SoundCloud is one of the most exciting digital music companies to us right now. Founded in Berlin in 2007 by CEO Alexander Ljung, it allows collaboration, promotion and distribution of audio clips.Wired 2011 in London this afternoon, Ljung spoke about the beauty of sound and how the difference between creator and consumer is getting smaller and smaller. He was joined onstage by Tim Exile, a musician and sound artist who runs regular “Crowdjams.”
“When SoundCloud released an app,” Exile said, “I could do something I’d wanted to do for ages.” He sets up a “sound inbox,” in which people can drop audio clips that they’ve recorded. Exile then weaves these clips into music.
“What’s the weirdest sound you’ve received?” asked Ljung.
“There’s always a fart,” Exile replied.
The pair discussed the relationship between sound and music. “Right now, the musician’s relationship to sound is dominant,” he said. “That’s very abstract — making shapes out of sounds.”
Exile called for more attention to audio that isn’t music. “It’s easy to hear sound like sound, but there’s this huge semantic linguistic layer that can also tell us all sorts of things about our environment,” said Exile. That linguistic layer incorporates other things too. “Sound can have a gestural quality to it.”
Ljung agreed. “Sound is so big a part of us that we almost forget that it’s there. If I look at my life and the whole world history, we have memories in photos and videos and text, but history is mute.” Exile pointed out that that context is crucial — “Music gets interesting when it’s by someone, with someone, from a certain place or at a certain time.” Sound is the same.
In the video above, which Ljung showed publicly for the first time onstage at Wired 2011, a cast of musicians share their relationships with sound. It includes contributions from Moby and Imogen Heap, among others.
“Listen to all the stuff around you,” urged Ljung. “There’s a lot more things happening sound-wise than you think. If you want to capture that and share it with your friends, it’s fun. It’ll help you build up a history that’s not just visual.”
“And use the SoundCloud app to do it,” added Exile, through a broad smile.
Follow the rest of Wired 2011’s talks in our live coverage at the Wired 2011 hub. You will be able to watch a video of this entire talk on Wired.co.uk next week.