In previous blog posts I have discussed how other senses, such as sight and smell, can provoke emotional responses and reignite nostalgic memories in people.  In order to create fully immersive environments it is important to consider the full sensory spectrum and how this might be used as a story-telling tool.  As Broadbent (2015) suggests, by increasing the number of senses being engaged, the more memorable the experience created will be.  Sound is all around us in our daily lives, providing the soundtrack to our lives and is therefore, associated with key memories, either intentionally or subconsciously.

Music and sound punctuates the consumer environment, it is difficult to navigate the UK high-street without being assaulted by a range of contrasting beats, each competing for attention and appealing to their own key demographics.  However, these competing sounds begin to merge during November and increasingly so through December each year, with ‘traditional’ and popular Christmas tunes merging to create a festive ambience for shoppers.  It is difficult to escape the strains of Mariah telling us what she wants for Christmas, or the choirs of NY City singing Galway Bay, and this repetitively can twist the festive theme from one of joy to one of irritation.   

These Christmas tunes are used to tell a very literal story, however, it is also possible to use music in contrast to the visionary tools also being employed. The use of Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful World’ in Good Morning Vietnam, is a good example of how the visionary and aural sense are the antithesis of one another.  Although only a few minutes long, this scene has always reduced me to tears, whilst Louis dulcet tones, declare the beauty of the world, the visuals contrast these lyrics with napalm bombs being deployed and protesters being shot in Saigon.  I feel this is one of the most powerful scenes in modern cinema, for its simplicity, and use of juxtaposition to provoke thought.

Whilst music is an influential tool, it might not also be possible to employ its use.  For example many exhibitions, do not permit the use of music at their events.  I’ve therefore, been exploring how the effects of sound to create memories could be created without actually using aural stimuli.  

[Created by projecting light through lyrics laser-cut into card]. 

Visual projections of popular song lyrics, may be one aspect to consider.   Reading the lyrics may cause the reader to start humming or singing the song internally, thereby stimulating similar emotional receptors to the prohibited aural sounds.

By employing additional stimuli, such as touch, the impact of sound can be increased.  The Sonic Garden, was one such marketing installation, which used the novel approach of generating sound from plants, to invoke curiosity and engagement amongst participants. As people moved among the space they were exposed to a range of natural sounds, such as fire, water and wind and were encouraged to stroke and interact with the plants to alter the sounds emitted through their bioelectricity.  What I particularly liked about this installation is that at first glance it appears to be about the art and technology used to translate the plant bioelectrical signals into sounds, however, it was commissioned to showcase the quality of the Sonos speaker system used to emit the end product.  A very slick marketing tool.

The mix of aural and other sensory stimuli is going to be key to my research going forward.  I am particular interested in contrasting metaphors and how like colour, unexpected sounds may produce a juxtaposition between the product and the environment it is being showcased in, thereby stimulating discussion and creating lasting memories.  For example if my work involves upcycling industrial objects, can these be contrasted effectively with the sounds of nature, rather than complemented by mechanical noise?


Broadbent, A (2015) ‘Multi-sensory experiential events: harnessing the science behind it’ posted 9 Apr 2015 available at [accessed 15.12.16]

Eco-friendly gramophone image