This year SXSW showcased a wide range of activations that emphasized the powerful role of sound in experiences.
Sony Wow Studio’s installation Ghostly Whisper which used audio technology to manifest a haunting experience for visitors. Enveloping attendees in otherworldly sound and haptics. Sony’s other activation the Acoustic Vessel Odyssey used over 500 speakers. Additionally, having a choreographed light show to present a voyage through space and time. With their enviable spatial audio technology, Sony was able to craft immersive group experiences without the need of cumbersome headphones.
Marshmallow Laser Feast, a creative studio out of London brought a mixed reality experience that incorporated visuals, sound and haptics to comment on the effect of man on the planet through clapping, whistling, hollering and singing under a virtual umbrella.
Our friends at Pandora made an intimate connection between sonic branding and our personal relationships with music at their SXSW house. Partnering with Tool of North America, Pandora’s experience involved interactive tables captured both musical preferences and mood. Therefore, using a simple questionnaire and facial recognition technology to ultimately craft a unique audio clip that “sounds like you”.
The much buzzed about Westworld: Live Without Limits used sound to set the stage for their transformational experience. Upon arrival, a player piano greeted participants with haunting covers of The Rolling Stones and Radiohead. The show’s iconic theme music infused the entry experience to the town of Sweetwater. Additionally, where live eerie folk music twinkled in the background, having senses of otherworldliness to every inch of the park.
In a four-day long immersive storytelling journey between multiple dimensions, creative collective Meow Wolf in collaboration with the Interactive Deep Dive and Man Made Music poetically disrupted the world of Bryan Bishop, a senior editor for the Verge. In his reflective piece on this once in a lifetime experience in the SimuLife Diaries, Bishop speaks to the transformative powers of the unique sound design that signaled rifting between these two worlds.
Panels also found ways to forge music into their topics. Dovetailing on Elon Musk’s surprise appearance and the announcement of SpaceX’s plans for Mars in 2019, Man Made brought music to the world of Mars exploration and colonization. Opening with an experiential score, Man Made discussed the future of culture on Mars in the panel Mars or Bust with outer space architect John Spencer and NASA astronaut, Yvonne Cagle. The conversation culminated in the first performance of Martian folk music, involving the panelists and audience alike.
SXSW continues to stay true to its musical routes. Therefore, having new and exciting ways to feature the power of sound on a far broader spectrum.