Joel, why do people love music? What does it do to us human beings?
Music is a living pulse for all activities at any hour of the day. It gives us the ability to momentarily tap into something bigger than ourselves. To dance and converse with an endless spectrum of human emotions and compulsions. Mostly, these things are more primal and moving than any written word or 'real-life' visual input. At the risk of sounding trite, music is instant magic and it transports us humans to spaces of pure feeling. It is power.
What is your philosophy when designing an aural soundscape? And specifically, what was your philosophy when approaching the sound for the cōmodo?
The obvious and instinctual question I ask myself is: what would I want to hear in this space that would, even for just one second, indicate the universe is in perfect order?
My background is working in record shops, and through that experience I accumulated a lot of knowledge of subtle pop-culture cues and the parallel aesthetics that spring forth from each individual artist and their unique body of work. These contextual prompts function well to suggest powerful and complete moods.
For the cōmodo project, I was privileged to visit the site, to understand the textures and the colors of the space, and to see firsthand the flow between the public spaces in the lobby and restaurant. Each design choice has its own story and its own references from which I can use as a springboard to create simple playlists. Then I free-associate from there. The cōmodo is retro, modern, classic, futuristic and playful all at once - characteristics I kept in mind when designing the sounds.
I have learned through experience that sometimes less obvious music choices make for miraculously perfect connections with the lighting, aromas, ambient sounds, and human movement of hotel spaces. In each individual you want to strike a feeling of belonging and familiarity as soon as they walk in the room.
The number 1 tune that you know everyone will like?
Ranking songs is a fool's errand, but I think sipping the right cocktail with Aretha Franklin's (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman is hard to beat. If you are tuned in and feeling the synchronicity, the sound of all that optimism, struggle, and pure humanity (which is packed into most American Soul classics from the 60s) certainly requires a little napkin to dab your eye.
What does Bad Gastein sound like?
Bad Gastein is a paradox: simultaneously a site of unstoppable ancient and majestic beauty, while also revealing curious notes of forgotten human folly in decades past. This special mix is Bad Gastein's precise charm. There's a powerful vision and momentum that lives on in its ability for reinvention and transformation. Bad Gastein demands class, and some classic music fits this context. Grand, elegant tempos wrap themselves up in the mountain vistas, while some sultry, funky disco vibrations invite adventure and escape.
What's an unexpected but surefire win of genre combinations on a playlist?
Deep, pastoral, pagan British folk and the outer reaches of wacky dub. There's something about the soothing strumming and wooden-ness of acoustic guitars combined with the stoned-out bounce of echoey dub music. The partnership makes for a magic afternoon in the sunlight.
Should music in a place of hospitality blend in, or surprise and stop people in their tracks?
Both, of course!