Why Sound Matters

Is the # (hashtag) mightier than the sword?

Tristan Perich: Microtonal Wall (2011)


#SoundMatters is a brilliant one.  Not only because sound does matter but it also sums up so much of what we at Hooke Audio have been trying to communicate.

What came first the eye or the ear? 

Talking about sound is almost pointless. Audio is something you feel and experience. Words alone don’t do it injustice, and honestly can’t.  Over the last decade as the world has become “social” we’ve defined social media through 140 characters (text) and filters (visuals); which when you consider it, is fundamentally unsocial. It is our innate ability to articulate sounds that make us fundamentally social, NOT our ability to type or take pictures.  Yet when we speak, pitch, or demo the Hooke Verse we’re usually met with a matter-of-fact, “No one cares about sound.”

Why has social media made sound un-matter?

Marketing audio is an art.  Marketing filters, one-liners, clever double entendres, visual cues, intelligence and lifestyle is easy in comparison. We’re able to project ourselves and use our imagination to believe that the billboard, magazine ad, television spot and even banner ad IS us.

We love marketing.

It has become a form of entertainment and adventure in our lives. Geico makes us laugh during football. Everyone is happy at McDonalds. Budweiser always gives us something to celebrate.  Viagra is always there when you need it.

Have you ever heard a gecko? The sound of a McDonald’s is a cacophony of hungry customers and industrial metal cooking machines. Drunk people sound like…well, drunk. Baby boomers on Viagra are in the same boat. Sounds are just too real to market. They remind us of a reality that marketers are trying to help us escape and ignore.

Sound matters because it is too honest.

Honesty is the ultimate marketers dilemma. Marketing is designed to sell the vision and the dream. If you own or consume this then you can feel like this or pretend to be this. It works. Rent a Bentley and a Calvin Klein tuxedo for the day. Stay at the 4 Seasons and consume Vintage Dom Perignon and caviar. Put it all on your credit card. The world around you will think you’re rich. At least until you belch, fart or guffaw.  Audio calls your bluff.

Sound matters because it can’t and won’t lie. There is no faking what should be there in a blank space. Our ears crave sound.

Audio surveillance was all the rage during Watergate and the famous 18½-minute gap. Even Francis Ford Copolla almost won an Oscar for his homage to the audio version of “Blow-UP” in “The Conversation”.

Even the forensics guide for audio and video states:
“If’the’ambient’sound’present’on’an’audio’recording’changes’abruptly,’this’could’ indicate’that’the’environment’where’the’recording’took’place’suddenly’changed.’ The’volume’and’tone’of’a’voice’on’the’recording’can’provide’clues’as’to’distance’ and’spatial’relationships within’a’scene.”

Try and make a fake recording with an edit.

To edit audio and have others believe it is to be a magician of space and time. Even the least discerning ears cannot be easily fooled.

Sound is a polygraph test.

What are we training our ears to hear when we currently hear with our eyes? This is also what’s easiest for the brain to compute. Modern headphones have trained our ears to assume that a rich low-end is normal. Most music today is mixed and equipment designed to support this claim. This is why sound design exists, to create an audio track that is familiar (music) and removes those ambient sounds deemed TOO familiar.

Everything today is remixed and mastered to cater to what we’ve grown comfortable with.  The market demands what we’ve trained the market to demand. Car crashes in real life are sonically uncomfortable and tinny. In the movies they’re filled with bass and low rumbles. This is the same with most audio tracks we sonically consume socially today.

The alternative is beautiful. Some might suggest dated. Hooke Audio begs to differ.

In 1936, Robert Johnson recorded what was to be his entire catalog in a makeshift studio in San Antonio, Texas. We love this record. It is so honest and true. A man, his guitar, and a microphone recorded to tape and pressed to vinyl. That’s it. What he played and sung is what you hear. The mystery only exists in the man and his music. Ironically, sound most likely didn’t matter to him. Just being heard the way he played was enough – magic.

If this were done today it would most likely be a commercial flop. Yet without Robert Johnson’s recordings, we most likely wouldn’t have the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and many other rock n roll giants that we all know and love today. Maybe the truth behind his sound was the very thing that inspired Keith, Mick, and Jimmy.

As it was for Robert Johnson, it should be with us. To be heard and to hear the world around us without interpretation, that’s Rock N Roll!

Sound matters indeed.

From One Ear To Another,
Anthony Mattana
Hooke Founder

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