My name is Brad. I design sound and music here at Funomena. One of my favorite things about being a sound person is Listening to the world around us. This may sound simple but the process of actively listening to the sound that enters our ears can be a surprisingly fresh and enjoyable experience. Quite often we allow ambient noise to exist just below our attention level or background music to passively augment our mood. But how often do we actually just sit quietly and listen?
So let’s try it. Stop what you are doing. Turn off your music. Maybe even close your eyes for a bit and focus just on the sound of your environment. Even for just 30 seconds (I’ll wait). What did you hear? Maybe at first we hear a few obvious things like traffic, people talking or the television in the next room. But the longer we listen, the more subtle sounds are revealed. These sounds have been there all along and the sound waves even entered into our ears. Our brains just decided they were not relevant to our survival. So we tuned them out.
But over-riding this autopilot listening mode can help us experience life in a different way. It can be like exercise for your ears! For example, I remember the first time I truly heard “silence”. It was in the middle of Joshua Tree National Park in California on a perfectly still winter day. No traffic or planes or refrigerator hum. No cell phones or news or noisy neighbors. It was so silent that the blood rushing through my ears felt enormous. This absence of sound feels like a blank canvas upon which our lives can be re-imagined. On the other end of the spectrum, loud sounds can be interesting too. The razor crack of lightening or the sudden snarl of a nearby dog can be quite a shock. The feeling of this loud unexpected sound has an undeniable effect on our mind and body. We feel energized with a “fight or flight” kind of energy. Being sensitive to these audio experiences can build our sonic vocabulary and help make better video games.
Listening closely isn’t just for audio nerds though. These techniques can also be helpful in our daily lives. It can be a simple form of meditation. Taking 5 or 10 minutes out of our busy schedule to just sit and listen can reduce stress and increase focus. Listening more closely to someone speak also has obvious benefits. How often are we truly listening to someone or just waiting for our turn to speak? Even listening to our favorite music more closely can reveal layers and meanings hidden below the main melody or lyrics.
So I invite you to listen to your life. It is beautiful and full of surprises!
-Brad, Sound Designer