Another innovation in sound which creates the mood of a city is this commercial for Amercan Airlines'
(TAPE: AMERICAN AIRLINES)
Now if they gave credits on the air, the announcer would have to have said, "and San Francisco was
played by New York City." Let me explain. In Manhattan, a blind street-singer named Moondog walks the
downtown streets draped in serapes and blankets, and wearing a monk's cowl on his head and rough
leather sandals on his feet. Moondog writes music and plays his own instruments. One foggy night in
New York, he was recorded against the background of boat whistles on the Hudson River.
The instrument be played is one he calls the Oo. It is a triangular wooden frame, each leg of the
triangle is about 18 inches long, with piano wire strung across and two tringular wooden drums.
The Oo is struck with a 6 inch wooden dowl. That recording stood in for San Francisco on the commercial
you just heard. Here's a part of the original Moondog recording which was used in it.
Extracts from Tony Schwartz: Media, The Second God
How Commercials Work (Random House, New York, USA, 1981, S. 59 - 61)
A commercial can have extraordinary power when it makes people conclude that it is putting them in touch with a piece of reality. Such spots strike a responsive chord with the reality the listener or viewer has experienced. However, there is an important difference between the reality we experience in day-to-day life and the realism we receive during a radio or television commercial.
A series of radio commercials I prepared for American Airlines illustrates what is meant by a constructed reality. The series was called "Sounds of the Cities." We selected the ten American cities most frequently serviced by the airline and did three commercials on each one. These commercials utilized a concept that cities have a sound signature as well as a visual signature such as the
Empire State Building in New York, San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, the Capitol or the White House in Washington. Every city has its own sound.
The best-known "Sounds of the Cities" spot was one that featured San Francisco. During the time I was working on the series, I was acquainted with a blind man known as Moondog who was a familiar character on New York City's streets. His usual haunt was the Avenue of the Americas in New York's mid-town area. Moondog wore sandals and draped himself in a flowing garment with a leather thong
belt, all homemade. He was bearded and he wore his halr long even in the days when the crewcut was standard. Moondog would materialize before the plaza of some new glass-walled skyscraper - and just stand there. Anyone who stopped to talk to him discovered that he could have an intelligent and involving conversation. Moondog wrote poetry and sold it to passersby. He was also a street musician
and I later made several records of his music as he played it on the street.
Moondog and I both lived on the West Side. At about three o'dock in the morning of a foggy spring day my telephone rang. Moondog was calling to say, "Dig those crazy horns!" I listened. Through the windows of my home I could hear the groaning of foghorns up and down the Hudson River. I immediately said to Moondog, "How would you like to record your music against the sound of the foghorns?"
He agreed. At four in the morning he arrived in my living room carrying several handmade instruments of his own devising. The sound of one of the instruments was like the sound of trolley-car bells. I went to the roof of my building to install a microphone and then fed it back to a speaker in my living room so that Moondog could hear it. The lonesome sound of the foghorns filled the room as
Moondog played his instrument, and what I had on tape was the "Sound of San Francisco"-trolley bells clanging and drums beating against a background of foghorns. Thus I was able to construct a sound pattem that people really felt was San Francisco. In fact, many have asked me in what part of San Francisco I made that recording.