Philip Glass on Listening (and Composing) at 80

Philip Glass on Listening (and Composing) at 80

Article by: Piotr Orlov
Photography by: Danny Clinch

 

Philip Glass opens his own door. He ushers me into the front room of his East Village brownstone — busy, unkempt and fully lived-in — to drop my coat off and wait a minute. I am, it seems, early, and Glass is still busy with his previous task. As I peel layers that protected me from a frosty New York afternoon, Glass shuffles into the next room over — the music room, it turns out — and gets back to quietly, intently banging out single notes on a piano. Let me tell you, there is no feeling like the feeling you get when you realize that you have accidentally interrupted Philip Glass — among the most influential American composers of the last century, one of the masters of contemporary classical music “with repetitive structures” (he shies away from the term “minimalist”), recipient of countless arts awards and lifetime-achievement medals — from working on music.

 

Philip Glass' shelf of sheet music and a PLAY:3.

 

Glass has lived in this house since 1984, and that crowded room — grand piano, synthesizer, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filling up much of its capacity, sheet music, art and Eastern artifacts on every surface — is where he does his composing. It is, in fact, the room where he wrote most of Symphony No. 11, which premiered at Carnegie Hall on January 31st, which also happened to be Glass’s 80th birthday, the overlapping hallmarks far from a coincidence.

“The whole thing was a set-up,” Glass says through a smirk that rarely disappears during our conversation, a couple of weeks after the event. “The people who work for me commissioned it to be done on my birthday which was going to take place at Carnegie Hall.” (He assumes a voice of faux-incredulity: “No pressure. ’Oh, I see, this is my party and I have to do the work?’”) Glass says he temporarily fretted the stressful circumstances — rewriting the symphony’s last 11 pages after the first rehearsal because “I realized that the ending was not definitive enough” — but estimates that the debut, performed by the Bruckner Orchestra Linz, under the direction of its chief conductor (and longtime Glass collaborator), Dennis Russell Davies, went over pretty well. “The reception seemed fairly authentic. People really did like it. They weren’t just applauding because I was 80, like you might see with [older] people out running in the park, and people go ‘Yay’ only because they can still do it.”

“My days of listening were connected to my father’s record store, where I began working when I was 12. My first job in the music world was advising people what records they should buy, so I had to know all the records in the store."

A moment later, referencing his own feelings in the symphony’s aftermath, Glass casually declares that “Writing it and hearing it is not exactly the same.” In a nutshell, this dichotomy is at the center of our discussion: how, for a composer, especially one as long-established as Glass, the acts of conceiving and listening are both intertwined and separate, and how such actions relate to one another when writing a massive piece such as the Eleventh.

 

Philip Glass' piano with a PLAY:5.

 

For Glass, some notions of these concepts arrived early. Though he began attending Baltimore’s prestigious Peabody music school at the age of eight, he’s certain that “My days of listening were connected to my father’s record store, where I began working when I was 12. My first job in the music world was advising people what records they should buy, so I had to know all the records in the store. They would come in and say, ‘Well, I want to buy Beethoven’s Third Symphony’ and I would say, ‘Do you like it fast or do you like it slow? If you like it slow, you can get Bruno Walter’s. If you like it fast, we can get you Toscanini. If you want an American [version], we got Leonard Bernstein’s.’ I had to listen professionally, you might say.”

Glass’s listening also needed to be mindful of the budding audiophile market. “We were aware of which were the good sounding records and which were not, but the people who were nuts about sound they didn’t care about the content. We’d say, ‘We just got a new marching-band record, you won’t believe how the brass sounds.’ We were selling music.”

As Glass moved through his schooling and creative evolution — at the University of Chicago and at New York’s Julliard School of Music; then in Paris, studying with the famous composition teacher Nadia Boulanger and notating the Indian music of Ravi Shankar; then back to New York, where in 1967 he founded the Philip Glass Ensemble for the performance of his own budding compositions — he says, “I hardly listened at all.”

Glass’ fluency reading music and imagining it off the page accelerated his understanding of compositions and its forms. “I would pretend to be following lectures and actually I was reading a Beethoven quartet,” he says of racing the pedagogues and winning “because I could read faster.” Yet he also recognized the flaws in conceptualizing composed sound without actually listening back to it. “Are we hearing it accurately? Are we writing down what we want to hear?” Glass asks. In his mind, the greatest challenge of imagined accuracy is “hearing the music in real-time. It’s very hard to do. So you end up playing it on the piano,” which, if the piece is symphonic, is not the music’s true representation either. The relationship between linear time and writing is a life-long conundrum. “I think these are challenges for composers at any point in their life. You don’t get particularly better — you may learn certain tricks, but that’s it.”

 

Philip Glass has the ability to hear sheet music from the page.

 

Technology has certainly changed his landscape. It is interesting to hear Glass — who recently had a Sonos system set up throughout his house — discuss digital tools as “assets” in his process. Including, in the writing of the new symphony.

“I was working with Dennis,” he recounts of the lead-up to the Carnegie Hall premiere. “We were going over some transitions, and he had the rehearsals on a digital recorder. I had it put on Dropbox, pulled up the rehearsal on my phone, so we listened to it [together], and would say, ‘well maybe we can cut a couple of measures here.’ Now in my music room, I tend to listen to playback of things, the rehearsal tapes. That became very useful.”

Aging has done its share to affect how Glass’ hears — “Perceptual faculties become degraded biologically,” he says, matter of factly. “Look I’m 80, what else is going to happen?” – but also, more importantly, what he chooses to hear.

“Mostly, I listen occupationally. Of course it’s fun to listen, but I don’t listen for fun. When I listen to Anoushka Shankar’s new album, for instance, I am more listening to see if she’s got a good band, if they’re playing together, would Ravi be happy when he heard it. Or, if I hear an orchestra, I want to hear the conductor, I want to hear how they sound.” The smirk rises to the fore once more. “I have all kinds of sinister agendas [for listening] tucked away.”

Glass says that, beyond music, he has other reasons to love his Sonos set-up. “I find that in my bedroom, I listen to the news — the stations are listed and they don’t drift. But listening for pleasure…” His voice trails away. “My ideal place is some place where they don’t play music. I found for example, that Chinese restaurants in New York don’t have music, have you noticed that?”


PLAYBASE brings Gorillaz’ Spirit House to life

PLAYBASE brings Gorillaz Spirit House to life

This month sees the launch of Gorillaz’ first album in six years – Humanz – and we’re excited to be helping them celebrate. Together, we’re creating an immersive audio and visual experience called the Spirit House – a place where fans can go deeper into the band’s dark, fantasy world, be dazzled by spectacular visuals, and surround by high fidelity sound.

And it’s all brought to life by PLAYBASE, the latest addition to our home theatre range and the perfect fit for this sonic adventure.

 

 

As bassist, Murdoc Niccals, puts it, “Come and bathe in high-tech sound, feast on unearthly visuals, and let the experience take you on the ultimate trip.”

From April 21 onwards, Spirit Houses will be bringing the transformative power of PLAYBASE to fans all over the world. These spaces will include a real-life manifestation of Murdoc, 2D, Russel and Noodle’s lounge in Gorillaz’ own home, offering fans the opportunity to dive deeper into their world through music and visuals, physical installations and projection mapping technology.

  • New York City

    Friday, April 21 - Sunday, April 23
    12 - 8pm

    Industria
    39 South 5th Street
    Brooklyn, NY 11249

  • Berlin

    Frietag 28. April - Sonntag 30. April
    12 bis 20 Uhr

    Kaufhaus Jandorf
    Brunnenstraße 19-20
    10119 BERLIN

  • Amsterdam

    Zaterdag 6 mei
    11:00u. - 20:00u.

    Gabriel Rolt Gallery
    Tolstraat 84
    1073 SE Amsterdam

Admittance is free and fans can register for entry at sonos.com/gorillaz.


PLAYBAR or PLAYBASE: Choose your fit

PLAYBAR or PLAYBASE: Choose Your Fit

First came our PLAYBAR, the ideal partner for wall-mounted TVs. And now, we’ve launched our brand new PLAYBASE, designed to sit directly beneath your TV set and bring amazing sound to any room.

Both look sleek, sound amazing and give you cinema sound in your very own living room. So what differentiates the two speakers? How do they stack up on features, sound and design? And most importantly, which one’s the right fit for you?

Read on to get the lowdown…

Packed with great features

Both PLAYBAR and PLAYBASE are two-in-one speakers, delivering cinema sound when your TV’s on and streaming music when it’s not. Connect them up to Sonos SUB, PLAY:1, PLAY:3 or PLAY:5 speakers and you can fill your home with music, create a surround sound set-up, or deliver sound from your TV to every room in the house.

When it comes to features, PLAYBAR and PLAYBASE are also a pretty even match – offering:

  • Trueplay, which adjusts sound quality to suit the room you’re in.
  • Dialogue Enhancement, which improves the clarity of voices on TV.
  • Night Mode, which tones down the bass on loud action scenes.

Both PLAYBAR and PLAYBASE can be controlled with your usual TV remote, as well as the Sonos app. And because they’re designed for firmware updates, they’re forever improving – with a voice control feature scheduled for later in 2017.

What about the sound?

Again, both speakers deliver crystal-clear sound, albeit with a slightly different array of speaker drivers. PLAYBASE boasts a 10-driver speaker system, made up of six mid-range, three tweeters and one woofer. PLAYBAR, meanwhile, has a nine-driver system, with six mid-woofers and three tweeters. Both have Class-D digital amplifiers on board too.

All about the design

What makes all the difference between the two is the dramatically different design.

PLAYBAR is a long, black and silver strip of a speaker, measuring 900mm wide by 140mm high and weighing in at 5.4kg. Although it can sit flat on a TV unit or shelving system, it’s primarily designed for wall-mounted TVs.

PLAYBASE, on the other hand, is ideal for the 70% of TVs that sit on furniture. At 720mm wide and just 58mm wide, it’s flat and slim enough to slip directly beneath a TV set. And its smooth, seam-free form – inspired by a slab of granite – is available in both black and white.

In conclusion…

With two such innovative designs, there’s something for every home theater. And with great features and stunning sound in both, all you need to do is choose your fit.


Illustrator Anna Eisenhauer talks hip-hop, creative methods, and playing music out loud.

Illustrator Anna Eisenhauer talks hip-hop, creative methods, and playing music out loud.

Our visit to Anna Eisenhauer’s home marks the beginning of a special collaboration between Freunde von Freunden and Sonos. We’re on a mission to celebrate the joy of listening out loud, waking up the silent home, and inspiring creativity in every facet of our lives.

 

Anna, better known as “Anna T-Iron”, is gaining recognition for her hand-lettering, illustrations, typography design, and logos.

 

Anna, better known as “Anna T-Iron”, is gaining recognition for her hand-lettering, illustrations, typography design, and logos. Based in Hamburg, she deftly handles a steady stream of work, from developing corporate identities to painting murals in public spaces.

"There wasn’t a lot to choose from: you were either into hip-hop or techno, and I was more into hip-hop than everything else."

Though her accent is subtle, Anna is actually East Frisian – born in the 40,000-resident city where she cut her teeth in early graffiti and hip-hop.

“Back then, there was a really nice hip-hop scene in East Friesland. Probably because there wasn’t much else to experience, everyone in my generation identified with music culture. There wasn’t a lot to choose from: you were either into hip-hop or techno, and I was more into hip-hop than everything else.”

The music that guided her first projects remains with her to this day and continues to play a crucial role in her creative methods.

 

I draw words. So, it makes sense that when I’m listening to the music of my favorite artists.

 

“There’s always music playing at my place. Good sound quality is of course essential for that. I take in a lot of things through music. I draw words. So, it makes sense that when I’m listening to the music of my favorite artists that a hook line, a quote from a sample or a special vibe may make an impression on me. When the day is crappy and rainy like this one then I like to listen to motivating, tropical music—then it’s ok.”

Anna reminds us that playing music out loud not only wakes up her silent home, it invigorates her creativity. She’s able to structure her work and her home just the way she likes: two rabbits, lush plants, countless scribbles on the walls, and sweet music to fill empty spaces.

 

Anna Eisenhauer at work.


Interview with Hanni El Khatib

Hanni El Khatib talks music, fashion, and more at Sonos Home Paris

This frenetic week is finally ending for Hanni El Khatib. In between of the release of his new album, Savage Times (on march 3rd) and the launch of his clothing collection he designed for HUF, the Californian rock musician has a busy schedule. His vocal cords are tired but he’s happy to be here, at the Sonos’ House.

Comfortably settled on a couch, in the middle of the pop-up store he set up here for the week-end, Hanni seems to feel at home. He talks about his new album, how he likes to curate playlists, and about his free and raw connection towards creation.

 

Hanni El Khatib relaxes with albums and PLAY:1

 

Can you tell me about the story of Savage Times : how did you conceive it ?

I didn’t conceive it as an album. It wasn’t really intended to be this kind of format. What I did intend on was just going to that studio and recording music. We never have free time and we felt like it. I wanted to record it and release it immediately. The point was to record a song and put it out on the internet. I didn’t want to spend time making a record per se, with one concept. Savage Times cataloged diverse EPs I released, alongside a few new songs. On this album, there is no continuity on the sonics of it.

 

Where did you compose and record the songs ?

Mostly, it was made at a studio in Long Beach called Jazzcats. For the most part, I compose it alone, even if the owner of the studio, who registered and engineered the record, Jonny Bell, was there at every step. I typically compose alone. I did all my records by myself, except for my second album,  Head in the Dirt: I did it with Dan Auerbach, from Black Keys. I never compose with a band. But it doesn’t mean I don’t play on stage with a band.

 

The album is so diverse that it makes me think of a play-list. Regarding to music, would you define yourself as eclectic ?

I listen to music all the time, every kind of music. I can listen to Toro y Moi, then 70’s disco. On this album, I listened to a lot of funk, and a lot of disco. And a lot of rap too. The album should sound like a play-list, I wanted to be like this. I like to discover and share music with my  friends and my band. I do it all the time. I make a lot of play-lists. I have a playlist that I do for the public (Savage Selects, on Spotify). I add 10-20 chansons every couple of weeks.

 

How do you discover music?

Everyday I am searching for something new, on the internet. It is a place where everyone can put some music immediately. Three weeks ago, Travis Scott and Young Thug put out a song on the internet, for 24 hours. Then it disappeared. I still collect vinyl records though. I go to record stores to buy them. We have a connected Sonos system in the office. You can put music somewhere and listen to it in any other room. It’s really cool. When we’ll have added the Sonos Connect that links the sound system to the turntables, it will be perfect.

 

Where do you listen to music ?

Everywhere and anytime. Mostly in my car, in California. I test all my sound mixes from my records in the car and on the computer speaker. If it doesn’t sound good in the car or on the computer speaker, it’s not ok. I listen to music at home too: I have a room just for music, where I put my records, my instruments and my record player. I don’t like silence and I can’t sit still!

 

Is there a correlation between creating music and creating clothes ? How is the process connected, if it is ?

I feel like it’s just the same process, the same inspiration. It doesn’t matter if it’s music, or clothing, or photography. I like clothes and I collect them, just like music. It’s fun, and you can set up a graphic language. You can tell a message with clothing. Tee-shirts are like a billboard, they say something.

 

You introduced an EP at the Sonos House last fall, here in Paris. What made you willing to come back ?

The vib here is cool. I feel like home, it is a home. I want to live here ! My favorite rooms are the living-room, and the office upstairs. It’s pretty cool, with the record player and the little balcony. Paris is a second musical home for me. I feel more connected to Paris than I do with New York or something. It’s like this ever since I started bringing up records here: from the beginning, it has been some sort of relationship. My craziest memory is when we opened up for Johnny Hallyday at Bercy, for three nights. It was very interesting. Johnny Hallyday was so nice to us.

 


Rob Fissmer talks style, speakers and the soundtrack to family life

Rob Fissmer talks style, speakers and the soundtrack to family life

Rob Fissmer heads up West Coast operations for Vitsoe, who produce Dieter Rams’ iconic furniture designs. He trained as an architect, dabbled in DJing and now juggles a busy job with the joys of fatherhood. He lives high in the hills above Los Angeles with wife Elise and his two young sons, Max and Sam.

 

For many people, parenthood means non-stop nursery rhymes and a tide of plastic toys, but Rob’s passion for sharp design and soulful music remains undimmed. Here, he tells us how listening out loud makes family time even more special.

If you knocked on Rob’s door around dinnertime, you might well find the whole family gathered in the kitchen – cooking and chatting, whilst three-year-old Max plays DJ.

“These days, I always let Max choose the music,” smiles Rob. “He loves being able to put a record on and have it beam throughout the house."

“But then, he also loves pulling up the Sonos app and scrolling through all the tracks available. For some reason, he’s latched on to Daft Punk, probably because of the robot aesthetic. So now, it’s kind of our routine. We’ll be sitting around or cooking and he’ll want to listen to Daft Punk. That’s sort of a go-to now in our household.”

 

Rob Fissmer and family enjoy cooking with Sonos.

 

As someone who works from home, Rob has to make a conscious effort to switch off from his job, tear himself away from his laptop and sit down with his family for dinner.

As Rob points out, it’s a far cry from the days of “putting your music on really loud, so you can hear it in the rest of the space. Now it can be more intimate, instead of blasting from the back of the house.”

It’s not helped by the fact that his home doubles as Vitsœ’s West Coast showroom, where people can come see the company’s signature designs – like the ever-popular 606 Universal Shelving System – in situ.

And let’s face it. Who wouldn’t want a set-up as stylish as this one?

 

Rob Fissmer reading with Sonos.

 

Simple yet imposing, the 606 Shelving works perfectly within Rob and Elise’s home – a low-slung, light-filled space, designed by A. Quincy Jones as part of a utopian project in the 40s. Displayed are a disparate, but artfully arranged collection of objects – from glassware and ceramics, to thrift store finds and vintage hi-fi gear.

“My goal is to be a minimalist,” says Rob. “But my wife is sort of a maximalist. Our aesthetics don’t sound like they would play well together, but they do. I organise her chaos.”

When it comes to setting up his home sound system, he’s just as meticulous. This is a house that sounds every bit as gorgeous as it looks – with speakers in almost every room, including the boys’ bedrooms.

 

Sonos in the Fissmer boy's bedroom.

 

As Rob points out, it’s a far cry from the days of “putting your music on really loud, so you can hear it in the rest of the space. Now it can be more intimate, instead of blasting from the back of the house.”

Since kitting himself out with Sonos, he’s also noticed another, unexpected consequence. “It’s causing me to listen to way more vinyl than before, because of the magic of the little Connect box,” he says. “Max is really into going to the shelf and picking out his favorite-looking record to put on. It’s resuscitated the whole routine and I love that.”

New technology bringing life to old classics? It’s very much the Vitsoe way. And for Rob and his family, it makes home the perfect place to play.


Introducing Sonos PLAYBASE. The perfect fit for your TV space.

Introducing Sonos PLAYBASE. The perfect fit for your TV space.

Introducing Sonos PLAYBASE. The perfect fit for your TV space.

We believe that what’s on your TV is only as good as what your TV is on. So, say hello to the all-new PLAYBASE, delivering powerful home theater sound when the TV is on, and music all the time when it’s off.

 

 

Our brand new speaker, PLAYBASE, delivering powerful home theater sound when the TV is on, and music all the time when it’s off.

 

Our starting-point for PLAYBASE’s unique design was a singular insight. 70% of TV’s are sitting on furniture, not mounted on the wall. We saw the need for a new kind of home theater product one that supports the weight of a TV, delivers incredible sound and blends in seamlessly with the rest of your living room.

While simple in concept, fitting powerful home theater sound in our thinnest speaker yet was no easy task.

Radically simple

This pioneering piece of technology delivers the stunning sound and multi-room wireless you’d expect from Sonos – all wrapped up in a design that’s perfectly suited to the way we live today.

Just put your TV on your PLAYBASE. Switch on. And start watching. 

Of course, this kind of simplicity can be fiendishly complex to develop. It took us years of blood, sweat and tears to perfect the PLAYBASE – and you can meet some of the brains behind it in the video below.

 

Great sound when the TV is on

At just 58mm in height, the PLAYBASE is the thinnest speaker we’ve ever made – designed in a seam-free, monolithic style that disappears entirely in the home environment.

But what’s surprising for a speaker this thin is the wide sound stage and sheer quantity of bass it can generate. It’s all thanks to a custom-designed woofer and an advanced speaker array that optimize the PLAYBASE for stereo and surround sound modes.

Turn on your PLAYBASE and you’re instantly transported to the heart of the action – whether listening to the Khaleesi’s dragons roar, dodging explosions in Star Wars, or losing yourself in the romance of La La Land.

Take your home theater to the next level by adding a SUB for deep bass and two PLAY:1’s for full surround sound. Place the speakers wherever you want, TruePlay will tune them to deliver the right sound to the right place in the room regardless. Home theater has never been easier, no holes to drill, no cables to run, and no redecorating necessary.

Music when the TV’s off

When your TV goes off, your PLAYBASE stays on, part of your whole home music system. Turn your living room into a dance floor with a single song choice. Take your party to the next level by adding the Sonos SUB in your TV space. Or connect wirelessly to speakers elsewhere in your home – and fill every room with the music you love.

Make home theater a reality

While, televisions are getting bigger, thinner, and sounding worse, film and television mixes are becoming more complex and the result is that the sound experience in the home has the potential to be immersive and amazing, but often falls short. PLAYBASE solves for exactly that. So you get open, natural sound, clear dialogue and immersive bass that turns any space in your home into a theater.

When your TV goes off, your PLAYBASE stays on, so you can turn your living room into a dance floor with just a split-second’s notice.


We caught up with “the furniture pimp” Jim Walrod to talk living, listening and what makes his Chinatown space a very soulful space indeed.

“Furniture Pimp” Jim Walrod talks music waking up his home

At Sonos, we’re on a mission. We want people to switch off from work, stow away their laptops and celebrate the joy of listening out loud. It’s what we call 'waking up the silent home’ – and designer Jim Walrod is all for it.

 

Jim is the man behind some of the world’s most iconic and extravagant interiors – from hotels and nightclubs, to rockstars' pads and billionaires' playgrounds. So it might come as a surprise that his own apartment lies on a blue-collar block in New York’s Chinatown, entered through a hardware store and up three steep flights of stairs.

Inside, however, the appeal of the place is obvious. Vast windows. Soaring ceilings. And 2,000 square feet of space in which to read, create and listen to the music he loves.

 

Jim Walrod uses the Sonos app to select his favorite songs.

 

White-walled and light-filled, this loft is an inspiring workspace. But Jim has an office not far away and likes to keep some degree of separation between business and pleasure.

“At home, I love to be away from work and find it can help me bring new ideas to the table. My relationship with the internet is important too. I use it only as a tool, not as a source of entertainment. It feels throwaway at times, so I prefer to read – you really need to invest something with books.”

Put simply, “I like looking at something and going, ‘Holy shit. Why is that in a room?’”

Throughout his career – kickstarted by Andy Warhol in the 70s – this self-taught, straight-talking designer has always gone against the grain. He stubbornly resists traditional notions of style – instead, championing the odd and ugly, and pioneering a more challenging, eclectic look he likes to call “atonal”.

Put simply, “I like looking at something and going, ‘Holy shit. Why is that in a room?’”

 

Jim Walrod music books.

 

When it comes to music, Jim is just as uncompromising. As a teenager, he fell headlong into the avant-garde scene after seeing a gig by the seminal new wave act Suicide and says:

“Before I even got creative, there was a lynchpin between me and my friends – separations and likenesses within music. People were going from listening to prog rock and heavy metal to punk rock. It was a cultural dividing point. A line in the sand. How could you go listen to a Yes record after [Suicide]? If you don’t like it, I’m not your friend”.

In the years since, he’s rubbed shoulders a Who’s Who of rock royalty, from Bowie to the Beastie Boys, who famously dubbed him their “furniture pimp”. And today – at the age of 48 – Walrod is as passionate about music as ever. It’s still a driving force in his work and remains a defining feature of his friendships, old and new.

“I remember walking into David Bowie’s house years ago, seeing his boombox and thinking, 'Have stereo systems become that clumsy?'”

So what’s Jim loving right now? At home in his apartment, you might find him kicking back to Frank Ocean, or blasting Kendrick Lamar on his multi-room Sonos system. But listening out loud has also given him a newfound appreciation for old favourites like The Fall.

“It’s a beautiful thing. You can move from room to room and hear details you never heard before,” he says.

“I remember walking into David Bowie’s house years ago, seeing his boombox and thinking, 'Have stereo systems become that clumsy?'” Back then there were a couple of speaker systems that looked beautiful in a very retro way. But they weren't things that could easily be incorporated into an environment. You had to look at music. You had to look at speakers. With the Sonos system, it's very easy for it to disappear and then have the magic of what music is about just fill your house."

Simple, universal pleasures for an endlessly surprising designer.

 

Sonos PLAY:1 in Jim Walrod's window sill.
Images by Collin Hughes.

Causes and Conditions of The Silent Home

Causes and Conditions of The Silent Home

A Silent Home is a place where the absence of music exacerbates the stress and pressures of modern life. A home where people live side-by-side but not together. It is a problem that affects more than two thirds of our homes.

Last year, we conducted an experiment to see if listening to music out loud at home could affect relationships. We showed that homes filled with music were happier, closer, more loving.

So with such powerful benefits, why aren’t we all listening to more music together, why isn’t every home filled with music?

We spoke to some of the world’s foremost experts across diverse fields from psychology to media, design to architecture, as well as 9,000 real homes to help us understand what is bringing silence into our homes.

The Adult Fade

When we’re young, music is everything. It brings meaning to the chaos of our every moment. It defines us until work, bills, the pressures of life and the ever-presence of technology take over and music gets squeezed to the margins.

Almost all the technological solutions that were supposed to make music better had the unintended consequence of making it worse. We work late, caught up in an endless cycle of busyness, and when we’re not doing that, we’re immersed in our devices.

Utilitarian Home Life

Our precious time is being squeezed to its limit. 58% say it’s hard to find time to finish all their daily commitments and four fifths said they would like to spend more time doing activities in-person with their family and friends.

Acute Hyper-Scheduling

Our days are filled with work and social commitments. The result is a feeling of constant busyness. We value any moment by its usefulness in pursuit of some future goal. Yet when it arrives, we instantly re-focus on the goal that still lies ahead. We’re missing out on life in a fundamental way.

Screen-Induced Isolation

Families are more connected than ever with the digital world, but are becoming increasingly disconnected from each other. Almost 50% of households spend more time interacting with personal technology at home than with each other. 62% said more of their social interactions are in the digital world.

The 24/7 Work Week

9-to-5 has become 24/7 and we are feeling the pressure – with 58% yearning for a better work/life balance. It’s no surprise to hear that more than seven in ten of Americans sleep with or next to their phones and the impact on our life at home is obvious.

Anti-social Listening

Today’s homes were designed to promote connection, with open-floor plans to invite family togetherness and interaction. In reality, noise levels inherent in the open home often lead us to crave personal space. So we retreat – 44% of us end up listening alone or on headphones and cutting everyone else off.

Sound Systems on Steroids

Component stereos sound great, but they’re complicated and trap music in the one room. Home theater is similarly complex, and it doesn’t work for music because the sound is over-optimized for special effects.

The Compromise of Convenience

TV and laptop speakers, Bluetooth and portables, all seem easier, but they just don’t offer the thrill of a great sound system – and then there’s all the drop-outs and interruptions.

It’s time to reconnect, shake off the shackles of our over-stuffed schedules and reclaim the time that is ours. It is critical we invite music back into every corner of our lives.

In the coming weeks and months, you will see us doing a lot more to wake up the Silent Home…


TRUEPLAY for Playbar

TRUEPLAY for Playbar

In the pursuit of the best possible listening experience, designing great equipment is only half the battle. Sound is beautifully imperfect. It changes constantly from song to song and room to room, which means that even the most precisely-tuned speaker will sound different in certain environments. The solution? Embrace the change. If no speaker fits every context why not use software to give every speaker the ability to create true sound in any context? That was the conviction that drove us to create Trueplay, a unique tuning technology that anyone can use to quickly and simply fine-tune your Sonos speaker to produce spot-on playback in any room.

Trueplay for PLAYBAR brings amazing sound to the world of television, games, and movies.

Trueplay instantly makes the Sonos system smarter, more aware, and more responsive by using your smartphone to measure how sound bounces off walls, furniture, and all the other surfaces in your space. With that data in mind, it perfectly adjusts the speaker to produce sound that’s true to the music and right for the room. Any room, any setting, any possible speaker setup. Pure and honest sound, every time. And crucially, tuning with Trueplay is easy. Just open the app on an iPhone or iPad, pick a room and tune. No need for clunky accessories or having an expert over.

And now with the new Sonos 7.0 update, Trueplay is ready to make its debut on another member of the Sonos family: PLAYBAR.

The visceral immersion of the cinema and the sweeping soundstage of the multiplex are coming home. Trueplay for PLAYBAR brings amazing sound to the world of television, games, and movies, giving PLAYBAR owners the chance to have the best home theater audio experience without having to make your home look like a theater.

It all works on the same smart technology as the original Trueplay. First the software analyzes where your PLAYBAR sits in relation to your favorite viewing spot. Then it adjusts the timing, EQ and loudness of each of PLAYBAR’s nine internal speakers to make sure the sound reaches your ears at exactly the right instant and volume. Playbar uses the walls of your room to bounce sound, creating a bigger soundstage. But (luckily) we don’t all live inside perfectly shaped boxes. So, Trueplay listens for the specific placement of the walls in your room and tunes the speaker to match. Got a heavy curtain that hangs only on one wall? Trueplay knows that area will absorb more noise, so it aligns your PLAYBAR so that sound arrives at the exact right time and volume.

Which means your PLAYBAR can now give your cozy living room the depth and resonance of a spacious concert hall, or turn your echoing bedroom into a crisp soundstage. No matter where you like to watch in your home, Trueplay works to create the ideal viewing environment. And that goes for any combination of devices - if your PLAYBAR is connected to a SUB or rear speakers, Trueplay tuning will optimize to fit your individual configuration.

Like every great listening experience, Trueplay’s effect on sound goes way beyond a few tweaked settings. With Trueplay, games, TV, and cinema start to feel more…well, cinematic. Your home theater actually booms like a real theater. Rapid-fire comedies are free from mudled dialogue. Horror movies get their creepy edge back. And when the strings come in for the big climax, you won’t miss a single note.

Dive into Sonos Update 7.0 and experience Trueplay in every room of your house.


FEATURED PLAYLIST: Chef’s Top Choices

FEATURED PLAYLIST: Chef’s Top Choices

Along with creating what might have been the world’s most epic potluck dinner, we asked the top chefs in our Mind of a Chef Music Special to put together their ideal dinner party playlist. Just like their cooking, each one is a perfect reflection of the individual chef’s background, taste and personality. Read on to hear their selections and get inspired to create a Playlist Potluck of your own.

April Bloomfield

“I remember this van my dad used to call Chug-a-Boom. Me and my sisters used to sit in the back and I remember hearing ‘Under the Ivy’ by Kate Bush. I could listen back to that track and it just makes me take stock.”

Chef April Bloomfield built her name on bringing the carnivorous pleasures of traditional British cuisine into the modern age. Her playlist selections draws from the same rich and meaty sources, pairing classic UK cuts from Kate Bush and UB40 with decidedly contemporary hits from Fatboy Slim and Amy Winehouse.

Chef April Bloomfield


Chef Danny Bowien

Danny Bowien

“Eddie Van Halen playing that solo, it was challenging to me in a way I had never been challenged before. I really think from the first moment that I pushed play on that CD player, something clicked.”

Chef’s Danny Bowien’s iconoclastic approach to Chinese cooking is fueled by pure anything-goes emotion, and his ideal potluck playlist is a perfect match. Heart-on-sleeve emo joins up with arena rock’s biggest smashes for a concentrated blast of rocknroll power. Saves the Day and Van Halen in the same playlist? Right on Danny.


Sean Brock

“Willie Nelson playing Have I Told You Lately that I Love You…it was the first time I’d actually seen music touch someone in that way. Really move someone. I’ve paid a little more attention to the lyrics ever since.”

Chef Sean Brock’s connection to music runs as deep and true as his relationship to the land itself. One part southern-fried rock/blues and one part acoustic folk/country , Sean’s playlist is a genuine mix of sincere feeling and heartfelt pride.

Chef Sean Brock


Chef Inak Aizpitarte

Inaki Aizpitarte

“It’s like that here. Each of us plays his music, and we have a frenzied show. We have people come up to us because they like the songs we play. It makes them laugh sometimes to see the cooks all of a sudden animated by the rhythm.”

Chef Inaki Aizpitarte’s focused, nuanced take on the lexicon of French technique is punctuated by stabs of wild innovation. His potluck playlist perfectly translates his approach into sound, reaching deeply into obscure French postpunk for a spiky, wiry collection of influences that’s not quite like anyone else in the world.


Share Food. Share Music. Introducing Sonos Playlist Potluck.

Share Food. Share Music. Introducing Sonos & Spotify Playlist Potluck.

POTLUCK /pätˈlək/ noun
North American: A meal or party to which each of the guests contributes a dish.

PLAYLIST /plāˌlist/ noun
A list of songs to soundtrack a mood or event.

PLAYLIST POTLUCK /plāˌlist pätˈlək/ noun
A collaborative dinner party where each guest brings a unique dish and music to share.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sCPyGj9rNE&feature=youtu.be

One of the most vital ingredients to a successful dinner party is the music – whether it be the topic of conversation, an ice-breaker with a stranger, or the soundtrack to your event. With streaming music becoming more and more popular every year, playlists are becoming the preferred way to curate our social gatherings.

As the holiday season approached, we started to think more about the idea behind the traditional potluck concept and the fact that people around the world use this time to get together with their friends in person. At a potluck, every guest’s flavor is reflected in the party, and we thought this translates to musical tastes as well. Starting this November, we want to help bring people together to listen out loud. We want to extend that feeling of shared contribution and experience to the party’s soundtrack, so we’re teaming up with our friends at Spotify to make it happen. Introducing Playlist Potluck from Sonos & Spotify.

It’s the same concept as a traditional potluck. Plus music. The host kicks things off. Give your party a name, start a playlist off with some songs, invite your guests to add their own songs, and your work is done. Just add friends and food.

Share Food. Share Music. Introducing Sonos Playlist Potluck.How do you make your party even better? Host a world-class chef. We’re offering a chance to win the ultimate Playlist Potluck experience to anyone who creates a Spotify Playlist at playlistpotluck.sonos.com. Which means having a world-class chef come over to your house and take care of the cooking. Plus we'll make sure your sound system is on point by setting you up with a set of Sonos speakers. Check out the details here.

So jump in and try it yourself. See how much better getting together at home is when everyone brings something to the table - and the playlist.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see what world-class chefs bring to the table in the upcoming episode of Mind of a Chef this December.