Thu, 28 Jan 2021 14:01:57 GMT
The team at Goldstein travel the growing world of virtual listening platforms, enabling workspaces to become a soothing oasis.
We can’t be the only ones dreaming about holidays in 2021. It’s cold, it’s dark, and for the most part, we’re confined to our homes as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt our day-to-day lives. Will we ever be able to dabble in the sensory joys of a summertime vacation again?
Well, yes, actually. In fact, it’s something we can do right now. The future is in our palms (or rather, our laptops), as modern technology grants us the ability to travel the world vicariously through the medium of virtual listening platforms. From live-streamed window-gazing to field recording soundscapes, exotic worlds and mind-easing spaces are quite literally at our fingertips.
As countless neuroscientific studies have proven, sound can transport the mind to other places in ways that other senses cannot. Here, then, are our favourite virtual listening platforms for taking us out of the living-room-workspace and to places more soothing, stimulating and exciting.
A pair of advertising creatives living in Singapore created WindowSwap after lockdown restrictions left them wondering what their friends abroad were up to. The result is an online channel where users can upload a 10-minute video of their window frame and everything seen through it, which are then curated to be accessed at random via a button on the website.
WindowSwap, then, can take you anywhere. And with ambient sound recordings also included in each stream, the transportive power is strong. We’ve listened to piano recitals by the Whanganui River in New Zealand, tuned in to AM Radio at a snowy village in Hyderabad, and embraced the idle chit chat of a couple gazing over Kowloon Bay from a Hong Kong skyscraper. It’s as close as we’ll get to an Airbnb stay this side of lockdown.
BBC Soundscapes For Wellbeing
This new collaborative project from the BBC encourages users to create their own soundscapes via the broadcaster’s relaunched Sound Effects Archive. With over 33,000 sounds (including categories like ‘Nature’, ‘Animals’ and ‘Electronics’) and a mixer tool accessible via a website, the service offers people stuck at home the opportunity to “build a virtual gateway in your living room”.
There’s a walkthrough of the process provided by BBC Radio 1 ‘Chillest Show’ host Sian Eleri for the uninformed, while a series of ‘Mindful Mixes’ with titles like ‘The Sleeping Forecast’ and ‘Mindful Yoga’ offer some ready-made examples. It’s all part of a broad project encouraging mindfulness, relaxation and mental nourishment through the medium of sound, held in conjunction with BBC Radio 3, BBC6 Music, BBC Sounds and BBC Two’s Winterwatch. The University of Exeter, meanwhile, is conducting a scientific experiment on how virtual experiences of nature impact wellbeing.
LIDL Field Recordings
An album of field recordings by supermarket brand Lidl found a wide audience at the end of 2020 after being popularised on social media platform Twitter. ‘Allt annat är olidligt’ is a 21-track compilation of till bleeps, bag packing sounds, and in-store loudspeaker announcements, all captured inside a Lidl franchise store in Sweden.
The unconventional marketing technique seems conducive to a year where much of the world is stuck at home, but the campaign actually dates back to 2019. Lidl was banking on creative advertising to penetrate the Swedish market; the album was released alongside clothes, store signs and food packages as customers were encouraged to “open-up shop” and invite friends over for dinner. As far as virtual listening platforms go, this is a quirky one, indeed.
“I’ve been interested in how sound and music affects our brains and bodies for a long time,” said Brian d’Souza on a May 2020 blog post. He was exploring how music can regulate moods, trigger childhood memories and help us connect socially all over the world.
The investigation led to him conducting a new experiment: taking the same sense of flow that keeps people dancing during an exhilarating DJ set at a club, and applying that to ambient music. Rather than using music to invigorate people’s bodies, ‘Ambient Flo‘ does the opposite.
The result is an expertly-crafted sequence of subdued and relaxing sounds that also takes the listener on a journey, with mixes combining works from the likes of Steve Reich, MKWAJU Ensemble and Boards of Canada, to take the listeners through distinct phases of relaxation.
National Trust Podcast
Diegetic narrators regale the history of countless country parks across Britain while strolling through their grounds; with the audible background sounds of each ramble building a vivid picture, The National Trust Podcast is as rich an experience as any.
Another great example of such utilisation of field recordings can be found in BBC Radio 3’s Slow Radio podcast, which encourages listeners to pause for 20-30 minute episodes of ambient and environmental sounds. Episodes range from filed recordings from lighthouses at the edge of the sea, the Flying Scotsman steam engine train, and Downtown Nashville, Tennessee.