Windows Vista Sounds Q&A

Windows Vista Sounds Q&A

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Thanks to Steve Ball, Principal Program Manager Lead on the Windows Sound Team, we have this Q&A designed to provide additional background on the sounds of Windows Vista.

Q: Why did Microsoft invest time and energy developing new sounds for Windows Vista?
A: Sounds are one of the primary senses.  In interacting with a computer we have a way to use our ears in a way that is completely unique; you can get information from a sound without even thinking about it.  Sound is a way to get the users attention without going into the foreground for that attention.  For example certain sounds on our PC tell us with a file transfer or print task has been completed, or we have a new email or Instant Message.

Q: What was Microsoft hoping to accomplish in developing the new sounds for Windows Vista?
A: It was our goal for the sounds to be just noticeable enough that if they weren't there you would notice, but when you do hear them, they don't get in your way.  Just like the new Start button, then new sounds are" rounded" and "translucent."  The default sound scheme in Windows Vista is much gentler and softer than our previous Windows Startup sounds.

Q: Who developed the sounds in Windows Vista? Was it multiple people? What about the Start sound?
A: The default Windows Vista sound scheme (including new mail, logon/logoff sounds, etc.) was designed and produced by Steve Ball.  The sound palette for the orchestration of the default Windows Vista sound scheme was inspired by and derived from Soundscapes that Robert Fripp recorded during two sessions at Microsoft Studios, one in Oct of 2005 and one in May 2006. 

The Windows Vista Startup sound is a collaboration between Robert Fripp, Tucker Martine, and Steve Ball.  Robert Fripp composed the melody based upon a rhythm contributed by Tucker Martine (that maps directly to the product name "Win-dows Vis-ta.").  The harmony and final orchestration was done by Steve Ball using Fripp Soundscapes as the sound palette. The final orchestration was selected from thousands of designs and contributions from a dozen world-class sound designers, musicians, composers.

The Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista also includes new Windows Media Center Startup sound that was also designed by Steve Ball using Fripp Soundscapes and other design elements contributed by both Robert Fripp and Tucker Martine.

Q: How did Robert Fripp get involved with this project, and why was he selected?
A:  Steve Ball invited Robert Fripp to participate in the Windows Vista Startup sound project based upon their previous two decades of music and business collaborations.  Robert Fripp was also invited because he has a long and established reputation as a composer working on the cutting edge of art and technology.  Robert Fripp also has a long history of work with Brian Eno who designed the Windows 95 Startup sound. 

Q: How did you decide on the Start sound for Windows Vista?
A: The Windows Vista Startup sound project took 18 months and the final sound was chosen from among thousands of designs created in four project phases.  The final decision was made on Tuesday October 17th after narrowing the field of thousands down to a top twenty, then a top 10, top five candidates. 

Q: Is there a name for the Windows Start sound?
A: It is called the "Windows Vista Startup sound."   It is also sometimes affectionately referred to as the "Pearl Animation" sound since the sound accompanies the Windows "Pearl" (the new start button) animation that plays during the cold-boot process.  

Q: Is there a longer version of the Start sound, and, if so, can I get it?
A: We created hundreds of variations and orchestrations of the Windows Vista Startup sound including a number of long Fripp Soundscapes based upon the Windows Startup sound themes.   Some of these Fripp Soundscapes are available in the Curtis Wong's Microsoft Research World Wide Telescope

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  • maryg
    3 Posts

    I installed sp1 last night (just got this computer from my dad, who didn't use it).  I had sound before it was installed and now it doesn't.  haven't been able to find anything on this - HELP!!  do I need to uninstall it??