With advanced audio technologies becoming more accessible, sound is offering new sensory experiences.

At this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Glen Neath and David Rosenberg revealed Séance, an immersive experience that uses a combination of sound and complete darkness to heighten senses and take audiences on a paranormal adventure. Describing the experience in three words, Neath says it’s “Dark. Unsettling. Fun.”

Spectators are given a pair of headphones and seated around a table in a pitch-black shipping container. Every sound is amplified in the darkness. The project uses binaural sound technology, which replicates sound in a 360° space, to create an intense and intimate spatial audio effect.

“We don’t go overboard on the special effects,” Neath tells JWT Intelligence. “The experience is very much about feeling unsure of what’s happening. Binaural technology is really effective in that way. You can set up a situation where the people listening aren’t sure what is real and what isn’t real.”

Séance sound and darkness immersive performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Image: Fiona Rita Blyth.
Séance performance. Image: Fiona Rita Blyth.
Hands at the Séance sound and darkness immersive performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Image: Fiona Rita Blyth.

Following the success of the experience in Edinburgh, the show will come to Brighton from the 27th to 29th October. Séance will be the first in a series of three container shows exploring the concept of fear. Pitch-black theatre has become more popular over the past few years, as it can provoke intense sensations and offer audiences new ways to experience storytelling.

Séance is just one example of how the power of sound is being explored creatively. “The World is Sound” at the Rubin Museum, considers how sound has shaped history and how it can intensify the experience of art. Le Corps Sonore, the centerpiece of the exhibition, encourages “visitors to slow down and consider their bodily engagement with sound,” investigating the connection between sound and the body. This concept is further explored in our 2016 Future 100 report, where we discuss the rise of sound baths and sonic meditation sessions as a route to wellbeing.

The rise of voice technology, as explored in Speak Easy, underlines the growing importance of sound for brands. Some products are even allowing consumers to control the sounds in their environment. Here One earbuds claim to control real-world sound and reduce background chatter, airplane noise and subway screeching.  Consumers are also embracing sound as a means of storytelling. In fact, audiobook sales increased by 18.2% and podcast listening increased by 23% in 2016. An app called Novel Effect, which was selected for Amazon’s Alexa accelerator in July, uses voice technology to add sound effects and music to stories read aloud to kids, showing the potential of sound in this space.

There are many ways brands can harness the potential of sound, from immersive audio experiences to on-the-go storytelling.  The powerful medium can play a major role in developing a brand’s voice and personality and can offer opportunities to engage consumers emotionally.

Main image: Fiona Rita Blyth.