• Blog Read more good ideas from our faculty

Scanner's Guide to the Joy of Sound

07
Jan
Scanners Guide to the Joy of Sound
Scanner (Robin Rimbaud) is an experimental musician and artist of international renown whose collaborators include Laurie Anderson and Steve McQueen. Here he gives an illustrated listening and watching guide to enhancing the pleasure we get from the sound that surrounds us. 
The joy of sound is how it connects us all, like an invisible thread. It’s there in involuntary toe-tapping to a piece of music in a café, the calming rhythm of waves at the ocean’s edge, the electrical hum of the city embracing us. Sound is almost inescapable. It chats with us even when we don’t feel like a conversation. Sound can be as rewarding as it is stressful, and as joyful as it is painful. It can enhance or ruin your day, so balance is essential.
Taking a ‘sound walk,’ tasting all the sounds of a city, re-focusing, retuning your ears and mind to listening can be a challenge and reward. So take your earphones out for a moment and really attend to your sonic environment. 
Find out more here http://www.sfu.ca/~westerka/writings%20page/articles%20pages/soundwalking.html
Or use your digital tools to improve and alter your environment in creative ways. I was fortunate to collaborate with a visionary UK audio design company on a form of sonic curtain. Future Acoustics (http://www.futureacoustic.com) have been developing innovative ways of rethinking sound around you for some years now and together we released Whisper, a free iPhone app. Whisper is an infinite piece of sound art woven into your everyday environment. It allows you to colour your environment with sound-responsive technology. In other words, it masks what’s around you in an intelligent way. It’s free, so there’s nothing to lose.
Download app here (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/whisper/id306967534?mt=8)
We seem to have taken it for granted now that noisy household appliances, loud music and constant connectivity have become an acceptable backdrop to our modern way of living. But silence and the opportunities it offers for recovery are close at hand.
Find out more here 
(http://www.rosalpina.it/images/aboutus/pdf/elle-decoration-august-12.pdf)
Home is a good place to start. Many of us lead stressful lives surrounded by deadlines and noise. So the home needs to offer a different pace, almost as if a mute button has been pressed. Remember that soft furnishings deaden noise and window curtains stop sound from bouncing round the room. And why not treat yourself to a pair of soft slippers so that even your footsteps won’t interfere with your space?
Musical choices are always personal. So search for music that has meaning for you: songs from a festival you went to as a teenager, or your favourite film soundtrack. It’s been suggested that the music you listen to between the ages of 16 to 20 remain meaningful for the duration of your life. So don’t be too embarrassed by your Culture Club or Kylie Minogue MP3s.
Retailers frequently use pleasing sounds to encourage shopping, so adopt similar techniques of sound design to influence how energetic or calm your home and work environments feel. We can learn from how even design-savvy brands like Apple don’t always get it right in their shop environments. 
Find out more here (http://www.forbes.com/sites/anthonykosner/2012/11/12/new-flagship-apple-store-in-palo-alto-a-jobs-legacy-is-cool-but-unbearably-noisy/) 
Learn to embrace sounds around you, rather than struggle with them. American composer and artist John Cage spoke eloquently about the activity of sound, arguing for NOT always expecting sound to speak to us but just to embrace it. 
Watch here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcHnL7aS64Y)
Sometimes even the familiar, taken out of context, can challenge your ears. Playing this game with children is fun. I collaborated with UK organization Sound and Music earlier this year on their Minute of Listening creative learning project. They hope to enable every child in the country to gain access to a huge diversity of music and sound and, for sixty seconds each day, to actively focus on the richness and enjoyment of the act of listening. Children from the ages of 3 to 11 participated with their class teachers and were played such sounds as the following. What do you think it is?
Listen here https://soundcloud.com/scanner/minute-of-listening
Many of us seem scheduled out in our lives, timetabled to the hilt. I’m in favour of trying to slow down to connect with others properly. I’m even in favour of slow creativity. Taken to an extreme you’ll find work like Jem Finer’s extraordinary Longplayer project, commissioned by Artangel (http://www.artangel.org.uk). It’s a sound work written to be played for one thousand years until the close of 2999. 
Brian Eno’s work has long explored ideas of an elegant expansion, deliberately measured by a slower pace.
Watch here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pckj-nFdXgk)
In my own practice I’ve very consciously focused on particular projects that explore moments of contemplation. 52 Spaces takes a two minute clip of Antonioni’s L’Eclisses and extends it to last forty scenic minutes. 
Watch here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wm199mmZAoU). 
Anthem, commissioned recently for the British Business Embassy during the Olympics, magnifies the British National Anthem as you might never have heard it before. Amusingly the sonic work was installed in the lavatories of Lancaster House, on the Mall in central London, the only room that every delegate and visitor would be guaranteed to visit. 
Listen here (https://soundcloud.com/scanner/anthem)
Finally, don’t ever let technologies intimidate you. If you are using a smart phone to make calls, update social networks, take photos, then you also most likely also have the facility to film. Travelling in a car across Australia led to this little film.
Watch here (https://vimeo.com/17389004),
And even an old portable can be applied to produce such a luscious film as this.
Watch here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sp8oo3ebUI).
Remember that sound is inescapably a part of us. So let’s each take more control of it to enhance our lives.  
To find out about Scanner’s Adventure to Amsterdam for The School of Life, 8-10 March 2013, click here. http://www.theschooloflife.com/shop/scannersadventuretoamsterdam/

Scanner (Robin Rimbaud) is an experimental musician and artist of international renown whose collaborators include Laurie Anderson and Steve McQueen. Here he gives an illustrated listening and watching guide to enhancing the pleasure we get from the sound that surrounds us. 

The joy of sound is how it connects us all, like an invisible thread. It’s there in the involuntary toe-tapping to a piece of music in a café, the calming rhythm of waves at the ocean’s edge, the electrical hum of the city embracing us. Sound is almost inescapable. It chats with us even when we don’t feel like a conversation. Sound can be as rewarding as it is stressful, and as joyful as it is painful. It can enhance or ruin your day, so balance is essential. Here are my recommendations for getting more out of sound:

Re-tune your ears:
Taking a ‘sound walk,’ tasting all the sounds of a city, re-focusing, retuning your ears and mind to listening can be a challenge and reward. So take your earphones out for a moment and really attend to your sonic environment. 
Click here for your instructions.

Alter your environment:
Use your digital tools to improve and alter your environment in creative ways. I was fortunate to collaborate with a visionary UK audio design company on a form of sonic curtain. Future Acoustics (http://www.futureacoustic.com) have been developing innovative ways of rethinking the sound around you for some years now and together we released Whisper, a free iPhone app. Whisper is an infinite piece of sound art woven into your everyday environment. It allows you to colour your environment with sound-responsive technology. In other words, it masks what’s around you in an intelligent way. It’s free, so there’s nothing to lose.
Click here to download the Whisper i-phone app

Search for Silence:
We seem to have taken it for granted now that noisy household appliances, loud music and constant connectivity have become an acceptable backdrop to our modern way of living. But silence and the opportunities it offers for recovery are close at hand.
Click here to re-discover what you're missing.

Home is a good place to start. Many of us lead stressful lives surrounded by deadlines and noise. So the home needs to offer a different pace, almost as if a mute button has been pressed. Remember that soft furnishings deaden noise and window curtains stop sound from bouncing round the room. And why not treat yourself to a pair of soft slippers so that even your footsteps won’t interfere with your space?

Look for the meaning:
Musical choices are always personal. So search for music that has meaning for you: songs from a festival you went to as a teenager, or your favourite film soundtrack. It’s been suggested that the music you listen to between the ages of 16 to 20 remain meaningful for the duration of your life. So don’t be too embarrassed by your Culture Club or Kylie Minogue MP3s.

Influence your space:
Retailers frequently use pleasing sounds to encourage shopping, so adopt similar techniques of sound design to influence how energetic or calm your home and work environments feel. We can learn from how even design-savvy brands like Apple don’t always get it right in their shop environments.
Click here to read what not to do.

Embrace what surrounds you:
Learn to embrace sounds around you, rather than struggle with them. American composer and artist John Cage spoke eloquently about the activity of sound, arguing for NOT always expecting sound to speak to us but just to embrace it.
Click here to watch John Cage.

Challenge your ears:
Sometimes even the familiar, taken out of context, can challenge your ears. Playing this game with children is fun. I collaborated with UK organization Sound and Music earlier this year on their Minute of Listening creative learning project. They hope to enable every child in the country to gain access to a huge diversity of music and sound and, for sixty seconds each day, to actively focus on the richness and enjoyment of the act of listening. Children from the ages of 3 to 11 participated with their class teachers and were played such sounds as the following. What do you think it is?
Click here to take the challenge.

Slow the tempo:
Many of us seem scheduled out in our lives, timetabled to the hilt. I’m in favour of trying to slow down to connect with others properly. I’m even in favour of slow creativity. Taken to an extreme you’ll find work like Jem Finer’s extraordinary Longplayer project, commissioned by Artangel. It’s a sound work written to be played for one thousand years until the close of 2999. 

Brian Eno’s work has long explored ideas of an elegant expansion, deliberately measured by a slower pace.
Click here to watch.

In my own practice I’ve very consciously focused on particular projects that explore moments of contemplation. 52 Spaces takes a two minute clip of Antonioni’s L’Eclisses and extends it to last forty scenic minutes. 
Click here to watch.

Take a playful approach:
Anthem, commissioned recently for the British Business Embassy during the Olympics, magnifies the British National Anthem as you might never have heard it before. Amusingly the sonic work was installed in the lavatories of Lancaster House, on the Mall in central London, the only room that every delegate and visitor would be guaranteed to visit.
Listen here.

Use the technology:
Finally, don’t ever let technologies intimidate you. If you are using a smart phone to make calls, update social networks, take photos, then you also most likely have the facility to film. Travelling in a car across Australia led to this little film.
Click here to watch.

And even an old portable can be applied to produce such a luscious film as this:
Click here to watch.

Take back control:
Finally, remember that sound is inescapably a part of us. So let's each take more control of it to enhance our lives.

Find out more at www.scanner.com or follow on twitter @robinrimbaud

 

Posted by Robin Rimbaud on 7 January 2013

Browse by author