here, there is a very moving museum with fantastic thought-provoking and emotional exhibits. However, added to this experience was a low minor (sad sounding) chord drone wafting throughout the exhibition space. It was unrelenting and even though you may not notice it after a while, it gradually exhausts you physically and mentally so that by the time you reach the end, you are emotionally exhausted. Of course, the subject matter and exhibits are powerful on their own but the effect was really noticed when they turned this background sound off at closing time. Again, sound for events could harness such power even if this example is very dark and sensitive.
Another example came from visiting caves near Rochefort, Belgium. Toward the end of the tour, we were treated with a sound and light show in a very large cavern. My mind may have been thinking of ways that I may have created the sounds, but the the epic surroundings and echo of the caves were really used well to produce a really immersive experience. Sound for events could also harness a space and the sound within it.
There are other more mundane applications too: barriers have been used next to motorways/freeways for a while now in an acknowledgement that the sound generated by lots of cars continuously traveling at 70mph + has an adverse effect on people that live nearby. It’s not just a case of noise getting in the way though; such noises are fatiguing to listen to and can give a claustrophobic sense of being under constant bombardment which increases stress levels i.e. it has a direct effect on your emotions. Sound for events could also use preventative measures like this or even produce these negative effects on purpose!
In contrast to manmade noise, we experience the non-manmade sounds which also have an effect upon us (I would say nature-sounds but we are part of nature, right?). If you’ve ever spent any time in a park having a snooze, you may remember the gentle meditative affects of trees swishing in the wind and nearby streams bubbling away (…and those same streams possibly increasing your urge to visit the toilet…). Both the morning chorus of birds singing at the arrival of daylight and crickets chirping at night also put your mind in very different moods. Some work I am currently undertaking with the London Bubble Theatre Group will use such ideas to bring about a meditative effect. You can see that sound for events could also be subtle but still have a wonderful affect.
Other projects that I have undertaken have also utilised the sounds around us to produce feeling in more abstract ways. In ‘Some London Life’, I created a narrative journey through various London spaces to give the listener a sense of being there, evoking emotions that may be attached to them. Over this, I created a sense of the fantastical to develop these feelings. ‘Secret Soundtrack’ used one specific environment and the people within it to manipulate feelings by creating something fantastical out of an everyday experience. The feeling of space and it’s effect on human experience were key in both these projects. This work was also continued by teaming up with a photographer to enhance dreamy sensations and emotions.
Other projects that I have undertaken focused more on the physical aspects of sound. ‘Baralek Rendang’ used properties of sounds to mimic taste with a view to doubling up the senses to create a more intense taste experience.
Soundscapes I am working on with the ‘Classic Horror Campaign’ use both space and physical properties of sounds to create fear and stress, sometimes using the motorway sound barrier effect in reverse.
As you can see, applying sound for events in ways which you may never have thought of can enrich experience and manipulate emotion. Such application works particularly well with events as it is an opportunity to affect your guests and draw them ever deeper into the atmosphere you want to create. This also adds another layer of experience and offers a unique opportunity to experience something new and interesting.
Unusual and novel delivery of sound for events will add further intrigue and depth: wireless headphones could be used very effectively at certain points; mini speakers hidden around an environment could offer various interlocking sounds creating a sort of audio secret garden; QR Codes could be used to access audio treasure; imagination is the only limit…
If thinking about sound for events in this way has taken your fancy, get in touch and we’ll work towards creating something very special. Also, if you would just like to know more or already have an interest in sound, please feel feel to get in touch for a chat!