We Need To Relearn How To Listen

A BRIEF STORY OF HOW I BECAME A SOUND THINKER

Sound is the first sensorial manifestation that we have when we are still in our mother’s womb. We start listening to the heart sound and later on our mother’s voice. However, as a matter of fact and in a conscious way my sound memories take me back to my 4 or 5 years of age, when I listened The Beatles in a record player with my father. I remember exactly the needle
noise slowly touching the record and that music taking over the entire house. I also had a lot of fun making some recordings with a little Akay mic in a 3 in 1 Gradiente player back in mid 80s.

Some time after this, I was introduced to several musical instruments and I, luckily or unluckily to my parents and neighbours, choose the piano, the reverberation from my instrument usually passed through walls and quickly got to the ears of everybody around. Without really knowing why, I chose the erudite path, I tried to learn and evolve during seven
long years, until I realise that reading music sheets and follow pre-determined paths did not move me anymore. I paused the musical sounds and increased the sounds of childhood, such as friends inviting me to play football in a rainy summer afternoon.

In my teenage years, a lot changes, including the way I see and hear the world. I started another love relation with music, but now through a guitar. I played in a few bands with little to zero recognition. What moved me the most was not to play gigs but to connect and find new sound textures, rhythms and to bring different musicians with a completely different approach do share musical experiences.

Some years passed and I got into university. I chose public relations as a matter of empathy but not understanding what that really meant. In university, we had an integration between public relations, advertising and journalism in the first three semesters, naturally I got really interested and close to the advertising classes in order to stay in touch with the sound
studios on the university. After a while, my classmates started to get in advertising agencies. At the same time, I focused my studies on how to value activities and value all stakeholders when building a consistent brand message with working groups. Only after six months I got in some
sound production companies, I got closer to the advertising market and the whole branding universe. It was an amazing time where I was able to work with people who taught me a lot.

I have always been a questioning person and consequently I started to question the way that sound production companies put their ideas into action through sound, by doing this I started to understand why this or that musical genre or vocal pattern was being choose to a certain brand launching.

The music match aesthetically the 30-second ad but I wondered, does it connect with the people who were actually targeted to buy that product? It was a habit in those days to dedicate just a little time in endless production meetings to discuss sound, regardless the film budget. Ironically, in many cases we would hear from the client:

“The sound is 50% of this film ok? I am counting on you”.

Wait, what? The sound is 50% and we dedicated less than 5% of the time to discuss it? Sometimes the idea of sounds would come to us already pre-conceived, without room to trigger reflections about it.

The discomfort of it started to get more and more evident in me, my ideas were no longer matching the consolidated format of doing things. After a short while, I decided to start my own company. I was 24 years old and with two more partners, I thought that would be possible in an easier way to change the way of doing things on the sound market. Oh the young
minds, as another sound production company on the Brazilian market focused on advertising, we worked a wide range of existing formats, but still, within existing formats. I faced not only market resistance to new things but also my own resistance to achieve the understanding of
what I really wanted to get with all of this.

Five years and many experiences later I learnt the “Sound Landscape” concept, by R. Murray Shafer. Studying books such as Soundscape and The Tuning of the World, I started to expand my perception about sound. On these books, the author states that we live in a paradox between the evolution of big urban centres and the involution around the sound perception.

PEOPLE ARE LISTENING LESS AND LESS WHAT HAPPENS AROUND THEM

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Intuitively (or not), I started to cross exam all of the points around sound and started to aggregate other subjects to it, such as behaviour research, new technology, new tools on branding to generate new ideas and new brand experience. The more I studied; more the critical side of me would appear. Gradually, new projects with complex result delivery were developed and its results started to be acknowledge in different parts of the world. This brought a more holistic view towards sound, intending not only to fulfil the interests of a brand but also of people, creating a positive impact in a shared way. As we finished a learning cycle, another one
would take its place and start.

Little by little, I was shaping my company into something deeper and perennial but there was yet some dissonances. We were still a sound production company and in many cases, we were producing sound in an audio clogged world, without realizing the consequences that this
brings to brands, its clients and employees. Our sound was losing itself. Then something clicked. This constant quest for purpose, obviously brought discomfort as I broke the partnership with my other two partners whom had started this journey with me and were without any doubt very
important. Today is clear to me that as I got closer to my beliefs I was distancing myself from other people and ways to do things that did not make sense to me. As the time went by, more and more changes happened in my business and in my way of thinking.

I started to build a team without fear of experimentation. We started to bring people from different areas and even clients to our creative process. A new working culture was born inside us, a culture where the sound is thought in its whole form, we call this methodology Sound Thinking.

OUR PURPOSE IS CLEAR: WE NEED TO EXPAND PEOPLE’S AND BRAND’S SENSES ABOUT THE UNIVERSE OF SOUND AROUND US

An awareness effort that got stronger as each project was delivered.

Today, our team is interdisciplinary and connect to a network of several high expertise partners, inside and outside Brazil. We have the freedom to bring different people with different backgrounds for each challenge that is laid in front of us. More strategies and curatorial pursuit with less static formats. Working in a co-creative and truly interdisciplinary way along with our clients. Evolving and learning daily how can we help to change lives, businesses and the society through sound.

Nevertheless, the intersection points arise faster and faster each time, as a friend and founder of Flag, Roberto Martini said:

“When changes happen on a daily basis, we cannot consider them changes anymore but a part of your reality.”

“…this discovery process may be scary at first. It is like when we are in a dark room and suddenly we open a door to a much brighter room. We know that we are entering a bright and well lit room but we cannot see properly yet, but after a short while everything starts to get clearer and it’s a very good feeling.”

That is it. We need to re-learn how to listen. Pay attention to people we love, our co- workers, staff, bosses, partners, neighbours, clients, and people in general, but most importantly, we need to re-learn how to listen to ourselves. Welcome to our sound journey.

Paulo Dytz Published by Paulo Dytz

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