Musical Communication: A Manifesto

Susan Stone is the Founder and Creative Director of CECILIA, a new creative shop specializing in music as a layer of communication. She brought her expertise in effective and meaningful musical communication as a member of the Advertising Jury for the ADC 93rd Annual Awards of Art + Craft in Advertising and Design and has been an active member of the Club ever since. Susan will be Guest Editing the blog this month, leading us on an exploration of Musical Communication and how it affects all kinds of creative work. From the score in that tear-jerking commercial, to the playlists you rely on to get you through a day at the office, music has the power to change your outlook and inspire your next big idea. Susan, take us away!

Susan StoneMusic is used to change, enhance or imagine the world around us, turning ordinary moments into extraordinary ones. Music is also something everyone has a wonderfully different opinion on.  And yet we all started out as near identical tiny clusters of vibrating cells, to become these beating Emo hearts.

To me, music is a perfect sensory blend of art and science. It is primal, surviving over 80,000 years of human evolution and often considered the very crux of what makes us human, after all.  It is arguably the oldest form of ‘interactive communication.” By definition, interactive means two things that have an impact on each other. It is as much about listening as feeling listened to.

Storytelling, disruption, engagement — whatever jargon du jour is used, this is ultimately the goal. We take cues from the world and from what we know in our heads, and create meaning. This means both a cultural and aesthetic connection which we want to experience or express.

As a creative person by title, it’s probably surprising to see psychology and science feature so prominently in this very special sonic edition of the ADC Blog. But as individuals we thrive in balance of art, science and spirituality.  And I believe we need to bring some old-fashioned heart and soul back into our world.

We can only get deeply creative within sonic arts and music when we actually understand music and sound as a layer of communication. This is about the songs that soundtrack our everyday experiences, as more than 90% of music listening happens when we’re doing something else. This is about the beauty and protection of silence as much as making noise.  It’s about resonance and identity.

“To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.” — Henry Thoreau

So with this, I am deep diving into the world of the sonic arts myself, to provide a hub of innovation that looks (well, listens) to the world in a different way, to help guide this movement forward. I am extremely grateful for the recent adventures that have pushed me to this decision! This past year I’ve been honored to be a part of the incredible 2014 ADC Jury, received my Masters in Music Psychology, spoken at the mind-blowing Creative Summit in Sweden, been recognized in by Guardian Culture for musical contributions and witnessed some unforgettable record club moments (a real perk of my job!). I’ve also been humbled by working with the ambitious talent at VICE on large scale experiential content, as well as inspiring projects with Spotify, Louis Vuitton, Nike and Dior amongst others.

To be clear, this manifesto of sorts is not about making expensive and glamorous work even more glamorous. This is about making our everyday life experience better. This is about elevating the human experience through music and culture, even just a little teeny bit.

Art and commerce need different rules for today’s world. Just because artists might not want to license a song for a commercial, does not mean they don’t believe in commercial success, nor does it make then assholes. If we can push past the stock photo of a crowd surfing girl wearing carefully selected, disheveled chic clothing, and appreciate that nobody listens to music holding both sides of their headphones and smiling like a fool, the future sounds incredibly bright.

Audiences are smart, and art is to be appreciated. You are a catalyst to the relationship between listener and sound. You are not the artist, or the cynic, or the passenger, or the blank check. You are here to make brilliant things happen, and get credit for it.

You are here to make brilliant things happen, and get credit for it.

I invite everyone to join in making the world a more interesting place to be listening. As Bill and Melinda Gates recently addressed in their recent Stanford commencement speech, it’s not enough to innovate if it is purely market-driven. I hope that my most important work to date is yet to come (watch this space!). But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a LOT of fun in the process.

Please join us as we highlight people who are stretching the boundaries of sonic arts and design, from music and food, music videos, award-winning work, and even a DIY sound therapy kit for accessing creativity.