You may have noticed in recent months that Facebook not only has an ever-evolving graphic look — they also have some new sounds as well. Over the weekend a fan of Facebook’s new sound design posted a question on a forum which read as follows: “How much research has gone into developing the Facebook ping sound? The sound is so pleasant sometimes that it makes me wonder how much effort has been put into its development.” Soon enough her question was answered by none other than environmental design manager Everett Katigbak, the co-founder of the Facebook Analog Research Laboratory, and the lead designer of the new Facebook sounds.
At first listen, most would never notice the complexities that went into the design of these new sounds, but in Katigbak’s reply we get a sense of the elaborate creative process that went into the precise detailing of both audio identities, specifically Facebook’s incoming video call sound, and Facebook’s new notification “ping” sound. Among the most fascinating revelations is the fact that the base chord for both sounds, which is an Fmaj7 chord, actually spells out “F-A-C-E”. Katigbak adds, “The Fmaj7 is a jazz chord [which is] less formal, improvisational, and has a positive feel to it. It contains a few interesting intervals within the chord that have certain connotations, and these form the modules for other notifications. The intervals are: 2 major thirds, F-A, and C-E. The major third trill is what is used on old school telephones. There were several iterations on this, but the first instance where the chord was used, was as the video calling inbound ringtone. It is the base arpeggio in two pulses: F-A-C-E, F-A-C-E. We went with the two pulses because this resembles a majority of international ring variations.”
“It also contains a minor 3rd interval, A-C. Descending, this interval is the same used in the common doorbell (ding-dong), which conceptually reminded me of when a friend would show up at your house,” Katigbak says. “It is also the quintessential ‘DIINNNNEERRR’ or ‘LAASSSIIIEEE’ call out, which again, is a very nostalgic pattern. There were variations where the descending doorbell interval was superimposed on top of the ascending Fmaj7 arpeggio. The audio suite was designed to be a modular system, where the components can be used for more lightweight notifications, such as comments, likes, etc.”
If this kind of story interests you then you should check out the backstory behind composer Francois Couperin’s 1716 masterpiece “Les Barricades Mystérieuses”. It, too, was written with an embedded code which experts are still unravelling nearly 300 years later. You can listen to it below as well, and read the full story about the composition’s secret codes here: Unlocking The Secrets Of François Couperin’s Mindblowing “Les Barricades Mystérieuses” (1716).
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