Retail outlets, film and television, nightclubs and many other organisations all use music to help bolster a certain kind of mood. Film composers accent emotions that directors are trying to convey and may also contribute to the film’s styling; high-street retail outlets create an atmosphere corresponding to their brand image and also use music to help you part with money. Music is only half the story though, and in fact, could be arguably less than half. Music comes under the banner of sound, and non-musical sound can also be used to create unique atmospheres on it’s own, as well as in conjunction with musical sentiments.
Last week, The Deptford Project asked if I would like to create a soundscape for a ticketed dinner party, held last Friday evening in their train carriage cafe. My association with The Deptford Project started when I approached them about Secret Soundtrack and another site-specific project. The person in charge, Rebecca, was happy to be involved in these projects and I was delighted that she would want me to create another soundscape for her.
But what is a soundscape and what is the point of them? A soundscape is basically an immersive audio atmosphere and this could be natural or created for a specific purpose. For example, the bedroom, lounge or office that you are currently sitting in has it’s own soundscape: you may hear the hum of your computer, traffic outside, muffled noise from a TV in the next room, birds tweeting outside and a whole host of other sounds that you may only notice when you sit and intently listen. Sound is all around us, even if we only hear the the sound of our own ears working (this is what silence sounds like to a human).
You may also be curious as to the significance or point of recognising these areas of sound though. From a physiological and psychological viewpoint, our emotions and therefore our life experiences are connected to our senses, which means that different soundscapes can affect us in different ways. For example, you may have heard anecdotes about city dwellers that cant sleep when they visit the countryside, as it is too quiet; or maybe you have experienced the sound of grass being cut outside in that seemingly lightweight spring air. Have a think about how such sounds make you feel and you will realise how useful they could be.
The use of music, as mentioned above attempts to tap into this reservoir of human experience and in a similar way, so do artificial soundscapes. But in various ways, soundscapes are also superior to music: the politics of taste, genre affiliation and pseudo-academia are left outside which leaves room for the listener to just experience and be affected. Of course, certain types of emotion and sensation may not be enjoyed as much as others but they each have their use. But of course, we cannot just forget music or it’s obvious power to affect us in it’s own unique way; it is part of the application of sound.
The hosts at The Deptford Project wanted to create an immersive experience for their diners based on natural produce and the countryside, so it was requested that I create a relaxing nature soundscape to help bolster the concept. For this, I created a journey through various different countryside scenarios to give a sense of journey and add richness to the experience. The spaces that the sounds travelled through were central to the piece as each space evokes a different feeling: being in a forest feels different to being in the open field, and the noises occurring within these spaces work with the memory to produce these feelings. Of course, birds singing and trees swaying in a gentle breeze are evoking on their own, but setting them in a space adds so much more depth and emotion to the experience. I also included a couple of ‘occurrences’ in the soundscape to create possible talking points which I envisioned could contribute to a dinner party. Also, as with music, dynamics (or loudness) played a large part in the journey. Some parts were barely audible whilst other parts became louder whilst still knowing their place as background sounds. Again, I added this dimension to contribute to the richness of the overall experience and to help the social situation continually renew itself, which can be so important in a dinner party situation.
If you would like to know more about these ideas, or would like something similar for your own dinner party or event, it would be great to hear from you.
A Soundscape will contribute towards your event being an unforgettable experience. It could also be used to enhance your sensory branding to ensure that guests will think of you after they have left your event. Contact me for further information and read about past projects below.
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