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Joel Beckerman is a very busy man. He’s an award-wining composer and has created scores for more than fifty television programmes. He’s also the founder of Man Made Music, a company that specialises in sonic branding for the likes of Disney and AT&T. One of its recent and most challenging compositions made its debut at a motor show last year. Yes a motor show…

Nissan commissioned Man Made Music to develop the sound of its fleet of EVs, cars that are otherwise virtually silent. The result was ‘Canto’, which means ‘I sing’ in Latin. It was unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show.

“It was certainly, on the surface, not quite like anything Man Made had undertaken before. But once we started digging into the challenge we realized that this particular brief required we take a similar approach to how we help brands solve all different kinds of issues with music and sound – it’s all about scoring experiences,” Beckerman told Auto Futures.

Composing Canto

“At the beginning of our creative process we cast a wide net to explore different sonic and musical territories, to make sure many possible solutions that was right for the vehicle was explored.”

He adds: “Of course, combustion engine cars like the Ford Mustang, VW Bug and Ferrari V8’s historically have had distinctive sounds. The aspiration was to come up with something for Nissan electric vehicles would be equally iconic, and uniquely suited.”

But ‘Canto’ wasn’t composed just for aesthetic reasons. From next year, all new electric and hybrid vehicles sold in Europe will have to be fitted with artificial sound generators to comply with safety regulations. The sound will only be activated at speeds of up to 20 to 30 kph, depending on marketplace requirements.

Beckerman explains further: “This is first and foremost about keeping people safe. Pedestrians need to intuitively and instantly respond to an approaching vehicle. Automobile safety has always been a combination of driver and pedestrian awareness. But it’s interesting, if that was the only intention for the sound of vehicle then we might as well have added a siren and blaring horns.”

“The goals of ‘Canto’ in Nissan electric vehicles speaks to something else very important – the improvement of town and city quality of life. Alerting people without scaring them, and not adding unnecessary noise to our environment,” he adds.

So what does ‘Canto’ sound like? Beckermann says it’s optimistic, energetic and efficient. “To me…it sounds smooth and frictionless like ‘clean energy,’ which was our objective all along.” Listen for yourself in the clip below…

“The Canto sound is made up of a unique combination of organic and electronic sounds. It took quite a bit of creative prototyping, experimentation, collaboration and refinements to get it right. We also had to determine how the sound would smoothly change pitch when accelerating or decelerating in a way that sounded completely intuitive and natural,” says Beckerman.

“There were certainly a lot of considerations, and all the teams are feeling quite satisfied with the result. We’re proud of what we achieved together.”

Future Ambitions

Away from the auto sector, he has written a book called ‘The Sonic Boom’ about the role of sound in our everyday lives. “Whether or not we realize it, every moment of our lives is scored by music and sound. It’s this powerful actor in our lives that is always there, making or breaking our connections with people, places and things, guiding our choices, and changing our mood in an instant.”

So what’s next for the ambitious Beckermann? Well he won’t be standing still, that’s for sure. “The future is so exciting and limitless! I would say my vision begins with the elimination of the unnecessary and useless sound in our lives. The problem is not that there isn’t enough music and sound in the world. We are completely overrun with it.”

“I call it ‘Sonic Trash’. I want to take out the ‘trash’ and… bring music and sound into experiences to make people’s lives richer and simpler in many ways we’ve never done before.”

It’s an ambition that’s music to the ears of many of us.

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