How I composed the Windows 10 calendar alert

In the next couple of years, there are going
to be tens of billions of devices connected online and a lot of those devices
are going to be making sounds. That means that we’re going to be swimming
in more notifications, more alerts, more annoying
audio, more random sounds. And we really need to stop and think about
what kind of sound world do we want to design? I’m Matthew Bennett and I’m a composer
and an ethno-musicologist and I create the sounds that you hear on Microsoft
devices. For any individual sound that we create for
the Windows Platform, we know that it’s going to be heard hundreds
of millions of times, maybe billions of times, a day around the
world. One reason it’s so hard to design a sound
like the calendar reminder sound is because, traditionally, those sounds have been based
on an alarm paradigm. Now, alarming sounds are loud and often unexpected
and they provoke a fight-or-flight response in human beings. Our cortisol spikes. Adrenaline spikes. And, physiologically, it’s like we’re
responding to fire alarms all day long. Our approach was intentionally different. At a primitive level, we experience language
as music. Contour is the music of the language. It’s the melody, the rising and falling
of the pitch, and the rhythm, the speeding up and slowing down
So the contour of “Ready to Go?” is actually found across many different languages
[LANGUAGE EXAMPLES] So we can translate that musical contour into
a gesture, it goes: up, down and then a leap up. “Ready to Go?” The sound actually has three parts:
there’s a pick up like a little breath… very soft that let’s you know something’s
about to happen. Then there’s this bloom and the actual core
part of the sound. Then there’s a long reverb tail as the sound
kind of dissipates back into the silence of your environment. Everybody is an expert native speaker in their
language. Everybody can decode these emotional contours
effortlessly. So, it’s intuitive, it’s universal and
in some ways it’s deeply personal. And those are the kinds of designs we want
to create.