I recently read Julian Treasure’s interesting Sound Business, a book aimed at getting business to make sound design a core element of their management. Overall, I found this to be a rewarding read – however, late in the second part of the book, Treasure writes something startling
Of more concern lately have been the negative effects of heavy metal and rap music, which combine tempo, rhythm, pitch, texture, density and sheer volume to create a profound effect on their listeners and are strongly suspected of creating unhealthy psychological and attitudinal states, including misogyny, aggressiveness and depression, and of causing a range of violent and antisocial behaviours such as violence, crime, self-harm, cult membership, and even suicide.
This surprised me. I had thought that the era of heavy metal moral panic had passed, or at least passed into the domain of individual parents and isolated events. Yet further down the page, Treasure makes a yet bolder statement:
Wesley Willis was a Chicago man who, aged 26, had a psychotic episode and developed paranoid schizophrenia. To help combat his demons, he would play his keyboards and sing songs he had written. (I am not using the term “demons” figuratively; one of the symptoms of Willis’ schizophrenia was that he spoke of his recurring torment at the hands of three demons, named Heartwrecker, Nervewrecker, and Meansucker.) Of the hundreds of songs he wrote, several recurring themes can be identified.
Julian Treasure is the Chairman of British company The Sound Agency, described as ‘the world’s leading business sound consultancy’. “Business sound” may seem like a strange concept, and it is precisely for this reason that Treasure wrote this book, which claims to be the the ‘first book to map the unexplored land of sound in business’.
Treasure, who is well-known for his TED Talks on sound (1, 2, 3) intends this book to create awareness in businesspeople of the various sounds their businesses make, their causes, and – most importantly – their effects. Treasure believes that sound is a largely untapped field in business, with great potential for improving a company. Consider branding – how many companies have associated visuals beyond logos into consistent colour schemes, distinct product design, and even recognizable fonts? But other than ad jingles, most companies have not extended their brand into audible forms.