Monday, November 12, 2007

Book: Musicophilia

Music can move us to the heights or depths of emotion. It can persuade us to buy something, or remind us of our first date. It can lift us out of depression when nothing else can. It can get us dancing to its beat. But the power of music goes much, much further. Indeed, music occupies more areas of our brain than language does--humans are a musical species.

Oliver Sacks's compassionate, compelling tales of people struggling to adapt to different neurological conditions have fundamentally changed the way we think of our own brains, and of the human experience. In Musicophilia, he examines the powers of music through the individual experiences of patients, musicians, and everyday people--from a man who is struck by lightning and suddenly inspired to become a pianist at the age of forty-two, to an entire group of children with Williams syndrome who are hypermusical from birth; from people with "amusia," to whom a symphony sounds like the clattering of pots and pans, to a man whose memory spans only seven seconds--for everything but music.

Our exquisite sensitivity to music can sometimes go wrong: Sacks explores how catchy tunes can subject us to hours of mental replay, and how a surprising number of people acquire nonstop musical hallucinations that assault them night and day. Yet far more frequently, music goes right: Sacks describes how music can animate people with Parkinson's disease who cannot otherwise move, give words to stroke patients who cannot otherwise speak, and calm and organize people whose memories are ravaged by Alzheimer's or amnesia.

Music is irresistible, haunting, and unforgettable, and in Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks tells us why.

source -

New York Marathon turns blind eye to music

Headphones and portable audio players were banned this year by USA Track & Field, the national governing body for running, from all official races. However, it was decided not to police the runners on the 26.2-mile New York course -- which is set to be run Sunday -- because organizers have no surefire way to enforce the rule, The New York Times reported Thursday.

The decision follows threats from organizers of the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington last week to disqualify runners who violated the headphones ban. The organizers didn't follow through on the threat and no one was disqualified.

"To ban them outright is just stupid and if they want to disqualify me, they can," Jennifer Lamkins, a Long Beach, Calif., teacher, before running the Marine Corps Marathon, told the Times. "If they are banning them because we can't hear directions, does that mean they should ban deaf people, too?"

Some runners said the rule is pointless, as music players are available in tiny sizes that are easy to conceal.

"They can ban iPods all they want but how do you think they are going to enforce that when those things have gotten so small?" said Richie Sais, a participant in the Marine Corps race.

"I dare them to find the iPod on me," he said.

source -

Monday, September 24, 2007

Book: This is your brain on music by Daniel Levitin

This book is about the science of music, from the perspective of cognitive neuroscience - the field that is at the intersection of psychology and neurology. Levitin discusses some of his own and the latest studies researchers in our field have conducted on music, musical meaning, and musical pleasure. They offer new insights into profound questions. If all of us hear music differently, how can we account for pieces that seem to move so many people - Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, or Don McLean's "Vincent (Starry Starry Night (Vincent)" for example? On the other hand, if we all hear music in the same way, how can we account for wide differences in musical preference - why is it that one man's Mozart is another man's Madonna?

The mind has been opened up in the last few years by the exploding field of neuroscience and the new approaches in psychology due to new brain imaging technologies, drugs able to manipulate neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, and plain old scientific pursuit. Less well known are the extraordinary advances we have been able to make in modeling how our neurons network thanks to the continuing revolution in computer technology. We are coming to understand computational systems in our head like never before. Language now seems to be substantially hardwired into our brains. Even consciousness itself is no longer hopelessly shrouded in a mystical fog, but is rather something that emerges from observable physical systems. But no-one until now has taken all this new work together and used it to elucidate what is for me the most beautiful human obsession. Your brain on music is a way to understand the deepest mysteries of human nature.

By better understanding what music is and where it comes from, we may be able to better understand our motives, fears, desires, memories, and even communication in the broadest sense. Is music listening more like eating when you're hungry and thus satisfying an urge? Or is it more like seeing a beautiful sunset or getting a backrub, and thus triggering sensory pleasure systems in the brain? Why do people seem to get stuck in their musical tastes as they grow older and cease experimenting with new music? This is the story of how brains and music co-evolved ­ - what music can teach us about the brain, what the brain can teach us about music, and what both can teach us about ourselves.

Your Brain On Music Website

Friday, August 24, 2007

Noise of modern life blamed for thousands of heart deaths

Thousands of people in Britain and around the world are dying prematurely from heart disease triggered by long-term exposure to excessive noise, according to research by the World Health Organisation. Coronary heart disease caused 101,000 deaths in the UK in 2006, and the study suggests that 3,030 of these are caused by chronic noise exposure, including to daytime traffic.

Deepak Prasher, professor of audiology at University College London, told the New Scientist magazine: "The new data provide the link showing there are earlier deaths because of noise. Until now, noise has been the Cinderella form of pollution and people haven't been aware that it has an impact on their health."

The WHO's working group on the Noise Environmental Burden on Disease began work on the health effects of noise in Europe in 2003. In addition to the heart disease link, it found that 2% of Europeans suffer severely disturbed sleep because of noise pollution and 15% can suffer severe annoyance. Chronic exposure to loud traffic noise causes 3% of tinnitus cases, in which people constantly hear a noise in their ears.

Research published in recent years has shown that noise can increase the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenalin in the body, even during sleep. The longer these hormones stay in circulation around the bloodstream, the more likely they are to cause life-threatening physiological problems. High stress levels can lead to heart failure, strokes, high blood pressure and immune problems.

"All this is happening imperceptibly," said Prof Prasher. "Even when you think you are used to the noise, these physiological changes are still happening."

The WHO came to its figures by comparing households with abnormally high exposure to noise with those in quieter homes. It also studied people with problems such as coronary heart disease and tried to work out if high noise levels had been a factor in developing the condition. This data was then combined with maps showing the noisiest European cities.

According to the WHO guidelines, the noise threshold for cardiovascular problems is chronic night-time exposure of 50 decibels (dB) or above - the noise of light traffic. For sleep disturbance, the threshold is 42dB, for general annoyance it is 35dB, the sound of a whisper.

Ellen Mason, a cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "Our world is undoubtedly getting busier and noisier. Some people find noise pollution more stressful to live with than others do. Noise cannot directly kill us, but it may add to our stress. Occasionally, stressful events can trigger a heart attack in someone with underlying heart disease. We know that stressed people are more likely to eat unhealthily, exercise less and smoke more, and these can increase the risk of developing heart disease in the first place."

Mary Stevens, policy officer at the National Society for Clean Air, said of the study's results: "We welcome this because one of the problems with noise is that it's one of the areas that local authorities get most complaints about and it's a big draw on their resources. But, unlike air quality, it hasn't been taken that seriously policy-wise because there [wasn't] the link between noise and health."

Ms Stevens said that there were many options for reducing noise. Traffic could be quietened if more cars used low-noise tyres and councils installed low-noise road surfaces, for example. And coordinating roadworks by utility companies would also prevent the proliferation of potholes, another source of noisy traffic.

The EU has already issued a directive that obligates European cities with populations greater than 250,000 to produce digitised noise maps showing where traffic noise and volume is greatest. "[The research] all supports work going on at the moment to manage traffic noise, which is driven by the environmental noise directive," said Ms Stevens.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Music vibes as good as sex and food

Listening to music releases the same "feelgood" chemicals as eating and having sex, researchers have found.

The neuroscientist and former rock music producer Prof Daniel Levitin said music activates the brain area responsible for feeling pleasure, excitement and satisfaction. Research shows that music has specific effects on the body's physiology Prof Levitin, an associate professor of psychology at the McGill University in Montreal, Canada, suggests that understanding how different types of music affects the body can help people choose songs or bands that could help them achieve tasks or goals. He found the brain of someone listening to music reacts in a similar way to that of a gambler when winning a bet, a skydiver about to leap out of a plane or someone who has just taken drugs.

Someone listening to songs or tunes they enjoy experiences a release of dopamine, the hormone linked to reward and happiness. This association has led Prof Levitin, who worked with Stevie Wonder and the Grateful Dead, to claim to have discovered the "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" centre of the brain after collating research to be published this year.

He said: "The sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll scenario proves that music is at the heart of creating moods and reactions. Research shows that music has specific effects on the body's physiology, including heart rate, respiration, sweating, and mental activity. Music is effective at moderating arousal levels, concentration, and helping to regulate mood through its action on the brain's natural chemistry. People who can have music follow them around during their daily lives can use these properties of music effectively, to form a soundtrack for their day and their lives."

Music has been shown to cause activity in brain circuits associated with physical reactions, such as sweating, sexual arousal, and "shivers down the spine".Researchers used a variety of methods to measure the effect of music on the body, including heart rate, blood pressure, sweat response, breathing and brain wave activity. Scanning techniques have allowed scientists to look at changes in specific parts of the brain.

Dr Levitin found instrumental music such as classical, jazz, techno or bluegrass were better for people studying text to avoid becoming distracted. Energetic tunes with a tempo above 96 beats per minute were best for those cooking, cleaning or doing household chores.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


70% of clubbers, 68% of gig goers, and 44% of those who hang out in pubs with loud sound systems, display symptoms of hearing damage after a night out - including that irritating ringing in the ears and a dullness of hearing. Those stats, based on a survey of 1000 young music fans, come from the Royal National Institute For The Deaf, who are trying to raise awareness of the long term damage to hearing that can be caused by consuming excessively loud music.

RNID CEO Dr John Low told reporters this week: "We're all familiar with messages about practising safe sex and using suncream - but the lack of any guidance on loud music means this generation of music lovers could be facing a hearing loss timebomb. Our research shows most young people have experienced the first signs of permanent hearing damage after a night out, yet have no idea how to prevent it. With regular exposure to music at high volumes in clubs, gigs and bars, it's only too easy to clock up noise doses that could damage their hearing forever.

He continued: "Young people who love music need to be educated so they can make choices about the risk of exposure to loud noise and protect their hearing from premature damage. RNID is calling on the government to establish a recommended noise exposure level for audiences attending music venues and events, and to educate young people about noise as a public
health risk".

CMU Music News

Hear the World Initiative

Music is the universal language of mankind.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-82), American poet

Our ears give us access to the wonderful world of sounds. Hearing is crucial and connects people all over the world. Hearing enables us to communicate with other people and enjoy social activities. The ability to hear is such an integral part of life that most people take it for granted. Hearing is a gift, but do we place enough value on it?

What is Hear the World?
Hear the World is an initiative by the Phonak Group that aims to raise awareness of the topic of hearing and hearing loss and to promote good hearing all over the world. The goal of the Hear the World Initiative is to educate the general public about the importance of hearing, the social and emotional impacts of hearing loss and the benefits of available solutions for those with hearing impairment.

In addition to a long term communication program that targets opinion leaders and the general public, the initiative will support charitable organizations and projects focused on helping hearing impaired people.

To help people “hear the world”, Phonak created the Hear the World Foundation. Recognizing that quality of hearing significantly impacts quality of life, the foundation is committed to improving the well-being of people with hearing defects and to advancing measures towards the prevention of hearing loss.

Hear the World partners with musicians and music events to help the public appreciate their sense of hearing and provide the most innovative hearing solutions on the market.

This sound like a fantastic project. check the web site for more details.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Taylor Dupree and Christopher Willits - Listening Garden

Listening Garden was developed as a sonic alteration of two quiet indoor/outdoor tea spaces installed at the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media in Yamaguchi, Japan in June of 2004. The audio installation was designed to heighten visitor's senses and alter the sonic space as they sat, read, or had quiet conversation amonst the trees. Taylor Deupree and Christopher Willits composed a number of short, randomly sequenced multi-channel soundworks using guitar and electronics. The fragments of sounds, while both gentle and subtly rich, are intentionally weathered, eroded and understated, generating a sonic bridge between the digital world of sound and the audiosphere of nature.

The audio on this CD is built from location recordings taken in the garden over the course of a week during the exhibit. The environmental and incidental sounds played a large part of the physical work and are captured and utilized in the recording. Listening Garden is meant to enhance the experience of simply sitting and enjoying one's place in time.

This CD is best heard in a similar situation and at a low background level. Headphones are not recommended.


Friday, June 29, 2007

Hockney: The ipod has turned people off art

David Hockney's claim is that the young generation's involvement with auditory stimulae - as represented by the iPod - results in a decline in their understanding and appreciation of visual art. "We are not in a very visual age," he said. "I think it's all about sound. People plug in their ears and don't look much, whereas for me my eyes are the biggest pleasure. You notice that on buses. People don't look out of the window, they are plugged in and listening to something."

The proliferation of portable listening devices cannot, of course, be denied. But I see no evidence that Hockney is right in suggesting that, if the iPoddists weren't listening, they'd be gazing around in some meaningful way that increased their sensitivity towards the visual arts. They might be reading instead or, more likely, staring vacantly around, absorbing nothing. Besides, why does it have to be an either-or? Who is to say that the youth on the bus listening intently to his plugged-in tunes will not, later in the day, be looking at something that stimulates his visual senses? I know many under-30s whose enthusiastic adoption of earphone music has not in the least interfered with their enjoyment of other arts.

from the Guardian 13.06.07
Full Article

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Shadowed Spaces Tour, Scotland July 2007

There are places in the towns and cities where you live that exist not by planned design, but by circumstance. Their elusive ambience attracts those with nowhere else to go, and those who wish to go elsewhere.

overlooked bypassed unwatched detached unconsidered shadowed

They offer respites from society and routine. They are found by necessity, by those driven by desire, more than destination. Shadowed Spaces is a tour of nooks and crannies like these, in your towns and cities: forgotten steps that lead nowhere, alleyways, old railway tunnels. We’ll place musical performances in these spaces that will hopefully help us to think about the continued need for a sense of privacy in public.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pecha Kucha Vol 3 Glasgow

I will be talking at this event as part of the Six Cities design festival. Should be good, watch out for those awkward silences!

01 June 2007, 6pm - LATE
Gallery 5, The Lighthouse

Pecha Kucha presents 12 creatives showing 20 slides for 20 seconds each, taking the audience on an exhilarating high speed journey through a kaleidoscope of inspirations, ideas and work. Music, drinking and conversation combine to create an essential date for any creatives diary.

Pecha Kucha Vol 3 Glasgow will be held in conjunction with the Six Cities Design Festival.

The speakers we have chosen will motivate and excite you, energise and inspire you.


Rufus Spiller (Designer – Good Creative)

Brian Harvey (Music Designer – Open Ear)

Rolf Roscher (Landscape Architect – erz Ltd)

Doug Pritchard (Head of Visualisation @ GSA)

Ewan Imrie (Architect – Collective Architecture)

Simon Harlow (Interior Designer)

Daffyd Burne Jones (Director, Scottish Opera)

Krista Blake (Shop/Events – Hitherto)

Gordon Murray (Architect – GM+AD Architects)

Keith Dodd (Designer – D8)

Neil Wallace & David Freer (o street – design agency)

Brian Hartley (artist/designer

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Save Internet Radio!

This is a massive issue in the USA right now, but if they think they have it bad, royalty payments for web radio and music providers online are much worse in the UK. The result of this bill being passed will see thousands of indepedent raido stations going out of business to the detriment of diversity and variety of music, and freedom to listen to music outside of the main stream. The only radio stations who can afford this, will be the big players and this is wrong. Sign the petition today!

On March 2, 2007 the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), which oversees sound recording royalties paid by Internet radio services, increased Internet radio's royalty burden between 300 and 1200 percent and thereby jeopardized the industry’s future.

At the request of the Recording Industry Association of America, the CRB ignored the fact that Internet radio royalties were already double what satellite radio pays, and multiplied the royalties even further. The 2005 royalty rate was 7/100 of a penny per song streamed; the 2010 rate will be 19/100 of a penny per song streamed. And for small webcasters that were able to calculate royalties as a percentage of revenue in 2005 – that option was quashed by the CRB, so small webcasters’ royalties will grow exponentially!

Before this ruling was handed down, the vast majority of webcasters were barely making ends meet as Internet radio advertising revenue is just beginning to develop. Without a doubt most Internet radio services will go bankrupt and cease webcasting if this royalty rate is not reversed by the Congress, and webcasters’ demise will mean a great loss of creative and diverse radio. Surviving webcasters will need sweetheart licenses that major record labels will be only too happy to offer, so long as the webcaster permits the major label to control the programming and playlist. Is that the Internet radio you care to hear?

As you know, the wonderful diversity of Internet radio is enjoyed by tens of millions of Americans and provides promotional and royalty opportunities to independent labels and artists that are not available to them on broadcast radio. What you may not know is that in just the last year Internet radio listening jumped dramatically, from 45 million listeners per month to 72 million listeners each month. Internet radio is already popular and it is already benefiting thousands of artists who are finding new fans online every day.

Action must be taken to stop this faulty ruling from destroying the future of Internet radio that so many millions of listeners depend on each day. Instead of relying on lawyers filing appeals in the CRB and the courts, the SaveNetRadio Coalition has been formed to represent every webcaster, every Net Radio listener, and every artist who enjoys and benefits from this medium. Please join our fight for the preservation of Internet radio.

Save Net

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Music to enhance taste of the sea

Heston Blumenthal is celebrated for creating increasingly unusual dishes
Diners have been given MP3 players at a top restaurant to enhance a dish.
Chef Heston Blumenthal, famous for his scientific approach to food, said the recording of breaking waves heightened the flavour of dish "Sound of the Sea".

The owner of award-winning Fat Duck restaurant in Berkshire, said research carried out with Oxford University revealed sound can boost taste.

"We ate an oyster while listening to the sea and it tasted stronger and saltier", Mr Blumenthal said.

Mr Blumenthal told Square Meal magazine that the tests carried out with Charles Spence at Oxford University "revealed that sound can really enhance the sense of taste".

Sound of the Sea, on the menu of the three-Michelin-starred Fat Duck restaurant, features seafood and edible seaweed on a bed of sand-like tapioca - all washed down with the sound of breaking waves.

Ruth Penycate, who sampled the dish as part of the restaurant's taster menu, said she was not expecting the musical accompaniment.

She said: "The people on the next table must have had the same menu - I'd just thought the guy was being incredibly rude listening to his iPod through the meal.

"The waiting staff bring iPod shuffles and invite you to put them on, and after a couple of minutes bring in the dish, which looks like a seashore and even smells briny.

"It definitely adds to the experience - the whole thing sets your senses going."

The restaurant has also planned whiskey flavour sweet gums served on a map of Scotland and edible crystallised rose petals adorning a silver rosebush sculpture for its menu.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Sonic Chav Deterrent

An oldie, but worth a post.

The Mosquito ultrasonic teenage deterrent is the solution to the eternal problem of unwanted gatherings of youths and teenagers in shopping areas, housing estates, car parks and anywhere else they are causing problems. The presence of these teenagers discourages genuine customers from going into shops, affecting turnover and profits. Anti-social behavior has become the biggest threat to private property over the last decade and there has been no effective deterrent until now.

Police and local authorities have hailed the device as the most effective tool in the fight against teenage anti-social behaviour, and those who have tested and bought the device have reported that police call outs to trouble spots were reduced by 80-100%.
MosquitoByteam website

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Music as torture

Report by Suzanne G Cusick

One of the most startling aspects of musical culture in the post-Cold War United States is the systematic use of music as a weapon of war. First coming to mainstream attention in 1989, when US troops blared loud music in an effort to induce Panamanian president Manuel Norriega’s surrender, the use of “acoustic bombardment” has become standard practice on the battlefields of Iraq, and specifically musical bombardment has joined sensory deprivation and sexual humiliation as among the non-lethal means by which prisoners from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo may be coerced to yield their secrets without violating US law.

The very idea that music could be an instrument of torture confronts us with a novel—and disturbing—perspective on contemporary musicality in the United States. What is it that we in the United States might know about ourselves by contemplating this perspective? What does our government’s use of music in the “war on terror” tell us (and our antagonists) about ourselves?

This paper is a first attempt to understand the military and cultural logics on which the contemporary use of music as a weapon in torture and war is based. After briefly tracing the development of acoustic weapons in the late 20th century, and their deployment at the second battle of Falluja in November, 2004, I summarize what can be known about the theory and practice of using music to torture detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo. I contemplate some aspects of late 20th-century musical culture in the civilian US that resonate with the US security community’s conception of music as a weapon, and survey the way musical torture is discussed in the virtual world known as the blogosphere. Finally, I sketch some questions for further research and analysis.

Source/more info: Cusick's article

Clamor by Allora & Calzadilla

Clamor, 2006, a new work by leading artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla exploring the relationship between sound, music and war, has its European premiere at the Serpentine Gallery.

A large sculptural chamber, which the artists have described as ‘resembling a bunker, a ruin, a cave, and a sound booth’, hosts live performance events from a musical archive of moments when music has been used in military and political conflict.

For the live performances, held during the opening evening and regularly throughout the course of the exhibition, duelling musicians hidden inside the work itself will play historic military songs creating a monstrous montage of war music, somewhere between a symphony and cacophony.

The artists have created a pre-recorded 40-minute soundtrack, which will be broadcast from within Clamor during the course of the exhibition. It samples music from the Janissary bands of the Ottoman Empire, the resistance hymns of the Viet Cong, the ballads of the October Revolution, as well as contemporary popular music such as Twisted Sister’s ‘We’re not gonna take it’ used by American forces during the Panama invasion in 1989. Clamor stages a musical and corporeal investigation into the nature of these songs in the context of today’s global wars.

Allora & Calzadilla have been collaborating since 1995 and their photographs, videos, sculptures, installations and performative works address the challenging and conflicting effects of globalisation. The artists live in Puerto Rico.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Your Experiences Part 2

Thanks for all the posts on the 'Your Experiences' section of this blog. It has now been six weeks since my initial post and there has been a really good response. However, 25 posts is not enough and I am still looking for more comments from you!

We all experience musical environments for at least 3 hours of our day.. that means you all must encounter good and badly designed music on a daily basis. Take a moment to think what sounds you heard today, and the effect they might have had on you..
and please post a comment! If you need some inspiration, the previous 'Your Experiences' section is here:
Your Experiences Part 1
Some really interesting, funny and disturbing comments so far..

Spaces Speak by Barry Blesser & Linda-Ruth Salter

This is a great book recently released by MIT press. It covers a wide range of topics on the subject of Aural Architecture..Here is an excerpt.

We experience spaces not only by seeing but also by listening. We can navigate a room in the dark, and "hear" the emptiness of a house without furniture. Our experience of music in a concert hall depends on whether we sit in the front row or under the balcony. The unique acoustics of religious spaces acquire symbolic meaning. Social relationships are strongly influenced by the way that space changes sound. In Spaces Speak, Are You Listening?, Barry Blesser and Linda-Ruth Salter examine auditory spatial awareness: experiencing space by attentive listening. Every environment has an aural architecture.

Social Spatiality
When we think of architecture, we immediately visualize the properties of the space that can be seen, especially boundaries that influence movement and the legal rights of access. Walls and surfaces are tangible and readily apparent. In contrast, because sound flows through even the smallest opening, aural architecture has aural boundaries. Hogarth, in the picture below, portrays the dismay of a musician who finds that his private music room and the hubbub of the street are in fact a single aural space. The open window destroys the aural boundary because sound flows freely through it. Opening the window changes the aural architecture, and the person who opened the window was an aural architect.

Hogarth's Enraged Musician.
Courtesy of Graphic Arts Collection, Princeton University.

other major components of aural architecture include musical, navigations, aesthetic, and symbolic. From these, I would say that the easiest to manipulate in existing spaces would be their 'musical spatiality' and therefore by implementing a process of 'musical design', we can create better aural architecture in our built environments.
The source for this article, more information and how to purchase the book can be found at
Thanks to Barry Blesser for his previous comments to Two Open Ears!

Live Noise!

“Modern man is beginning to inhabit a world with an acoustic environment radically different from any he has previously known. These new sounds, which differ in quality and intensity from those in the past alert us to the indiscriminate and imperialistic spread of more and larger sounds into every corner of man’s life.
Noise pollution is now a world problem.
The world soundscape has reached an apex of vulgarity in our time…. Universal deafness is the ultimate consequence.”
R. Murray Schafer, The Soundscape, 1977.

NOISES 2 min demo video

Add to My Profile | More Videos

This is a live audio visual performance that I am working on in collaboration with visual artist and film maker Ling Lee. We will hopefully be touring around the UK with this show in 2007/8. I will post more when I have details, in the meantime you can watch out 2 min promo video above. Any comments welcome, here is a bit of background -

Sound designer and music producer Brian Harvey (stage name Brian d’Souza) in collaboration with visual artist and filmmaker Ling Lee present ‘Noises’, an improvised audiovisual performance. Using a mixture of live found sound recording, instrumentation, innovative visuals and cross media improvisation techniques, the performance highlights the exponential rise of auditory and visual noise in our world today.

More info at Underkonstrukt or Noises Myspace

Sunday, February 18, 2007

New York plans iPod ban on city streets

New Yorkers who blithely cross the street listening to an iPod or talking on a cell phone could soon face a $100 fine.
New York State Senator Carl Kruger says he will introduce a new legislation to ban the use of gadgets such as iPod, PSP, and Blackberry devices while crossing the street in major New York cities, such as New York City, Buffalo, and Albany.

"Government has an obligation to protect its citizenry. This electronic gadgetry is reaching the point where it's becoming not only endemic but it's creating an atmosphere where we have a major public safety crisis at hand," Kruger told Reuters. "If you're so involved in your electronic device that you can't see or hear a car coming, this is indicative of a larger problem that requires some sort of enforcement beyond the application of common sense," he added.

Kruger, who represents the 27th district of New York, says that three pedestrians in his Brooklyn district have been killed since September upon stepping into traffic while distracted by an electronic device, including a case where a 23-year-old man was run down because he ignored warnings not to cross while listening to his iPod.
Noah Budnick, deputy director of advocacy for transportation alternatives in New York City, has come out against the proposal. He said that that iPods don't kill pedestrians; reckless driving does. So...


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Brian Eno pioneering audiovisual innovation in retail

Luminous is Brian Eno’s first large-scale installation of 77 Million Paintings in Selfridges, London and is his latest work from over 30 years as a visual artist.

It uses multiple monitors to display a constantly evolving painting, generated from handmade images, randomly combined by computers, creating an ever-changing ‘painting’ consisting of hand-made elements that evolve into almost countless variations.

Watch all 77 million possibilities and listen as layers if this trademark ambient audio mean that you never hear the same thing twice. This is a true marriage of sound and image.

Exhibition takes place on 27 January - 11 March in the Ultra Lounge - Lower Ground Floor - Oxford Street.

This exhibit shows how Selfridges are leading the way for how retail can use audio and visual to create immersive experiences for their customers. The ability to create sensory experiences will be the main way in which the high-street can compete with internet shopping sites.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Your Experiences

I am starting to compile a comprehensive guide to places and spaces with good or bad 'music design'. We have all been in places which sound totally awful, with bad music played at loud volumes or the clatter of cutlery ruining our experience. Likewise, we have been in places which sound good, where we feel relaxed and comfortable. If you have any memories or comments from such experiences and would like to share them, please post them below and we can build a guide to musical environments around the world.

Please post the following details:
Name of Location,
Place of Location,
Your experience - good or bad music design, what it made you do, how it could be better.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Music Design: The Definition

I have been trying to formulate the definition for what exactly 'music design' is. So here goes -

Music Design is the selection of music to fit in with the characteristics of a particular space in which it is played. The process of music design occurs when the activity of listening to music is considered to be secondary behind a more important task being done at that time. This is a relatively new phenomena introduced with the popularity of recording media and the ubiquityu of music through loudspeakers several decades ago. Before this time, music design did not really exist as music was heard either in concert halls (symphonies for the privileged few) or as part of a live communication within sections of society (tribal music, folk music) where 'listening' was always the primary activity.

There are lots of examples of music design in our world today, such as:

1. Music design for a car journey (e.g. music selected as 'driving music' which fits the journey and passengers, but is secondary to the primary activity of driving the car'.)
2. Music design for a dinner party (e.g. background music to fit the primary activity of eating and socialising that fits the type of guest attending).
3. Music design for background music in a commerical premises (e.g. Muzak, in-store radio, Open Ear where music is secondary to shopping, eating or drinking).
4. Music design for film (selection of existing music tracks to fit the environment created by scenes in the film)
5. Music design for advertisments. i.e. selection of existing music to fit a TV or radio advert
6. Music design for bars usually selected by a DJ but always secondary to drinking and socialising (NB. this is not the same as listening to a DJ in a club which I would class as being the primary activity of a club-goer and in the last 20 years has been accepted as a 'performance'.)
7. Listening to music on a walkman or iPod (although a bit of a grey area). The best example of this at the moment is LCD soundsystems composition of a track designed to be used for Joggers with Nike shoes and an iPod.

This is NOT to be confused with these which are not music design
1. As stated above, DJs in a club
2. Listening to music at home (primary activity is listening)
3. Going to a concert
4. Sometimes listening to music on a walkman or iPod

The reason I believe the term 'music design' must be accepted as a credible practice is because it is an extremely valuable skill for those who are good at it. In much the same way as interior designers gain credit for their ability to create inhabitable spaces, 'music designers' should exist and be given credit for their ability to expertly design music to fit in with its surroundings, including the style and visual design of the space, the people who use the space and the brand or business which owns the space. The same can be said of 'music designers' in film and TV who are not composers or producers, but rather use different skills altogether to source and select existing music which fits perfectly with a scene or represents a product perfectly.

Good music design for commerical premises can helped generate much more business for that space by helping create an atmosphere that makes people stay longer, enjoy the experience, spend more and be more likely to return. On a much more personal level, good music design for activities such as jogging can help keep one more motivated, and good music design at a dinner party can make conversation easier as the atmosphere is more relaxed. Bad music design has the opposite effect and has a serious detrimental effect on mood, behaviour and motivation.

One of the reasons I feel that music design is not properly valued at this point is because of the overwhelming preference we have for visual stimuli in our lives. Sound is much more of a subconscious thing and not immediately obvious unless you train yourself to focus on aural stimuli. However, many studies show just how important sound is in effecting our behaviour, mood and mental health.

To take a parallel example, film studies always explains that sound is of equal importance to visuals. This is one of the reasons the cinema industry still exists as one has the opportunity to experience hi-fidelity sound on a 10.2 (or larger) surround sound set up. When asked, your average cinema goer would attribute their love of cinema down to the larger screen, but I believe it is an equal combination of the large screen and sound which creates the experience and makes going to the cinema attractive.

To sum up, I believe the ability to design music to fit in with a certain activity or space is a very important and much undervalued skill. With the term 'music design', I hope to introduce to a wider audience the importance of good music design in the aural environments that we all live.

Bad to Good Music Design

Ok, I have been extremely busy and been unable to post in the blog. However, I will endeavour in 2007 to post on a weekly basis. I have been continuing my search to find places and spaces with good music design. With my company Open Ear, we have been doing a trial at Chow Restaurant in Glasgow. This was a modern, young, hip and sophisticated Chinese restaurant located in the heart of the trendy Westend of Glasgow which was characterised by extremely poor music design. Music such as the greatest hits of those loveable divas Shania Twain, Mariah Carey and Britney Spears created a musical identity more akin to McDonalds than to a trendy restaurant.

With Open Ear, we trialed a new music design for Chow which has been working to great effect. We compiled music ranging from cutting edge folk/electronica, understated jazz and authentic oriental music from South Korea to create an atmosphere that was most conducive to its surroundings. Direct from the assistant managers mouth - "Using music selected by Open Ear has helped us create a more relaxed and welcoming environment that fits perfectly in our surroundings. We immediately noticed that customers have been more likely to stay for a coffee at the end of their meal, which has to be a good thing."