BBC: “How engineers create artificial sounds to fool us” thoughts on media literacy
July 25, 2011
— education, literacy, media, michel chion, sound, sound art, teaching, three modes of listening
Thanks to blogger Larry Ferlazzo for bringing this BBC article to my attention.
An interesting article about how companies engineer sounds to manipulate perceptions about their products. Examples included creating a more substantial “thunk” to a car door’s closing, or the “potato-potato” cadence of a Harley Davidson’s exhaust.
It strikes me that paying attention to the characteristics of sounds in this way is really part of media literacy. In my music appreciation classes, we read an essay by Michel Chion “The Three Listening Modes”. Within the context of sound in film, Chion offers us three ways to approach a sound.
1. Causal Listening: Identifying a sound’s source abstracted from other cues to the sound.
2. Semantic listening: listening to a sound for it’s symbolic meaning, not it’s acoustical properties, as in language.
3. Reduced listening: named by the composer Pierre Schaffer, this refers to identifying the qualities of sound itself, independent of it’s causal or semantic meanings.
It interests me that, according to the article, Harley Davidson sued Japanese motorcycle manufacturers claiming that the Japanese exhaust notes were too similar to the Harleys. Through Chion’s lens of “modes”, Harley Davidson believes that its exhaust sounds have semantic meaning as brand-identifiers!