Julian's blog: Gratitude with a twist

March 30th, 2007
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They say that all publicity is good publicity, and I am overwhelmed with the huge interest that the book has been creating in all media. Radio in particular has loved it – natural I guess for a story all about sound. I’m grateful for the skill and intelligence with which the various media have grasped and conveyed the basic proposition – that sound is massively powerful; that most of the sound we encounter is undesigned and a lot of it is inappropriate; and that there is as a result a huge opportunity for businesses that take control of their sound.

I enjoyed the live spot on Radio 5 Live’s Wake Up To Money, despite the early start (the alarm went off at 4am). Then I sat in the Today Programme’s Green Room for a couple of hours in case they wanted something live from me, though as it turned out they were very happy with what we’d recorded, and put together a great short report (you can hear it on the wikispace). I got to swap “Good Morning”s with John Humphries, the Chief Rabbi and several other eminences.

Today has an audience of six million, and the number of emails and further press inquiries I received during the following days underlined its impact. The Scotsman newspaper called and I did an interview about the Glasgow Airport soundscape which they ran on page 3 on the following day (Saturday March 24th); this led in turn to a spot on Radio Scotland’s Fred McAuley Show, and to interest from The Guardian – more on that below. BBC Three Counties Radio wanted a telephone interview while I was still at Shepherd’s Bush, and then Radio 2 called for a telephone interview during Chris Evans’s Drivetime that evening. That was a long day!

The momentum continues… tonight (Friday 30th) I am going in to Bush House to do a 20-minute piece for BBC World Service, so the book goes global. Next Tuesday I’m meeting Time magazine, and Thursday evening I’ll be back in a studio to talk to New York City’s public radio service WNYC, chatting on their music/arts programme Soundcheck.

So far the only hiccup has been the unfortunate misrepresentation in The Guardian leader, which said that I wanted to fill the world with ‘soothing lounge Muzak’. This is diammetrically opposed to my view, and to the thesis of the book, which is that every space’s soundscape should be individually designed to suit the acoustics, the function, the brand or values behind the space, and most of all the people in it. One size does not fit all – musically or otherwise. It’s not surprising that my purported view came in for some stick in the online comments. I do understand the passionate stance of the members of Pipe Down and the other anti-piped music lobby groups. On the other hand, it’s equally wrong to say that music is never the right soundscape. Miss Selfridge could spent lots of money with The Sound Agency and after careful consideration I am certain that our conclusion, based on psychoacoustic principles and our wonderful SoundFlow™ model, would be… play pop music!

I hope that the book will open up the debate and sensitise people, and that in a few years we will be hearing a vast range of designed soundscapes in spaces, all created thoughtfully and with as much care as the interior design was. What an interesting world that will be!

PS Muzak is a US corporation and the word muzak is their trademark, so we should avoid using it in discussing mindless piped music.

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