Interview with Stefan Kohlweg
There are several things in the world that we take for granted. Things that we don’t question and have little time to “fuss” over. One of these things is the concept of sound. Not many things are as diverse, complex and specific as sound is. Only few people stop every now and then to listen closely. Meet Audioarchitect Stefan Kohlweg.
He is perhaps the first official Audioarchitect there is. Why? Well, he kind of invented his profession. Stefan has spent a significant amount of his life either on stage or behind it – as a lead singer for the band “Dirty Maitress”, as a recording engineer for commercials and as an Audio engineer at live conferences, making memorable events happen. Needless to say, he was and is constantly surrounded by sound. He also started a blog a few months ago called “FuFaA” (“Fucked up Facts about Audio”), in which he highlights facts about interesting findings in audio and sound research, among other things. For example, did you know that music can change the way your coffee tastes? Yes, really! A study at the University of Oxford showed that through so-called “crossmodal correspondences”, where one sense can affect the other, high pitches increased the taste of sweetness and low pitches increased the taste of bitterness. So, pour yourself a coffee. Then get your headphones out and try it – you will be surprised!
But now, back to Stefan. We had a few lucky minutes to chat with him about his unique profession:
What is an Audioarchitect? Can you explain your profession in one sentence?
Stefan: As an Audioarchitect I help my partners raise emotional impact in their audience using music, voice and sound effects.
Is there a difference between Audiobranding and the duties of an Audioarchitect?
Stefan: Audiobranding is one part of the work as an Audioarchitect. Creating an Audio Concept has a lot to do with Audiobranding, but I also decide what is realistic in the production process and what is not. The other part of my job as an Audioarchitect is guiding the concept through the production process. Given my background in the audio industry I can talk to people in their lingua – so everybody feels understood.
Who are your clients?
Stefan: Digital media agencies, video production companies, recording studios and Game Developers.
How did you go about becoming an Audioarchitect?
Stefan: It all happened when I visited a client of mine, a digital media agency, for whom I did the recording on a video set. When I came to their office, they were pretty desperate about finding the right music for their video. The recording studio just could not find the right fit – minding the fact that it was an engineer, who was asked to choose music.
I was currently composing some stuff for a stock music site and I had some music in mind, which I then proposed. It was instantly the right fit. They said, that if I could do that in 5 minutes they would like to pay me for picking out the right music in 3-4 hours. That was 3 years ago and it kind of started my idea of putting myself into this process as the middleman who knows both sides.
You like to explore the connections between the senses and the brain and provide an excellent example of how music can change the taste of coffee. Have you come across any other interesting FuFaA’s so far?
Stefan: I got some more on my mind, yes. I released a „fucked up facts about audio“ called „our super sense“ just recently. It explores what our auditory sense can do compared to our other senses. The next thing could be something about sound waves levitating objects (laughs).
What would you say is the most important thing that your music career has taught you about sound? And how are you applying it to your work as an Audioarchitect?
Stefan: I was taught that you always have to listen. Music is a very abstract medium so you can´t point at something and immediately tell what´s wrong with it, like you would with a picture or a drawing. You always have to ask. Take for instance the word „warm“: I think it´s the most common word used to describe music events. But that word can mean a whole lot of things. My “warm” might not be his “warm”. When sitting in the studio you also always have to ask what the other person meant: Was it the sound of the instrument, the way it was played or the whole mix?
What do you wish to achieve in your job as an Audioarchitect? How can you as an Audioarchitect make a difference in the world of audio?
Stefan: Well, audio has been an underdog in the past, except in the game development community in Vienna. These guys really go crazy for good music and sound effects. For me, music and the harmony of audio leads the way to the emotions of people and directly into their hearts. There is also a lot going wrong in the industry at the moment regarding audio. It’s like the problem of pop-up windows today. If you’re online and an ad pops up, what do you do? Close it immediately of course, because it bothers you. We don’t even remember what was in the ad. We are constantly surrounded by music too, a lot of it being inappropriate music unfortunately. And we have learned to shut most of it out, because we view it as annoying noise. I want to change that. I want to make the world a better sounding place.
And finally…how would you explain what you do in three words?
Stefan: Direction. Emotion. Intention.
We would like to thank Stefan Kohlweg for his time and wish him all the best for his future as an Audioarchitect!
For more information about him and his work, visit his website.
All images © 2015 ThomasMAGYAR|Fotodesign