Behind the Audio Logo: Microsoft Windows 95
I was wondering what to do next in this series when I remembered reading an article on Brian Eno a few years back, and how he was involved in the Windows 95 Audio Sound.
If you’re not familiar with it, either it’s before your time, or you’ve been living under a rock for two decades, here is the iconic sound:
This great article from Electric Pig goes into some detail about the process. When chatting about the audio logo, Eno on his brief from Microsoft which had:
“…about 150 adjectives” to describe the desired noise. “The piece of music should be inspirational,
sexy, driving, provocative, nostalgic, sentimental…”
I found it very interesting reading about Eno’s description of the details he got from Microsoft. You’ll find when designing audio logos for clients, some can be very descriptive in what they want. And others can be very vague. But you have to use what you get, and create something interesting and unique for them.
Right so let’s try analyze what nostalgic, sentimental and provocative is made up of –
From the instrumentation side, from what I can hear, it sounds like a combination of layered sounds. A piano blended with a bell and pad sound. All the sounds seem to be layered in reverb. The pad is laying down the chord, while the bell sound echoes out in the end. It could be a long delay set up on the instrument, or it could be some programmed in repeated notes fading out. All in all, a very interesting audio logo, with these interwoven layered parts.
What about that first chord? It sounds like quite a complex one, I can’t quite figure it out. If any of you can, please feel free to add comments on what you think he’s playing. But it’s probably a mix of different chord variations layered on top of each other. The run in the chord (him playing each note very short and staggered after each other) creates a very rich and positive tone with the sound.
What’s interesting about this whole process is that, at the time Eno’s work was very much about long ambient pieces, and now here he was having to create something that was only a fraction of time. His challenge was to apply his musical techniques and experience and condense it into 3.8 precious seconds.
“ I thought this was so funny and an amazing thought to actually try to make a little piece of music. It’s like making a tiny little jewel.
In fact, I made 84 pieces. I got completely into this world of tiny, tiny little pieces of music. I was so sensitive to microseconds at the end of this that it really broke a logjam in my own work. Then when I’d finished that and I went back to working with pieces that were like three minutes long, it seemed like oceans of time.”
I hope you found Brian Eno’s story interesting on working on an audio brand. And if you want to know more about Audio Logos and how they can be created, don’t forget to take a look at our in-depth course on the topic.
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