Silence. The audio version of a deep breath. That perfect space between sounds where, even if for just a moment, things feel still.
Silence is a treasured experience for anyone, but especially for us city folks. New York is constantly buzzing, beeping, swirling, swearing, grating, singing, and swooshing. Moments of complete silence almost start to feel eerie… then they become powerful, impactful and rejuvenating.
Silence, just like sound, is a powerful tool. It has the ability to encourage relaxation, create space between experiences and increase suspense. Silence permeates all that we do at Man Made Music. We like to say it’s our white space; meaning silence can sometimes be just as powerful and impactful as sound. It’s one of our Founder Joel Beckerman’s seven principles for creating powerful experiences with sound. It’s a tool we often deploy and one that the pros, like Disney, know just how to tap into.
Have you ever been to Disney World or Disneyland? Silence is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. However, you’d be surprised to know it’s one of Disney’s most powerful tools for creating magical experiences. Joe Herrington, a Principal Media Designer of Walt Disney Imagineering, has said, “half the storytelling experience is sound”. At Disneyland the concept of “fake quiet” is created through the gentle sounds of forests and birds. This acts as a natural barrier between the different lands and allows guests to decompress, take a mental breath and enter a new land with a refreshed palette.
Imagine yourself in a hotel elevator climbing 199 feet into the air while a story is being told of a group of people who mysteriously disappeared from this hotel. Now imagine the sound of snapping cables and splintering wires and then catching your breath as you plummet almost 200 feet. Scary right? Now imagine this, at Disney’s property in Tokyo, they have this same attraction. However, they’ve removed the snapping and splintering sounds from the elevator, meaning: no warning. This is to amplify anticipation, heighten suspense and ensure guests have no idea they’re about to make the dreaded drop. Scarier right? Proof of the emotional power of silence.
So there you have it! Straight from the pros: it’s not always about the use of sound or music but also the use of silence. Its power is felt in our everyday lives when we take a quiet minute to recharge but it’s also felt in some of our most magical and impactful experiences.
Want to learn more about the seven principles of sound? Joel will be speaking on this topic early next month at PromaxBDA The Conference in LA. Keep an eye on this and our social media spaces for all the tips.
Elizabeth Mainiero is Account Executive, Brand Partnerships at Man Made Music. Talk to her on Twitter @ecmains.
When it comes to discussing the intricacies and power of sound and music, my first instinct is to turn to those who live it. What follows is an interview with Robert Mainiero, the CEO of Andover Audio, a boutique audio engineering firm that develops products for the automotive, teleconferencing, casino gaming and home theatre industries.
Describe the core of your career.
My career has always been driven by my passion for music. As a kid I studied music and, even though it was my dream, I realized around high school that I just didn’t have the chops to make it as a professional. My other passion was electronics and so I decided, and was fortunate enough, to combine my two passions into what’s been a long-lasting career.
What job taught you the most and why?
Early in my career, I was a roadie for a relatively renowned band touring the West Coast. I learned what it took to create a terrific music experience. You must understand how instruments sound in their most natural state and be able to recreate as accurate a reproduction as possible. This lesson has carried me in my efforts to honor music and make it sound great.
Who or what company has been your most interesting client?
I can’t name names, but it would be an American motorcycle company. They tasked us with taking an incredibly hostile environment for music and making it a beautiful soundstage. We had to take into consideration extreme weather, temperature, speed, wind and ambient conditions while producing linear sound that enhanced a rider’s experience. The technical challenges were ridiculous which made the outcome that much more rewarding.
What has been your company’s most forward-thinking concept?
We designed a portable music system. It was a very high performance sound system, contained in a very small carry case. It was forward thinking because it was simple in concept. Everyone wanted quality music on the go. You opened the carry case, took satellite speakers and a small amplifier out while leaving a small subwoofer in the case. So simple. You opened the case, took all the stuff out, and you had a fully functioning, very high performance audio system. It was a big success; some users include James Taylor, Mick Fleetwood, and Britney Spears. We found, among musicians, the most important function of the system was that they could take it with them to any studio and have a consistent point of reference for sound.
What has been the most creative speaker implementation project?
Personally, in a 1975 Volkswagen Bug with friends. We built a shelf behind the tiny backseat and installed speakers from underneath. This was before automotive audio technology ever existed.
Professionally, at the Boston Museum of Science. We were tasked with installing audio in a space that had many different exhibits. We personalized the audio to each specific exhibit and designed the speaker layout of each in such a way that it kept the sound contained. We used an acoustic/electronic steering program to create a near field experience. This allowed for different audio messaging in different areas to be happening at the same time without disrupting each other.
Most unexpected place you’ve put a speaker?
A flush mounted, full-range, coaxial speaker placed in the ceiling of our shower stall. Listening to music while shaving is terrific!
What are your three principles for client management and joint success?
Rigorous honesty and transparency.
Always try to come in on budget.
Be the best at after sales or installation service. Bottom line: be available when the stuff breaks.
Talk about your feelings regarding the power of sound and music.
Music has the power to evoke emotion, memory, environment, mood and communication. You hear a song and you can place an exact experience or time associated with that song. It’s international, universal and certainly soothes the savage beast.
Do you have a personal example of where music or sound transformed an experience?
The film The Deer Hunter. The songs used reinforced the time and the sound effects elevated the message. Without either the film would have been a completely different experience.
Favorite artist and song?
A complete and totally impossibility to answer.