The future is audio?
For the last few days, I’ve been listening to and creating a mini personalised podcast. At 8am every morning, I receive a series of short recordings, edited together and set to music, from a group of friends narrating parts of their day. The recordings include random thoughts and musings, descriptions of what they’re doing (often very small things – cooking dinner is a common one ) or the sound of their children playing.
It’s using an app called Cappucino.fm and it’s wonderfully simple to use. Its beauty lies in capturing those smaller moments which are often forgotten. You get a real insight into others’ lives, without having to schedule group calls. There’s none of the cognitive dissonance that comes with Zoom, or the pressure to think of something really interesting to say. It’s just a narration of the everyday, caught in short ‘Beans’ (the name for the recordings).
Audio is having quite a resurgence. Clubhouse is everywhere, but as usual for new tech, appears to be beset by issues of bullying, inappropriate content and lack of moderation. (Reference Zoom nine months ago). I’ve been using it quite a lot and have been able to hear from groups of people I wouldn’t normally come across. I’ve been in conversations that have been intellectually stimulating, generous, fun, supportive and thought-provoking.
What I really like about Clubhouse is that I can listen in whilst doing other things because it's acceptable to ‘pop in and out’ of conversations. Like many of us, I feel as if I’m spinning plates at the moment. I simply don’t have time to take part in yet another 90 minute webinar. But listening to live conversations means that I feel connected and stimulated. Twitter’s so impressed, it’s even getting in on the action.
A lot of artists are experimenting with audio to help us connect with each other. Silvia Merculio’s Swimming is a meditative audio experience that takes place in the bath (yes, you read that right). I loved it. A Thousand Ways by 600 Highwaymen, pairs you up via a conference call with a stranger and asks you both to answer a series of questions. It was surprisingly moving to feel so connected to someone I’d never met (she was a teacher in her 50s in Minnesota) and I’ve found myself wondering about her quite a lot. David Rosenburg’s Darkfield Radio is a 360 audio experience and has been described as both ‘immensely rewarding’ and ‘unsettling’ and has caused quite a stir. Yannick Trapman-Obrien’s Telelibrary is an interactive phone experience that turns banal faceless customer service on its head. It’s both poignant and uplifting. Yannick describes it as ‘part theater, part game, [and] part self-care”
By its very nature, audio helps us to expand our imaginations and forces us to embrace our creativity. You can’t listen to a podcast and not imagine. The reason that so many of us feel disconnected and anxious, is because it’s not just our bodies in lockdown, but our brains too. Screen time, lack of real human contact and doom scrolling means that we are suffering from total overload. The paired-back nature of audio takes us away from this. It gives us a connection and intimacy that video conferencing just isn’t able to. There’s just something incredibly powerful about the human voice.
As creative scientist and Co-Founder of Kinda Studios Katherine Templar-Lewis says. ‘Humans aren’t made for long term stress. Isolation, stress, uncertainty over a long time will start to drain our energy and our cognitive reserve. Listening to audio can produce greater emotional and physiological engagement than watching a screen. It creates a genuine and measurable connection to others.’
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be experimenting with an audio project to help people connect with each other. If you’re interested in taking part, drop me a line.
Sascha, Founder, We the Creators