Friday, September 08, 2006

Good Music Design

I am starting a new series of spaces that I have experienced that have especially good or especially bad music design - either by accident or design. If you are reading this and want to add your experience of good or bad music design please post a comment!

1. CCA Restaurant, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow.
I know they play CDs that are selected by the staff, but in my experience the music affords a certain elegance and escapism to a great space. Although quite a difficult space acoustically, with high ceilings and hard surfaces everywhere, they tend to play music at a suitable volume and of suitable style that helps create a perfect ambience for the clientele. Typical music I have heard here include Vashti Bunyan's latest album 'Lookingafter' and Susumu Yokota's classic Sakura album. The usual problems of using CDs creates the problem of pauses between albums, not much variation and a potentially random music selection, but in my experience the CCA is a fitting example of good music design.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Into Great Silence.

A new film is being screened at the Edinburgh Film Festival called Into Great Silence. It is a soundless film by Philip Groening focusing on life at one of the strictest monastic orders in Christendom. It exists in true contrast to the noise filled environments of our cities. These monk only talk when absolutely necessary and seem all the better for that. It is being screened on Sunday 20th August (2pm) and Tuesday August 22nd (8.30pm) at Cineworld, Dundee Street, Edinburgh.
from the website:
"The Grande Chartreuse, the mother house of the legendary Carthusian Order, is based in the French Alps. “Into Great Silence” will be the first film ever about life inside the Grande Chartreuse.

Silence. Repitition. Rhythm. The film is an austere, next to silent meditation on monastic life in a very pure form. No music except the chants in the monastery, no interviews, no commentaries, no extra material.

Changing of time, seasons, and the ever repeated elements of the day, of the prayer. A film to become a monastery, rather than depict one. A film about awareness, absolute presence, and the life of men who devoted their lifetimes to god in the purest form. Contemplation.
An object in time."

Lord Beaumont direct response to Open Ear

Lord Beaumont got back to my letter that addressed his proposed 'Ban on Public Music Bill'. I advocate a better music design in public spaces to help people be conscious of the noise we create, rather than a total ban of music in public. Beaumont however, does not agree as he stated in his letter:
"Thank you for your interesting letter. My Bill will get through the Lords and then die for want of government support and time in this session. I am however hoping to introduce it again early in the next session, but in a truncated form, concentrating only on health issues. And in so far as our paths cross I am concerned only that listening to broadcast music be a strictly voluntary affair, no matter how well chosen and well-intentioned. Wishing you well on your endeavours."
I appreciate the reply and accpet his view point. I too believe that music should be a voluntary affair. However, in this day and age, it is completely unfeasible considering the amount of music that is currently played. This is the main reason for my viewpoint that if we can't ban background music altogether, it should at least be more tailored to the environment and space that it can be heard in.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Music Design for Life

Lord Beaumont’s recent proposed Bill to the House of Lords ( suggesting that piped music should be banned in hospitals and public transport raises serious questions about the amount of sound, music and noise we are subjected to on a daily basis. Our world is saturated with music, and Beaumont thinks that the solution to this would be to simply ban it from these public places.

We live in a visual culture, but studies show our aural stimulation is equally important, effecting both our mood and behaviour. We are subjected to music at least 25% of our wakeful lives - in our homes, cars, workplaces and shops. Businesses use music without knowing how to harness it’s unique potential for creating a stimulating and positive environment. This constant misuse of music is a significant factor for Lord Beaumont’s criticisms and concerns contained in the bill and to ban music would be the ultimate consequence of this misuse. However, it is important to realise that if music playlists were designed in a noise conscious manner, and designed specifically for their target audience the perceived levels of noise pollution would dramatically decrease and this problem can be avoided.

Open Ear™ is an exciting new company set up to help offer innovative solutions to businesses using music, offering them enhanced customer experience, improved staff motivation, and better brand differentiation. Open Ear introduces the practice of ‘Music Design’ to the marketplace, utilising the disciplines of psychology, architecture, music and marketing. We know that companies use music, we know that all brands can have a ‘musical identity’, however, such is the powerful and subjective nature of music, many brands use music wrongly and this contributes to the perceived levels of noise pollution in our environment.

Open Ear suggests that greater emphasis on the design of the musical environment is crucial in today’s experience based economy. We offer a holistic service that helps provide music that fits perfectly with its context. It appeals to the customer, makes staff feel more comfortable and give s the brand a unique soundtrack that moves it ahead of it’s competitors.

Think of all the negative connotations that background music or ‘muzak’ conjure in most peoples minds. Then think of the positive effect that hearing your favourite piece or music can have on your mood. It is this subjectivity that makes Open Ear’s expert ‘music design’ service such a necessity for our built environment.
Public music has this bad reputation because it is unregulated, generic and uninspired. Every place sounds the same, but of course every place is most definitely not the same – they have different, customers with different tastes, styles and opinions.

The increasing popularity of digital music has helped diversify individuals musical taste by offering increasing amounts of choice. An example of the effect of this is the demise of Top of the Pops on BBC1. Once it was the only way people could have access to new music, now everyone has a myspace or a favourite internet download site, where they have access to millions of new releases. Public or piped music has an opportunity to embrace the digital age and reflect the new diversity in musical choice at the benefit of all parties involved.

Our overwhelmingly visual culture is reflected in the popularity of interior design in such places. The lighting, d├ęcor and layout are all immaculately designed to appeal to a particular client base. Why then, is the ‘music design’ so poor?

Open Ear is all about the right music, for the right place, at the right time. Twenty years ago, we would not expect interior designers to design everything we see but now this practice is commonplace. In the 21st century, we need Open Ear’s expert ‘music design’ team to help design music for the lives of everyone who experiences it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

25% of our wakeful lives

We are subjected to music for 25% of our wakeful lives. This is obviously a rough estimate, but I would argue that the actual percentage is far greater. Think about your daily routine: Wake up to a radio alarm (Music!), Turn the TV on whilst you have breakfast (Music!), Get in your car to go to work (Music!), At work there is a background music system (Music!), Go for a walk round the shops at lunch (Music, Music, Music), and what do you do to relax at home (no prizes for guessing the answer to this...).

We are obsessed with the visual nature of our culture, but sound plays a massive part too. It is definitely more of a subconscious phenomenon, but can have an equally powerful effect on our behavior and mood.

The marketplace is crying out for better 'Music Design'

Music Design is the process of designing the aural environment in specific spaces to suit the people who inhabit them. The process is comparable to the way that interior designers manipulate the decor, lighting and layout of a space to suit the visual aesthetic. If we assume that most public spaces have a music system in them, it is therefore critical that a better music design process is implemented. Most businesses accept that they need music, but do not understand that if they merely put on any type of music at any volume it will have a massively detrimental effect on theor customers, staff and brand image.

Open Your Ears

We live in a world saturated with sound. Music, new technologies and traffic all contribute to our daily soundscape which is getting louder year upon year. Open Your Ears is a forum set up for the good of your ears.