This article was written for The Bulletin, a news and entertainment weekly in Brussels, Belgium.

Buy the Cow, Sell the Moo (excerpt)

Mark Steinborn talks to an enterprising young man who has come up with a clever new scheme for marketing the human voice.

"It's odd that a cow just goes moo and then doesn't say anything else, and it's even odder when she does it because you never know why it's that particular moment rather than any other."
                                                                Michel Chion

"My job," says Pierre Fabry, "is to put the moo in precisely the right place. Fabry is the studio manager and founder of Comedia Digital, a post-production sound studio in Brussels. To give potential customers some idea of how well he can situate the moo, he has come up with a new marketing idea-a voice mailer…

Just how important is the voice? Fabry puts it in the context of his work: "If you read a story, you fantasize about the behavior of the characters, the events, the setting, and also about the voice. But when you have only the voice, the fantasy is much stronger. You have all the emotional power that passes through the voice, much more than with writing alone or with just an image. And you can put that voice with the right image, it becomes exceptionally powerful."

In his opinion, watching the news on television is a god example of how not to do it. He believes that almost all the information in TV journalism is conveyed through the words of the reports and that the images tend to distract the attention of the viewer rather than reinforce the message. "Go home tonight and try tape recording the news instead of watching it. Then listen to the tape, and see if you don't remember the facts better than you do when you watch the screen," he suggested...

What he tries to do, on the other hand, is to mix the voices, sound effects and music in such a way as to expand the screen, so that viewers get more than the sum of what they see plus what they hear.

"Sound effects aren't just adding the thump behind Sylvester Stallone's fist. It's much more than that. To make a good soundtrack is to enlarge the screen. With the sound you create the background, the setting. The soundtrack creates the reverse angel-it tells you everything you need to know about what you don't see.

"The best way to think about my job is that I expand the experience to 360 degrees. You start with the picture of a flower, but with sound I give you the whole garden."
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