They say “sound is half the picture”. That might be the composers of old claiming a stake in a new emerging Hollywood but if either are played without either present, it can feel odd and bereft of a layer it’s been carefully crafted to snuggle with. I started picking apart that whole concept in context with the industry and how audio is perceived in the modern setting.

I started this thought process thinking of times we watch film without sound and it took me back before the advent of smartphones, back when it was all fields (or more like the last 40 years) and not a lot, not entirely silent.

CCTV was silent on it’s arrival and there are films that have long periods of silence but even then, there’s always atmosphere, there’s always dialogue.. Thinking retrospectively, silent film also can be powerful, especially if it’s Steve Mcqueen’s winning entries to the Tate. Some mainstream film does also work great without sound such as nature documentaries or very picturesque landscapes in films; I could watch most of Wes Anderson’s films on mute. Both have an incomplete feeling when we view them individually but the audio track does stand up by itself, depending on the film, you can listen to it as an audio book.

I’ve had the experience of playing a friend the sound design I was working on at the time, a fairly detailed full on “Michael Bay” frequency flexer of a piece, and it felt like I just weirded them out without the context. A lot of music that’s meant to be heard isolated and performed can fall out of place too, especially if you’ve arrived hearing it not in the mood, not given time to orientate and tune yourself to the energy and emotion of the piece.

Music and sound can affect you in more ways than just accompanying a stirring story. Sometimes when your feeling a bit low or tired an overload of 2-3KHz, which modern mixing techniques push and your smart device exaggerates further, can just compound the tiredness or depending on the nostalgia, association and disposition, can wake you up! These frequencies, alongside the higher 4-8Khz, are where children’s voices and screams sit which for parents can exacerbate the trigger of tiredness but also music with those frequencies prominent can make you more alert and as a parent have a bond with the frequencies akin to your offspring, or you just really dig the hi-hats on this song.

As animals, we also have a skill to block sound all together, if we’re blessed with hearing in the first place. We can make our internal thoughts so loud, or the task we’re doing is so important, that you can’t even recall what your friend just said to you or the last 3 songs on the radio.

There are old Indian studies into different music key centers or set frequency groundings that if graduated throughout the day can match your bodies digestion, mood and work routine; targeting your chakras to work in tandem and not disturb your equilibrium. This is something that needs more research and if your bodyclock needs to be in sync with the sun or maybe it has more to do with emotion and health. Sounds like an idea for another blog post!

Let us fast forward to today and we find many of us have a tempered viewing capacity to watch reels, shorts, ads, subtitled media, all without sound. How the tables have turned dear “value of audio” deity. We’ve adapted as consumers. With technology we can tailor what we watch and listen to whilst still being considerate to those around you. It’s part of daily routines that didn’t have media present before (like brushing your teeth) or you’re feeling low and just turning the noise dial down is just the ticket or even so far as  getting noise cancelling headphones for the relentless building work going on next door. The modern era has mute on more often.  The other side to all this is the attitude of “my life is loud. It’s my identity” and whilst it’s healthy to exercise volume, to those that have suffered from other people’s dysfunctional audio space awareness, I sympathise. 

A decision I had to make when building this website is if I have music playing or not when you land on my website page. The longstanding trend on most websites you’ll visit is silent. This is mostly because trying to get an embedded to video to play and mute the splash screen music at the same time seemed a feet too far to be a feature of any of the websites I’ve ran in to in the past, but also it sounds like a cold call ad if not done right. I’d like music on the splash lander, as long as there’s a mute button near by, I might trial it.

What I love about film is how it introduces you into the story with music or sound design right from the off, usually letting you orientate with a title sequence or witty intro as a hook, line and sink… oh look, box set demolished! This lead-in with sound can slap you awake if it’s a big fanfare action smasher or gently open it’s doors to the aesthetic and style. I think this links to the Indian studies of chakras with each genre or the frequencies it’s pushing relates to your well being and perhaps not enough consideration is made for the harmony of light, sound and story and how it’s introduced, by the creator and the consumer. There are interesting studies into the wavelengths and character of light and it’s relationship with sound wavelengths, we have reacted intuitively very well but going deeper may guarantee a better or more controlled experience… 

here’s Adam Neely talking about how rhythm is pitch and pitch is light:

I’d be interested to study some of the new infrared images from the James Webb Telescope and corresponding pitch and rhythms of distant ancient galaxies! What are you thoughts on this relationship between sound and colour?

This is the kind of things we consider here at Wavetale. Critical listening requires constant study to not only try and tailor our mixes to suit all listening devices but also the frequency harmony and energy to make sure it has a synergy with what you’re seeing and feeling.

Thom Thomas-Watkins 

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