Possibly a sound idea

One of the more notable performances at the Hear Now Festival was by Marjorie Van Halteren, this year’s Norman Corwin Award winner. She augmented her brilliant live spoken word performance by numerous ambient sound effects that she triggered from her notebook computer.

The effect was spectacular, and it got me thinking. At some point in the near future, when SmartPhones have been supplanted in everyday life by wearables, we will all have the ability to pepper our conversation with interactive sonic landscapes.

Of course this could be very bad, but then a lot of good things start out being very bad, before people really understand them. For example, in the early days of the Web, websites were peppered with flashing banner ads.

Those annoying ads soon went away, mainly because everybody hated them. Web sites still have ads, but now they tend to be unobtrusive — yet still clearly sufficiently effective that you don’t need to pay a fee to use Google.

So, thinking past a possible “annoying sound effects that nobody wants to hear” phase, how might our every day conversation be augmented in an interesting way to a mutually interesting sonic landscape? How might we modulate that landscape in the course of our conversation, as a natural part of our speech?

Maybe those ambient sounds will serve as a sort of sonic equivalent of hand gestures. Maybe we will literally use hand gestures to invoke them.

I don’t know the answers, but I do think this is something worth playing with. It could very well turn out to be a sound idea.

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