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Creating Sonic Connoisseurs

Making the Appreciation of ‘Sound’ a Passion for Our Clients to Pursue

Home theater professionals should peruse websites and publications of luxury offerings. In doing so they will notice how many interests and passions are available for our clientele to pursue.

Our clients passionately engage in collecting, traveling, yachting, and are connoisseurs of fine wines and dining. Luxury experiences stimulate their senses and add a vital dimension of fulfillment to their lives. Unfortunately, hearing often is the least appreciated sense.

Human beings are designed to have an intimate relationship with sound. Sound, and most importantly, music, has a powerful sensory effect on us, physiologically, psychologically, cognitively, and behaviorally. Unfortunately, our culture and environments have tarnished that relationship to the point where we have become, instead, victims of noise. This fact represents a threat and a challenge to our industry.

If sound is relegated to the status of noise, then a large part of our allure is lost. The challenge is to change the perception that sound is only noticed when it is bad to an experience appreciated and sought after. When must introduce that valued and intimate relationship with sound to our clientele.

Sound affects us in many ways. Physiologically, noise induces those chemical reactions that result in anxiety, fear, or stress. It can also cause physical harm. Cognitively, distractions rob us of our ability to focus. Behaviorally, those physiological effects can result in negative behavior. Emotionally, we react to the aforementioned negative effects with anxiety, stress, and irritability. This is disheartening because sound should be a source of great joy.

The right kind of relationship with sound would mean that we would be energized by uplifting sounds and calmed by silence or peaceful, soothing sounds. We would enjoy serene surroundings where we could focus on tasks or companionship. Finally, we would be able to see sound as a source of pleasure and a pursuit of a joy that we have missed and should be an added dimension to our lives.

We all have a tendency to minimize the importance of things that we are either not aware of or want to avoid. That is the case with sound. A lot of people do not realize the upside of this experience but do know that they don’t like noise.

We can all agree that something rare is generally more valuable. In today’s world, silence is extremely rare. In fact, when demonstrating a private theater for our clientele, this is where we start. We explain that they have become the owner of a rare and precious item. It is not the theater that we refer to but the manner in which the theater was designed and built. “Silence” is what makes this element possible. Without fail, this demonstration is an epiphany. It opens the door to so much more.

We go on from there to explain the practical values of their quiet room. An analogy would be in how a fine wine is presented. This is effective on a number of levels. It identifies that there are differences and attributes to be perceived. It confirms the value of their quiet room on that level. Most importantly, it identifies the sonic experience as something to be treasured. In this room, the nuance of a soundtrack–like the particular bouquet of a prized vintage of wine–can truly be appreciated. Nuance can come from the ambient quality of a movie soundtrack that paints the intended mental image or the particular touch on the keyboard of a favorite artist, artfully recorded. It is only in a well-designed room that these attributes can be heard.

When it comes to music, most of us can effortlessly recognize songs, often from a single note. Music also has a powerful emotional effect. Most people, for instance, can remember the song that represents the time they fell in love.

Encourage your clients to appreciate and recognize the quality of silence, the sensation of reverberation, the presence of a space’s acoustical character, the acoustic ecology of wild spaces, and the impact on health. The appreciation of the sonic qualities of pure reproduced audio can inform and enrich the lives of our clientele beyond just enjoyment of a song or a soundtrack.

Where would the sommelier be without the wine connoisseur or the horologist without collectors? It is as if we were the inventors of wine, but people did not know of it–a pleasure unexploited! It is time to share.

I want to thank Wes Lethem of Paradise Theater and Gabriela Arango of Harman Luxury Audio who contributed to the content of this column.