The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) has bunch of very interesting databases available online which allow you to do your own research into patents, trade-marks, industrial designs, and copyright. Through the trade-marks database, you can now also look up sound marks, that is, "trade-marks consisting of sounds." CIPO started taking applications for sound marks only in March of last year and currently there are so few approved sound marks uploaded to the site that you access all of them simply by browsing the list here. Not that that prevented some companies from trying much earlier than March 2012 to register their sound marks: MGM first filed its "Roaring Lion" sound mark application in 1992 and may very well be the first approved sound mark in Canada...20 years after initiating the process.
In addition to noting all the usual stuff -- the owner of the sound mark, the context in which its used -- the sound mark must also be graphically represented. Standard music notation is common for sound marks that fit those parameters; then there's the use of sonograms, one example of which is displayed above -- MGM's vigilantly defended "Roaring Lion." I also quite like the sound mark/trade mark descriptions. Writing these has to be the side job of some musicology or music theory grad student:
"The mark consists of a sound consisting of the theme played by a flute/chime sound having a slow attack and excessive overtones. The theme is as follows: a whole note, F5, held over to two more whole notes. Another note, AB5, is played after the F5, one quarter rest later. It too is held for two whole notes of duration. Both are held until they fade naturally. The same notes are simultaneously played by F2 and AB2 respectively and held for the same duration and fade in the same fashion. A sustain pedal is employed so that all four notes and their overtones combine to form a cloudy and complex sound, rich in the overtone series of the key of F major."
The funnest part of CIPO's efforts to make registered sound marks publicly accessible is that you can actually listen to them online so you don't have to guess at exactly what a "cloudy and complex sound, rich int he overtone series. . . of F major" sounds like.
This concept of sound marks reminds me of stock music libraries and their "sonic logos," along with the very similar audio elements of "sonic IDs," "bumps," and "stingers." These are all very short sound components (2 or 3 seconds up to about 10 seconds) used for branding and that sort of thing. In theory, they are also distinct from actual musical works such as jingles and theme songs even though they do tend to have a musical basis rather than simply being unstructured sound.
But the term has another, possibly more obscure meaning: R. Murray Schafer coined soundmark (yes, without a space!) when he was developing a lexicon in conjunction with his ideas on acoustic ecology. In this context, a soundmark is much like a landmark -- a sound that's unique to a particular area, community, or environment, with which most or all of the inhabitants are familiar with, and which, I presume, has endured in an environment for some time. It's an established part of the soundscape. Schafer has advocated that when a soundmark is identified it should be preserved as part of a community's acoustic life and heritage. Once such example in Toronto is the TTC streetcar bells. Apparently, the new streetcars the city is getting won't have the old-fashioned bell anymore. Instead, "it will have a sound file of a gong." Is the TTC going to officially register it as a sound mark with CIPO?
OK, sometimes I'm slow on the uptake, but better late than never, right?
July 18 was World Listening Day. Established in 2008 by the World Listening Project, that date was chosen in honour of R. Murray Schafer, a pioneer of soundscapes and acoustic ecology studies (and famed Canadian composer and music educator).
In this episode we'll check out some of the different conceptions of soundscapes and sound art and how these have crossed over into other types of music.
Tune in to CIUT 89.5FM tonight at midnight (EST) and have a listen. If you're outside the station's terrestrial range, you can stream the show live online, or listen to the podcast on the Playlists page starting sometime tomorrow.
And if you want to learn more about soundscapes and acoustic ecology here's just a small collection of helpful and/or neat-o resources:
World Soundscape Project
A Free Music Archive World Listening Day Playlist
Canadian Association for Sound Ecology (note: soundscape ecology is apparently different from acoustic ecology, but I can't say if sound ecology is the same or different from either of these)
The Acoustic Ecology Institute
The short film Listen:
Listen by David New, National Film Board of Canada