I was asked to compose and design the sound for the launch of David Beckham's latest perfume. The perfume is called Instinct, and my aim was to come up with and use sounds that really get under the skin. The first sound that guests were subjected to was an ear cleaning piece. They were then shown in to a particularly confusing mirror maze. ASMR recordings were a starting point for me here, as I'm hugely interested in the closeness and sonic claustraphobia that these binaural recordings can conjur.
from my presentation to Bompas & Parr:
My starting point for the sonic cleanse was to create something that would calibrate the auditory system. This is the sound equivalent of a trips to the Roman baths, where ones body experiences hot and cold, back and forth repeatedly. The inclusion of loud, quiet, high pitch, low pitch, familiar, un familiar, musical, non musical sounds in my sonic cleanse is the auditory equivalent of this.
Our hearing sensitivity is much like our pupils, instinctively sensitising and de-sensitising depending on the power and frequency of sound incident on it. It is the tightening and relaxation of the muscles surrounding the timpanic membrane that governs our hearing sensitivity - tighter meaning less sensitive. This is nicely demonstrated by the cow-bell paradox. In a quiet room, the cow bell played solo is absolutely deafening and intolerable. However, in a loud Latin or rock concert environment it is common for the percussionist to ask for his fold-back monitor speakers to be turned up so that they can hear the cow bell that they're tonking with enormous force. This is a result of the de-sensitisation of the ears due to the kit-drums, guitars, loud brass etc.
This is also a hearing protection mechanism, as the timpanic membrane's tension can prevent over stimulation of the cochlea and auditory nerve. There is however a time delay in the stimulation which accounts for hearing damage due to loud impact sounds (gun shots, expolosions, air bag deployment). The timpanic membrane simply cannot stiffen up in time for these types of loud sounds.
By composing a short work that features all the types of sounds mentioned above, we have reset the timpanic membrane's instinctive sensitivity and prepared the listener for every possible sound artefact from then on.