THE POWER OF SOUND
As anyone that regularly reads my blog will know, my main interests in sound (and music) involve total immersion. This stems from the idea that music is escapism and how this might be perfected. The ability of music to provide such immersion is somewhat limited due to the ugly apparition of devout taste and the fact that this and other factors give it a limited scope of expression. I therefore enjoy learning about what can be done with sound as a general medium and my adventures over the past couple of weeks have involved taking inspiration from ideas that are linked but don’t specifically deal with soundscape.
Recently, I visited International Confex 2013 and the Live Experience Expo as well as an event at Discover Children’s Story Centre. Confex and the Live Experience Expo were large trade events at the ExCeL put on for the events industry and Discover Children’s Story Centre puts on immersive experiences for children.
The talks I attended were all very different but they all had one thing in common: Dipping your audience into a different reality based around a theme. Below are the main lessons I learnt from these talks and a few of my own relevant thoughts. You will notice that I don’t really mention sound in the context of these ideas; I want to emphasise that you can gain inspiration from areas other than that of your own work. Therefore, this post will be about the general ideas and next week I will work on connecting these ideals to sound.
Before a project is worked on, there needs to be direction. There might be a rough idea or theme that you want to create but this should all be distilled into one specific target. This way, everything about an experience will be pointing in the same direction. However, from personal experience, there is a lot to be said for pointing yourself in that rough direction and seeing what happens (although this unnerves many people involved!). This looser approach can create a more intricate experience as the details will only be loosely related and therefore more varied and feel more organic. Care is needed here though as there can be a fine line between chaos and ordered chaos!
The perfect immersion is to totally transform a space that appeals to all of the senses and to transport an audience somewhere that is totally different with no sense of the outside world. Each experience should not seem staged and be relevant in the real world. Also, its narrative should be loose enough that the audience can create their own stories and ideas within it. As well as these ideas, the environment used needs to be a place that people want to spend time in.
Emotion is very important, as with music. The only way to connect with people is through their emotions and connecting to people is obviously central to any event. To have the most impact an experience needs to be emotionally engaging, using fear as well as and joy; connecting with emotion brings down a person’s guard and therefore their susceptibility to being immersed in an experience. Also, to be fully immersive, an experience needs a comprehensive backstory. This allows the minute detail to contribute to the experience; it is more likely that every thought an audience member has will be answered by the experience making the desired theme totally watertight.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Knowing the audience is also very important; different things have different meanings for different people and you need to make sure that every person in an experience is fully engaged. Every person that isn’t fully engaged will detract from the audience’s overall immersion. To achieve this, everybody included needs to have a story-related reason to be present, from all parts of the audience to those delivering the experience.
SIMPLICITY IS KEY
The idea that brings all of these threads together is simplicity. Ideas need to be simple enough that they are accepted and do not require too much thought to understand them. The audience shouldn’t be trying to figure out what is going on but accepting everything presented before them. Of course, there could be situations where complexity is a virtue, such as bringing people into an extended series of happenings but these complications should be tailored to the audience as mentioned above.
APPLY THESE IDEAS TO ANY MESSAGE
As you can see, immersing people in a watertight experience requires a lot of thought as well as understanding of your audience but the rewards definitely seem to be worth it. Creating such an environment will make sure that your audience are truly taking in everything you want to say and this means that these ideas have multiple uses. Whether you are a musician, film-maker, artist or corporate advertiser totally immersing your audience can only reap benefits.