05 December, 2012
I'm thrilled to have helped my friends at Biamp Systems create a really important white paper about how noise in the modern world affects us all. It's called Building in Sound and I have a pdf, hot of the metaphorical press, which I'm attaching to this blog so that you can download your own copy.
This document took months to produce, involving an exhaustive review of literature going back some 40 years, and its intention is to enrol as many people as possible in the message that sound must be carefully considered in the design process, whether for a building or an environment – a very similar message to my recent TED talk on why architects need to start designing with their ears. There is no time to lose in getting this message across to architects, planners, government, and those commissioning buildings: we are currently creating schools, hospitals, offices and urban spaces that are simply not fit for purpose, and every one of these is just another problem to be solved, involving more expense at a time when money is tight. It's so much easier and cheaper to design in good acoustics, low noise and good sound systems at the start – and yet sound is rarely considered an important element of design, and even if it has been included, so often acoustics and sound systems are the first things to get 'value engineered' out of the project. This can all happen because nobody on the team understands the massive effect these seemingly minor decisions will have on the people living, working or occupying that space for years to come. Maybe it's just because sound is invisible… so we need to start shouting about it.
I hope this white paper is another important brick in the wall of increasing sound awareness, conscious listening and designing with sound. Well done to Biamp for sponsoring it. Please do read it and then use it wherever you can to pass the message on. Sound matters!
Posted by Julian Treasure at 17:58
11 November, 2012
I have in the last week presented to the Mozart & Science 2012 conference for music therapists, and to the Autumn conference of the UK Institute of Acoustics. My message to both was essentially that of my latest TED talk: that we need to start designing our built environments with our ears. The experience of meeting two such aligned and yet very different groups made me reflect on the effects of specialisation. As we focus and specialise, we can gain great depth in our own area, but we can also lose sight of the bigger picture.
The early scientists were polymaths, happy to leap from geology to cosmology, political philosophy or chemistry and then back again without a second thought. Today even the relatively small community of sound workers is divided into many specialisations, and very few of them are talking to one another. I believe there are great gains available if musicians, composers, sound designers, sound and music therapists, sonic artists, musicologists, music psychologists, aural ecologists, audio branding practitioners, audiologists, ENT specialists, acousticians, sound engineers, pro-AV and h-fi specialists and installers all start to communicate. Without doubt, there is deep wisdom and experience locked into all of these groups, but it is not being cross-fertlised at the moment.
Based on my experience this week, even groups as disparate as acousticians and music therapists care about very much the same things: the effects of sound and vibration on health, productivity and behaviour. Across all of the sound worker groups, there is a shared passion for sound: to know it fully and to better understand its relationship with human beings. We have so much to learn from one another, and through communication with one another we can enhance our perspective and perhaps transform the whole context for our own work. There are far more similarities than differences between us: we are all on the same road, so why not join hands and walk it together?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a single central website that connects us all? This could be a place where papers, thoughts and work can be posted, where people and organisations can find one another, and where resources can be linked to for the common good. The question is, who has the time and resources to create such a site? Maybe this forum can start this conversation and then we can see where it goes.
Even more important than sharing, we need to start speaking with one voice. We all care deeply about the sound of the world, but because most of its population are unconscious about sound’s effects on them, governments pay almost no attention to the subject. And so we have at best a little noise mapping and no action. We have a few low-level regulations, rarely enforced, about sound in buildings – even those as crucial as schools and hospitals – and our architects and designers care only about visual appearance, forgetting about aural experience. The effects of this institutional deafness are devastating.
If we sound workers are going to change this and get governments to start thinking about positive sound design rather than (at best) reactive noise control policy, we need to become a powerful lobby with a single message: sound matters and the costs of ignoring it are enormous.
The response to my TED talks on sound has been overwhelming, which proves to me that there is a great latent desire to reconnect with sound, to understand its effects and to listen more consciously to our environment and to one another. I believe we sound workers have a responsibility to awaken that desire. If we can do that, we will truly make the world a better place for generations to come.
Posted by Julian Treasure at 18:53