Exploring the Unheard: A Conversation with Andrea Cera – Part 2
“Also, because nobody listened to these sounds, even the nurse that should be paying attention. They really, they got used to this kind of droning sensation.”
“You have to tune it out.”
“Yes, yes, and imagine the mental load to do that, to tune out these kinds of sounds, and, of course, imagine the poor people that are in the hospital as a patient as well.” — Andrea Cera
This episode, “Exploring the Unheard” is the second half of my discussion with sound designer and composer Andrea Cera as we talk about his trial-and-error work on creating electric vehicle soundscapes, how the pandemic changed his work and his view of sound, and the perils of being his own audio guinea pig.
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(0:00:01) – From Intrusive to Non-Intrusive Sounds
As the second half starts, Andrea tells us about the challenge of building an electric vehicle’s interior soundscape from scratch. “You start to think,” he says, “‘Oh, okay, I’m doing this sound, and some poor person will have to listen to this sound every time he jumps in the car.'” We discuss the trial-and-error process he used to decide which sounds work best, and how quickly he became his own worst enemy. “So I started to design some of these,” he tells us, “and I make the experiment to each day listen to this at least once. And after one week I wanted to kill the sound designer, which is myself.”
Andrea also delves deeper into how the brain processes sound and music, and why musical ringtones on phones might not be such a good idea after all. “If you,” he explains, “each time you have a call, you receive a melody, you have parts of your brain that have to recognize the melody, retrieve it from memory catalog. Okay, this is a melody, and this is all mental fatigue for nothing.”
(0:11:47) – Impact of Remote Work on Sound
Our discussion turns to the pandemic and how the shift to remote work impacted Andrea’s research. “The research on low-intrusiveness for me is from before,” he explains, “and the pandemic didn’t really create a particular interest in that. On the contrary, what I really discovered during the pandemic is the possibilities of remote work in audio.” We talk about how online tools have removed the need for most of the face-to-face work we both remember from our early career, and about how the increased stress and frustration after the pandemic stem in part from the sounds that we’re surrounded by. “I think that you know the phenomenon of road rage,” he says. “Probably a little bit of this could be really changed with a sonic atmosphere inside of the car [that’s] less aggressive, less stressing.”
(0:20:17) – Impact of Sound on Movement
Andrea goes on to tell us how he’s working on larger, more ambitious programs to document sounds in hospitals and even city sounds. “Now we are on a project for studying how polluted urban soundscapes influence the quality of movement,” he explains,” so how your ability to be in balance, to be fluid in movement, can be disturbed by hearing sounds with a lot of roughness, for instance, or with a big spectral contrast from the background.” We also talk about the ethics of experimenting with sound on human subjects, and how often Andrea himself is the test subject. “Yes, the problem is that normally it’s me who has to be the real guinea pig,” he says. “I mean with me, I can try the hard stuff.”
(0:28:20) – Contact Information and Website Discussion
As our conversation comes to a close, Andrea tells our listeners how we can reach him online. “I have a horrible website,” he jokes. “It’s an incredibly horrendous website.” He also shares a YouTube link to the unobtrusive ringtones he designed for himself that you can download for yourself: you can find the same link just a little further down this page along with his social media links.
- Andrea’s research into crafting the perfect synthetic soundscape for vehicles.
- How the human brain processes obtrusive and unobtrusive sounds in different ways.
- The impact of the pandemic and remote work on Andrea’s audio research.
- Andrea’s latest work on improving hospital and urban soundscapes.
- How to reach Andrea online or download his custom ringtones for free.
Connect with the Guest
Low Intrusiveness Ringtones: https://youtu.be/NURXqMIrrpU/
Connect with Andrea Cera on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrea-cera-b08264b4/
Follow Andrea Cera on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andrea.cera.sound.design/
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This interview episode was very skillfully made to sound beautiful by the talented Humberto Franco.